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Official News

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan’s Interview to TV Companies

Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV - Dear Mr. Prime Minister, let us get straight to questions without lyrical deviations in tune with your government’s pragmatism. Immediately after your appointment you stated that Armenia’s economy is in a very bad condition. Now as some time has already passed, and you have become familiar with the overall situation, can your present the priority problems, challenges to our economy, and how are you going to handle them?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan – Good afternoon. Firstly, how to solve, I think we have formulated in the Government program, which was submitted to the National Assembly. In my opinion, it is written in detail and pragmatically what we are planning to do.

As for your question, namely what are the primary issues, I think all the problems are of priority in case of both a central and a municipal government. But I would probably single out the need for the Government and society to keep in touch and provide feedback to build up a resource of confidence.

That, of course, first of all depends on what action we will implement, because changing the situation in a country is not only the task of the government, but also of every citizen.

I do not want to shirk responsibility and say that someone is not willing to change or withdraw his burden. But perhaps that confidence is one of the most important issues to bring to the formation of this mutual relationship so that the citizen might be sure that his active civic position, manifesting itself will benefit the cause.

Aram Abrahamyan, Shant TV - My questions are more specific to the program, the criminalization of illicit enrichment. It is a popular term, and is existent in some countries, there are some countries where it is inexistent, but this does not necessarily mean that they should have to be in our situation, that is, if I am thriving illegal, if I stole a budget or have I taken a bribe, then it is already a criminal case and if there is a rule of law in the country, it is not something we should not criminalize. Criminalized is anything done by our officials.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - I am confident that in the fight against corruption it is strictly necessary to maximally eliminate the environment that creates the possibility, because by establishing a third party to combat corruption, we cannot eliminate corruption, if the environment itself does not change.

And to my mind, we wrote in detail what actions we are going to take in order to minimize the possibility of corruption in the tax and customs spheres as to the government’s decisions, in the field of public procurements, in the field of foreign financing, as well as in terms of providing clear and equal conditions for businesses.

Aram Abrahamyan, Shant TV – A sub-question: there is a council to fight corruption, and its composition is to be revised: who is to leave and who will remain?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan – I feel that the Anticorruption Council is an important structure, because we need to state that the existing structures and the environment we have is far being ideal; therefore, a structure is to be created in a bid to consolidate, summarize, diagnose and find specific decisions.

We are now trying to involve the representatives of civil society so that the field is open. The members of the government, frankly speaking, are so busy in their daily duties or ought to be so, and may not get external signals. Here is the point.

Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV - Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to know the kind of country you want to see in five, ten, fifteen years later, much is talked about six months, but nevertheless, what is your vision of country you want see: European, Russian, centripetal. If European, then why Armenia acceded to the Eurasian Economic Union, if Russian, whether Armenia is going to continue to have signed a new agreement with the EU Association and, in general, what is the share of the foreign policy component in your government’s activities?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan – In five, ten, fifteen years, I see an Armenian statehood. There is no such an ideal management formula that you can take from one country to another and adapt to your country. More precisely, you can adapt, but you can not replicate. Therefore, as regards the Eurasian Economic Union, we, the Armenians, are a very interesting and talented nation, but in many cases we are lacking in pragmatism; should we accede or not to the Eurasian Economic Union?

Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV- Should we?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - I think yes, because we become a member of a club, where the market is growing and we can realize our potential as much as possible.

Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV
- But data or the experience shows that we have not yet won the bid.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - You are right, but we have yet made any analysis as to what would have been the situation if we had not acceded amid the ongoing crisis, the market on which we work is the result of changes in the market.

Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV - If there is no result, so maybe we did not have too much damage.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan – It is not a fact. Imagine, the point is what would have happened to our products if we had not been a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. There is not any accurate analysis made so far.

Second, being in the Eurasian Economic Union’s market, are we excluded from working in other markets? We have a great potential to get to new sales markets, while the Eurasian Economic Union is not an impediment at all. Therefore, we can take advantage of our membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. Success largely depends on us. If we do not use that much, we at least should not put the blame on others. After all, we do not make friends against others, do we?

