“Aravot” says that during Wednesday’s weekly question-and-answer session in the parliament Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and his ministers did not deny some deputies’ claims that the Mika Armenia trading company close to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian has a de-facto monopoly on gasoline imports. But they stopped short of publicly confirming the widely known fact.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” is bewildered at Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian’s revelation that Mika Armenia, which was thought to make huge profits, claims to operate at a loss. At least that is what the company’s financial statements say, Khachatrian said. The paper, which has repeatedly alleged that Mika Armenia has used the close ties with Sarkisian to squeeze competitors out of the lucrative business, suspects the company of fraud and tax evasion. “It appears that the power of the ruling clan and the impotence of the current government have no boundaries,” it concludes.
Meanwhile, “Hayots Ashkhar” quotes senior tax officials as saying that widespread underreporting of revenues by large private firms is the main cause of the shortfall in budget revenues. The deputy minister of state revenues, Armen Alaverdian, tells the paper that an unusually large number of enterprises has posted losses to evade corporate tax. “Those enterprises are not operating at a loss. It’s just that the existing tax legislation allows them to submit such reports. As a result, those enterprises don’t pay anything to the state budget.” Alaverdian says his ministry will seek to change the tax laws to introduce criminal liability for that form of tax evasion.
“Hayots Ashkhar” continues to hound political allies of former interior minister Vano Siradeghian. The pro-Kocharian daily is this time angry at their “brazen” plans to try to have Siradeghian reelected to parliament from the same constituency in northern Armenia. It also says that Kocharian has emerged unscathed from the recent stand-off with the consolidating opposition is now stronger than ever before.
“Yerkir” also targets the opposition, cheering its “defeat” at the hands of Kocharian. Having been defeated in “an open political struggle,” the three leading opposition parties are changing their tactics. They are, in particular, embracing the former authorities’ rhetoric in their smear campaign against Kocharian. The opposition is deliberately concentrating on Armenia’s domestic problems, utterly disregarding external threats facing the country, according to the Dashnaktsutyun paper.
In an interview with “Zhamanak,” the chief of staff of the Armenian armed forces, General Mikael Harutiunian, accuses Azerbaijan of deliberately steering the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process into deadlock. But, the general says, Azerbaijan will stand no chance in the battlefield if it makes good on its threats to resume hostilities. “Azerbaijan is not prepared for war, first of all in the psychological sense. As for us, the fact that our people are calm and undisturbed by the Azeri threats indicates that they believe in their army’s strength.” Harutiunian believes that the Armenian army maintains its “substantial military advantage” over its Azerbaijani foe.