Categories
Economy Region

Armenia to surpass Azerbaijan and Georgia by GDP per capita. IMF

Armenian GDP per capita has surpassed that of Georgia and is projected to surpass Azerbaijan for the first time since 2005, according to IMF data. More importantly, the growth is projected to continue for the next 4-5 years according to IMF.

In 2019 GDP per capita in Armenia was equal to $ 4527.592 (current prices, USD), while that of Georgia was worth $4289.322 and Azerbaijan — $4689.378. The projection for 2020 says Armenian GDP per capita will grow to $4759.2, overtaking Azerbaijan.

GPD (current prices) in USD in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia

Meanwhile, Armenia’s GDP still is still lagging behind Azerbaijan and even Georgia, according to IMF data. At $13.4 billion USD Armenia’s GDP is 3.5 times smaller than that of Azerbaijan’s $47.1 billion and about $2.4 billion USD less than that of Georgia’s $15.9 billion.

As far as I’m concerned, the good news is that GDP in Armenia will continue to grow according to IMF. And if Pashinia’s full year in power (2019) is any indicator, this growth will actually translate into good roads and infrastructure, better medicaid and higher pensions for Armenian citizens, instead of going into the pockets of a bunch of corrupt officials, as was the habit during the previous regimes.

Categories
Internet Legal Politics Security Social Networks

A Facebook user detained on pretext of “endangering national security” in Armenia

A Facebook user, who recently came to the center of public attention for posting misinformation under the pseudonym Դիանա Հարությունյան (Diana Harutyunyan) has been detained by the National Security Service of Armenia, after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the user’s posting a threat to national security.

The Facebook account in question seems to be deleted by now. Last time I accessed it, the account’s About section made it clear that it is a sarcastic and/or parody account.

Following the US Drone strike in Iraq, which killed the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the Facebook user had posted misinformation, as if theArmenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has congratulated the US President Donald Trump on the “successful operation.” The misinformation had been first picked up by Azeri news sites and then by the Iranian ones, risking serious consequences for Armenian – Iranian relations.

“This is the case, when the false “freedom of speech” has endangered our national security,” Nikol Pashinian stated in a Facebook post. “The authors of the news and their motives must be investigated,” Armenian PM wrote.

Hours after Pashinian’s post, the National Security Service issued a statement, claiming it had carried out “investigative – operative activities” and as a result identified and detained the Facebook user.

Commenting on OWASP Armenia Facebook groups, cyber-security expert Samvel Martirosyan finds it unlikely that the NSS would have the technical capabilities to identify the user with technical means. He also excludes the possibility that Facebook would have provided data on the user for such a posting and in such a short period of time.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s top lawyer specialized on technological issues — David Sandukhchyan, has raised serious concerns about the legal aspects of the detention and claimed that the Facebook posting does not constitute a crime according to Armenian legislation and mocked both Pashinian and the the NSS for claiming that “the post by some fake user can endanger national security.”

Referring to the video published by the NSS (see below this post), which neither publishes the real name of the Facebook user, nor the article of criminal code, according to which the detention has taken place, Sandukhchyan has also written “What if there was no fake at all and it was done only to scare people, who post undesirable content on Facebook?

PS: I should just add that this is a very troubling development, since this is the second case, when a Facebook user has been detained after Pashinian directly instructed the National Security Services to take action.

Categories
Armenia Economy Tourism

Record number of passengers in Yerevan airport; new, affordable flight routs to Armenia

“Zvartnots” International Airport’s yearly passenger flow exceeded 3,000,000 for the first time in its history, Armenpress news agency reports.

In 2018, the passenger flow was 2,690,000.

Admittedly, much of this growth is because of me — no kidding, I flew in and out of Zvartnots Airport at least 12 times last year! :))

Ryanair opens flights to Athens and Thessaloniki

Meanwhile, on January 3rd Ryanair budget airline announced new twice weekly routes from Gyumri to Athens and from Yerevan to Thessaloniki. The flights will start in May 2020 and the tickets are already on sale in Ryanair’s mobile app.

The Irish carrier Ryanair had announced back in October that it will start flying to Yerevan from Milan, Rome and Berlin in January and that it will open two more routes in summer.

Wizz Air annouces flights to Vienna and Vilnius

In another welcome news, the Budapest-based budget airline Wizz Air announced last month that it will open flights to Yerevan from Vienna and Vilnius in April.

Decreasing cost of airfare and Revazian

The high cost of airfare has long been cited as one of main obstacles for the development of tourism in Armenia. The cost of air travel has been decreasing for several years now, as consecutive Armenian governments have prioritized the issue.