Petros Ghazaryan, Kentron TV - Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to second what Satik said: I have talked to many businessmen, who keep stating that there are no objective conditions for us to become competitive in the CIS market. Why? Because our energy resources are expensive, we have higher tax rates. In other words, the above shows that our products may not be competitive on the Russian market in terms of cost. How do you see the solution to this problem?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - First of all, it is a fact that any product that is produced here, is to be competitive. It is up to businesses to determine which products might be competitive amid our sophisticated logistics and objective situation.

Secondly, I think those businesses set to work in the Russian market ought to try to, maybe there are no favorable conditions for them, to implement loan programs in ruble. When you work in the same currency area, the risks are dramatically reduced and, if you may have noticed, we wrote that we were going to use new tools to reduce foreign exchange risks. Businesses must decide.
What should the State do in this case? Support them as much as possible! But when they say that gas is expensive ... what the Government should do, if gas is expensive to bring here. The businessman should choose the product, the sector in which the price of gas does not remove themselves from the competitive field.

Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV – Neither the farmers enjoy equal terms. For example, Russia or any European Union country, or take Belarus, provide subsidies for the agricultural sector..

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan – Dear Satik, do we want to subsidize it or not. I think no head of government would be against, but we are subsidizing to the extent that we have the opportunity. Tomorrow as we grow richer and stronger, the amount of subsidy will be higher, indeed. And here, we must help each other to avoid illusions. We need to be more realistic.

When you manage your house, when your budget is limited, you decide what is the correct priority? When you do not live by your budget, you risk facing problems. The same is with us. What is the use of complaining about our meager resources? We have to go step by step toward a greater budget and our opportunities to grow the next day we will actually be able to subsidize agriculture more and more.

Georgy Altunyan, Public TV - Mr. Prime Minister, in your speech you said about the expectations of the society, but in my opinion, you were a little modest in your formulations. Apparently, the public at large has far greater expectations and it is visible.

Maybe it depends on your personality, maybe due to other objective or subjective realities, but there is that expectation. On one hand, it is certainly good, because it may help you and your government to act decisively and freely with fairly large opportunities. You can take such decisive steps as you think should be done. On the other hand, it puts a very heavy burden on your shoulders, lest the ordinary citizens may once again be disappointed. How do you feel about the responsibility towards the ordinary citizen, who may believe in your government?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - We do not cherish any illusions in this regard, which makes us shoulder up more responsibility. We have tried to be, let me say that word again, maximum pragmatic in our program, and have specified our steps in the most rational manner.

For example, many say that the government program seems to be kind of a toast and promises. I, frankly, I do not see any promise there, apart from the fact that we say that we will work in this or that direction. We have tried to specify the maximum in possible terms, and I see it, we have put quite a lot of weight, which requires regular daily work.

As we have said, if we live up to the task, we will have changes. Time will tell how we will measure the changes. We said that we must analyze the terms, diagnostics and statistical data in order to understand the amount of responsibility assumed.

We are set to be very honest and sincere in our work with the public, and we shall explain why this or that did not happen. For this very reason, realizing that after six, seven months the time will come to report back the achievements, we have attempted to set out as clearly as possible what can be done.

But the fact is that there are some members of our team, who said the bar is too high: we had better state less so that after six, seven months we could say, “We have exceeded the benchmark. Otherwise we could set the bar at a motivating height. We have chosen the second option. Six, seven months after the issuance of the report, we will see to what extent we have been able to do it or not.

Petros Ghazaryan, Kentron TV - Mr. Prime Minister, I listened to yesterday’s question and answer session in Parliament, asked about the fight against corruption and monopolies, you answered in very simple way: we will enforce the law. But I think there is no problem with our laws: our laws do not imply monopoly, corruption, etc. Where is the problem; how does everything emerge?

