By Armen Zakarian
Yerevan’s recently appointed mayor, Yervand Zakharian, claimed on Tuesday that his new official car is not as luxurious and expensive as has been suggested insome press reports.
In a front-page story last week, the “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily posted the photograph of Zakharian’s Mercedes limousine, estimating its cost at between $80,000 and $100,000. The paper portrayed its acquisition as an example of government profligacy and mismanagement.
Zakharian was asked about the report as he held a news conference in his downtown office. “First of all, that Mercedes is not quite fresh; it is four years old,” he said. “Secondly, it cost not $80,000 or $100,000, but only $39,000. So your information was turned upside down.”
But he declined to specify whether the car was purchased by the Yerevan municipality or himself. Even the sum cited by the mayor is a substantial one for the city’s cash-strapped budget which is nowhere near enough for meeting the basic needs of the Armenian capital.
Zakharian’s much-criticized predecessor, Robert Nazarian, faced similar tough questions earlier this year when he switched from a modest Russian-made car to a brand new French Peugeot. It is still not clear who paid for the expensive car. Nazarian continues to ride in it in his current capacity as head of a the government’s regulatory Commission on Natural Monopolies.
Zakharian further denied carrying out purges in the middle and higher echelons of the Yerevan municipality since his appointment as mayor by President Robert Kocharian on July 1. Some newspapers have claimed that he has already installed his cronies in key positions. But Zakharian insisted that he did not breach the Armenian law on civil service, which protects state bureaucrats against arbitrary dismissal. He said there are now “quite a lot of vacancies” in his office and they will soon be filled on a competitive basis.