In reality, it all started after Azerbaijan protested the fact, that Western Union, Money Gram and other money transfer systems are operating in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. In response to Azerbaijan’s demands, the Western Union and Money Gram stopped their operation in Stepanakert branches of “Artsakhbank”, “Unibank” and “Armeconombank”. Earlier Azerbaijan had also demanded the closure of the Stepanakert branch of VTB bank. It seems, that Azerbaijan is adopting a more comprehensive strategy of isolating Nagorno-Karabakh. I wonder what will be the next step? Demanding the Russia-controlled electiricy network in Armenia to stop providing electricity to Karabakh? Stopping the sun from shining on that territory? What?
So far Tigran Sargsyan led government has been mostly making loud anti-corruption campaigns – the PM has been promising improvement and government attention to all and everyone he’s met so far: environmentalists, cultural workers, bankers, farmers. He has also been brave in announcing unpopular moves – ending state subsidies for gas which significantly raised the price of the blue fuel for the population, enforcing the usage of control-cash machines in fairs and markets announced yesterday, which will most likely result in protests and more price rises of consumer goods.
The anti-corruption activities among the traffic police and customs, tax-inspection services, were initially perceived as demonstrative, populist and short-term measures, however, they seem to be rendering some positive results so far: a) police seem to have become more restrained in their bribe-collection undertakings and are paying more attention to actually following traffic, although they have still miles to go before we have anything that resembles real police and not mauradeurs and bandits in uniforms; b) my accountant’s recent visit to the tax office was a very positive experience – from what he told me, as it has become easier to submit finance reports at just one location, instead of running around in the tax office banging doors of officials and begging for signatures, which is further confirmed by reports from other people and is starting to inspire with hope; c) some high profile arrests of corrupt police and tax inspection officials took place over the past months, and the last arrest, by looking at the sheer size of the uncovered operations, was clearly a very well connected gang.
At any rate, many are skeptical about the activities of Prime Minister Sargsyan. In his recent speech opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian sharply criticized the authorities and said the anti-corruption actions are mostly staged and pressures are building on small and medium enterprises, while the state-connected businessmen/oligarchs remain in the capacity of ‘untouchables’. Following from the text of Levon Ter-Petrossian’s speech, however, it seems, that even in his criticism of the authorities, the opposition leader acknowledges Tigran Sargsyan’s desire to make genuine change, and puts the blame mostly on Kocharyan appointees like Armen Grigoryan for failures. And while figures for economic growth in Armenia for the first half of the year look promising with 10.3% GDP growth reported so far and economic experts tell me in private conversations, that the tax revenues of the state have been growing at an unprecedented pace, it is still too early to predict what will be the end of the new quest Prime Minister Sargsyan is on.
The couse of blogger discontent lies in the fact, that as part of it’s bid for acquiring the Azerbaijan’s AF-Bank, VTB have forced their Armenian subsidiary to close down their branch in Nagorno-Karabakh. Clearly – this is politics intruding into business, so bloggers are urging everybody to close their accounts at VTB.
open pit strip mining operation for copper and molybdenum ore.
The bloggers are urging everyone to also write letter to VTB indicating these two as reasons for their frustration with bank’s activities, as well as avoid making utility payments via VTB, which is so far one of the prime choices for making water, electricity and communication services payments in Armenia.
The Armenian Observer blog is joining the action and is urging everyone to do so as well.