You said the same school director, mother, girl, party. The entire system has some logic; during elections these people provide services. Those oligarchs we say are making money, it is clear that either the authorities... it is not by breaching the law that one becomes an oligarch.

Naturally, they have not been identified for 20 years, no one seems to be able to set things right. This means that no one wants to do so, doesn’t it? It is so simple. Now we come to the money-power-money chain: these people provide specific services during the elections, the government is elected and lets them get rich and live as they want. This has nothing to do with the law: on the contrary, it is from the opposite field. Where are you going to break this vicious chain?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - Petros, please look at this issue again. You mean monopolies, don’t you? Let us divide the question into 2 parts.

How can we fight against monopolies? We will do so by creating equal and fair conditions. How can we curb corruption? Corruption has just been addressed above. As for the tools, we will use the ones prescribed by law.

I did not say we will combat monopolies by virtue of law. I said we will combat corruption by law and, instead, we will fight against monopolies by creating a level playing field.

Injustice is the main reason behind social discontent in the family, business, city, street, country and so on. In this regard, I believe that our nation is on the watch, has a good sense and ability to rebel against injustice.

A small market will sooner or later lead to monopolies in certain sectors. We may have dominant businessmen in specific areas, because he or she works more effectively, etc and so on. The problem is how they become dominant. If administrative leverages are being used, for example, Aram is allowed, you not, then we will face injustice.

If natural competitive field, one will interpret it so that it is not dominant, the state has a problem in that case. dominant, our Antimonopoly Service restrain his appetite, but we must be the dominant, if he became a fairly competitive field, suppress it, of course not.

Look, we even have a serious problem: the smallness of the country, I say it conventionally, leads to a higher wholesale price for oil products than elsewhere. In the same way, costs are different depending on whether you have rented a boat entirely or a small part of it. But it means that we are definitely going to be a major supplier. Over time, you and I can start this business. One of us will become dominant in objective terms. I do not mean in all areas, but in some at least. In this case, the feeling of injustice might not be as pronounced as it is today. I mean it.

This is why providing a level playing field is the key to combating monopolies, while I said that we need to change the overall environment in order to fight against corruption. Decision-making should be more transparent and understandable for the public. Every time evidence is available, we must apply the law as you said in order to prevent corruption.

Petros Ghazaryan, Kentron TV - I just realized that anyone can today import any product.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan – Yes, I just meant so, without any problem. Any time you learn that there is such a problem, you call me personally.
Satik Seyranyan, Armenia TV - Mr. Prime Minister, you are the fourteenth Prime Minister of Armenia. You may imagine how many projects there have been developed related to the Diaspora and so on. Speaking about the Diaspora, you and the members of your government state your intention to attract investment; try to make Armenia more attractive and so on. There is some uncertainty, and a lot of mistrust between Armenia and the Diaspora. What guarantees can a repatriate or a native businessman get from the State now?

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - What we want to do. We want to open the investment environment not only for our Diaspora compatriots - it is true we are interested to see in businesses from the Diaspora - but the rules of the game are going to be the same for everybody - Armenians, Chinese or others.

To make then feel protected, we will provide feedback in the face of our Economic Development and Investment Ministry that we roughly call the advocate, mediator or the ombudsman of business so that every time a businessman encounters any obstacles, he may turn to the Ministry. We will soon make public the names of those responsible persons who can immediately call me.

We also recorded the decriminalization of business activities stating that we will treat law-abiding businesses this way and non-law-abiding entities that way, but even the non-law-abiding ones were assured that they would be safe from abuse of powers. And we will focus on law enforcement agencies to prevent possible abuses of power or authority. This is a working mechanism: yes, we are keen to push ahead with it and the result will come.

Petros Ghazaryan, Kentron TV - I am also interested in your personal motivation, Mr. Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan - What is my motivation? I want the country to be fairer, more developed, richer and safer. If I can be of service, I am prepared to do everything in my power. As soon as I feel unable, I will not stay in office even a single day. Can I see the necessary strength and willingness in me, yes, let alone the drive!

May 2020