Tatevik Revazian

With the appointment of Tatevik Revazian as the Chair of Civil Aviation Committee, things have taken a truly revolutionary turn. The young official, who was initially seen as inexperienced and lacking necessary skills to deliver, has since managed to attract two major European budget airlines to Armenia and has since become something of a hero, for being able to make promises and deliver.

Hence, her Facebook post on January 3rd, announcing Ryanair’s new flights as well as outlining possible new routs to Paris (Transavia), Memmingen (Ryanair) and Riga (Air Baltic), no longer seem far fetched, but rather as something that can and will be delivered.

Categories
Armenia Politics Region

Armenia Issues A Statement on Developments in Baghdad

Armenian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in connection with the US drone strike, which killed a top Iranian commander.

General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, was killed in his vehicle near Baghdad International Airport. The news was confirmed both by the US and Iran.

“We are seriously concerned about the recent incidents in Baghdad which led to human loses as well. They risk further undermining the regional security and destabilizing the situation in the Middle East and beyond. Armenia calls for the de-escalation of situation exclusively through peaceful means,” Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted. “Armenia will continue to closely cooperate with all its partners aimed at ensuring regional stability and security.”

Soleimani’s killing has raised fears of serious escalation in the Middle East. Both USA and Iran are key partners for Armenia, while Iraq has become an increasingly important export market. Any escalation in the Middle East is problematic for us, so it is no wonder that the drone strike has stirred heated debates in the Armenian section of Facebook.

Pashinyan reacts

Armenia is enjoying prolonged New Year and Christmas holidays these days, which started on December 31st and will conclude on January 7th. While most state agencies and news media are enjoying the holiday break, the debates around US – Iran tensions and speculations of an all-out global nuclear war is cutting through the half-drank, half-lazy-congratulatory mood of the Armenian social media users.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who is always eager to jump into every Facebook discussion, has published a post on Facebook, noting that “there are institutions capable of following the situation, analyzing the developments and act upon those as needed” and that “all the necessary instructions have been given.”

“The Republic of Armenia, RA citizens and numerous tourists visiting our country live a normal life,” the PM has stated and has advised “self-professed geopolitics analysts, who want to engage in fear-mongering, to relax and sit back on their places.”

The point about tourists is especially noteworthy, as a war in the neighboring Iran would be detrimental to the Armenian government’s hopes to stimulate continuous growth in the tourism industry.

Categories
Personal

Wind of Change

As I reflect on these last moments of 2019… as we head into 2020 and the next decade… I look into the future full of uncertainty and promise

Uncertainty, because last month I left the Armenian service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (azatutyun.am).

Promise, because I have a world of opportunities and plans, one of which is my return to the civil society sector as the country representative of Media Diversity Institute and the launch of the IT help-desk project for journalists and human rights defenders.

I also should have more time and freedom to blog and podcast.

And while I will miss my wonderful team at Azatutyun.am, leaving it was my decision and I have no regrets!

So here we go! Farewell 2019, welcome 2020!

Categories
Legal Society

Armenian Traffic Police have wearable cameras and they're not afraid to use them

Armenian Traffic Police have been required to wear special surveillance cameras since June 2016. The cameras were introduced as part of the Government’s anti-corruption efforts [More info about cameras in this video]. A controversial incident on September 4th, which has caused a bit of uproar around the Armenian segment of the internet, has raised many questions about these cameras.

Categories
Tech

BarCamp Vanadzor 2016 at VTC

Armenia — Artur Papan (me) speaking about “Number 1 problem of Multimedia” at BarCamp Vanadzor, 12Nov2016

Vanadzor has an amazing  Vanadzor Technology Center – VTC and on Sunday there was a Barcamp Vanadzor 2016 event to prove it!

Categories
Diaspora

"Armenia, My Love" To Premiere Tonight


Diana Angelson’s ‘Armenia, My Love’ film-tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide will premiere today at 7:30 PM at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 movie theatre in Pasadena, as well as Laemmle NoHo 7 in North Hollywood and the MGN 5 Star cinema in Glendale.

Categories
Region

Fragile Truce Holds in Karabakh

This video screenshot of a smiling Armenian soldier somewhere in the southern part of the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries has made my day. It marks the end of the nightmare, the end of 3 days of violent clashes, it reaffirms the promise that there’s no military solution to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and it signifies hope that peace is possible…

Categories
Region

Inside Story – What triggered the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh?