Armenia Economy Politics

Tigran Sargsyan: new type of politician trying to make the new type of Armenia a reality

Following his appointment to the post of Prime Minister after a disputed presidential election, in a divided society torn apart by political instability and mutual accusations for March 1 violence, Tigran Sargsyan, the former head of Armenia’s Central Bank has been dominating the news and politics – the PM has been making media bubbles by loud and populist actions, like forcing Armenian ministers to come to work at 9 a.m and promising to be more transparent in their work, respond to the needs and inquiries of citizens, etc., etc.

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.

Economy Politics

PM Sargsyan to make ministers' tasks more specific

First day at work for the newly appointed PM Tigran Sargsyan was marked by speculations from various political forces, as to how suitable this new appointment is – considering the complicated situation in the country.
PM Tigran Sargsyan is not a member of any party at the moment, although he came into politics on a Pan-Armenian Movement (HHSh) ticket, and then was a member of National Democratic Party (AZHK).
Heritage’s Stepan Safaryan remarked today, that Prime Minister might lack the power, needed to effectively carry out his duties, while various members of the 4 sided ruling coalition parties said, that T. Sargsyan’s political neutrality might be what is needed at this point, to bridge the gap between the authorities and the opposition.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the new Prime Minister is also widely considered as ex-President Kocharyan’s man and this appointment is seen as a way for Kocharyan to retain his influence over the political scene in the country – hence it remains to be seen, just how weak or strong Tigran Sargsyan is, especially as he might try to build a power platform leaning on the large number of Kocharyan’s supporters and affiliates at all levels of government and the political spectrum, including at least two ruling political parties: the ARF and Prosperous Armenia, the State Security Service, etc.
At any rate, the new PM hasn’t had time to do anything yet – so its quite early to judge what he will or will not do. Asked by a Radio Liberty correspondent at the Banking Fair that took place at Armenian Marriott hotel yesterday, of what his plans are, and will he be the ‘strict’ manager, as he was at the Central Bank, on this new post, Tigran Sargsyan only remarked, that he plans to clearly define the responsibilities and scope of work for all ministers and strictly demand, that all the indicators are met. This is already an encouraging plan – combined with the obligations Armenia has assumed under the Millenium Challanges indicators and European Neighborhood Action plan, a technocratic non-political Prime-Minister, who has a good record of working effectively with international agencies, and who gauges the work of ministries with highly specific requirements for tasks to be done, might be exactly what we need to finally establish an efficient and technocratic government structure.