World Bank retaliates against Parliamentary Whistleblower

World Bank retaliates against Parliamentary Whistleblower

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Armenia Helping Small and Medium Enterprise

Wednesday 25th March, a respectable crowd of Hrazdan market traders gathered in Armenia’s Republican Square to request a temporary reduction in their market stall rental fees, hoping for the assistance the Government has promised to help small and medium enterprise through this crisis period. But apart from the visual spectacle and slightly more work for the police officers who kept them from presenting their case to government officials, their appeals seem to have gone unnoticed.

In parliament, the Government has explained that all crisis alleviation funds are being channeled through the banking system, so if the Hrazdan market traders need money to continue paying top rates for their stalls, they will have to apply to the banks for credit. That of course will only serve to exacerbate the already difficult situations of the traders who are struggling to make a living, but most importantly, will keep money flowing into the pockets of Arshot Hakopian (Bournash), the Parliamentary Deputy who operates the Hrazdan market.

In the meantime, the regime has been dishing out tens of millions of dollars of crisis prevention funds to its own ‘privatized’ enterprises; the likes of the Zangezur Molybdenum and the Alaverdian copper factories, plus a crony-owned supermarket here and there, and not forgetting a couple of hundred million or so dollars of public funds to pay for Minister of Energy Movsisyan’s pipeline to supply Iranian oil to the new refinery being built by Armenia’s monopoly fuel importer.

Market traders are not the only ones feeling the pinch, Yerevan’s city center shops are collapsing like dominos; too few customers to make a profit and under increased pressure from the tax authorities. But regime cronies are waiting in the wings ready to take over, using hundreds of thousands of easy-term crisis prevention dollars to pay for high value refurbishments of the newly vacated premises and to fill them with ‘original Italian’ merchandise, plus of course accompanied by a top of the range Land Cruiser or Range Rover – or both.

Profit making is not of the essence for these regime cronies, as they are not expected to repay their debts - that will be the privilege of Armenia’s future generations. Yerevan’s new shop owners simply need to show enthusiastic participation in Armenia’s not-so-booming but striving to be resilient economy and wait until Yerevan’s not so well connected traders have been driven out of business. The regime objective is as always, to use these new state-imposed illegitimate businesses to bolster the number of cronies who will forever be obligated and loyal to the regime.

This is how, with willing support from the World Bank and the IMF, the regime continues to widen the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ and increasingly strengthen its grip over the lesser-privileged Armenian majority.

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