By Hrach Melkumian
In a move reflecting nearing elections, Armenian parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to partly forgive consumers’ debts for drinking and sewerage water.
Under the bill passed by the parliament, households that will pay 55 percent of their water bills dating back to 2000 and 2001 will have the rest of their debts for the same period written off.
Water bill evasion is widespread in Armenia where the water and sewerage network, currently managed by an Italian utility, lacks effective mechanisms to collect the fees. Many Armenians refuse to pay them in protest against the network’s continuing failure to ensure regular and longer water supplies. The total amount of the debt is estimated at 35 billion drams ($62.5 million).
The Armenian government moved to remedy the situation earlier this year when it required all households to install water meters in their apartments and houses by 2004. The parliament bill provides that those who will install them this year will have their 2002 bills cut by 25 percent.