By Atom Markarian
An Armenian minister in charge of privatization said on Thursday that the government will press ahead with the sale of a big cement factory in southern Armenian despite strong opposition from its management and employees. Minister for State Property David Vartanian, who was barred from entering premises of the state-run Ararat Cement company by its angry workers on Tuesday, said the government will try to address their concerns but remains adamant on the need for privatization.
Vartanian and representatives of the Swiss company Holsim, which is considering participating in an international tender for the troubled factory, traveled to Ararat, a town 50 kilometers south of Yerevan, for an on-site inspection of the company. They were able to enter the factory only the next day.
Vartanian said the Swiss executives were satisfied with the condition of the cement facility and are likely to submit a bid before the June 15 deadline. Also taking an interest in Ararat Cement are three other foreign firms from Britain, Greece and Lebanon, he said.
Ararat Cement is run by Aram Sarkisian, a former prime minister and a major opponent of the current authorities. Sarkisian’s Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party, set up earlier this year, is increasingly outspoken in its criticism of President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
Vartanian, whose National Democratic Union (AZhM) has also been critical of Kocharian, denied any political motives behind the plans to privatize the factory. “I disagree with those who say that the privatization process in Armenia is politicized,” he told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.