“Hayots Ashkhar” is worried about recent days’ rise in the price of bread and other basic consumer goods in Armenia. The paper says the retailers believe that the prices are being artificially pushed up by producers, alleging a “concerted blow to consumers’ pockets” on the part of the latter. It says, for example, that butter has grown more expensive lately because an unnamed “oligarch” who controls the bulk of its imports is now being forced to pay taxes.
There is a similar situation in the drugs market, continues “Hayots Ashkhar.” Some basic medicines now cost 150 drams (20 U.S. cents) more than they did last week. The paper says they are imported by tycoon Samvel Aleksanian who has allegedly raised their prices after driving competitors out of the business.
“Hayots Ashkhar” also reports that the Armenian government is adamant in considering “illegal” the ArmenTel operator’s intention to double its fixed-line telephone charges from next month. A Justice Ministry spokesman tells the paper that Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Markarian has been instructed by the government to issue a warning to ArmenTel. But the paper says the Greek-owned monopoly is already making preparations for enforcing the tariff increase. “Everything depends on how committed the government is to completing the process of stripping the company of its monopoly,” it writes.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” looks at the rapid proliferation of lottery games in Armenia. The paper says that the gambling fever is causing a “mass psychosis” among the population and is “something like drug addiction.” “It is amazing that even the Ministry of Health is not dealing with that anymore,” the paper says.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also continues its front-page coverage of expensive limousines belonging to senior Armenian officials. This time it carries the photograph of Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian’s SUV car which it says should cost between $60,000 and $70,000. But it is more modest than the vehicles carrying customs chief Armen Avetisian or Central Bank chairman Tigran Sarkisian. Even so, the paper says, Khachatrian looked very embarrassed when he noticed a “Haykakan Zhamanak” photographer taking the jeep’s picture a few days ago.
Commenting on President Robert Kocharian’s reaction to parallels drawn between the post-election events in Armenia and Georgia, “Ayb-Fe” writes, “Either he is really resolute and doesn’t take our opposition seriously, or he is very afraid of the sad prospect of an Armenian repeat of the Georgian events. This was probably the reason why after saying all that Kocharian announced that the electricity prices in Armenia will not rise. So it turns out that the government wanted to raise them, while the fairly elected president does not allow that. It also turns out that if the Georgians make further headway in democratization our [rulers] will give up their rosy dream of making everything more expensive.”
“Aravot” discusses the arrest of former parliament deputy Ruben Gevorgian for his alleged attempts to kill his arch-foe Samvel Aleksanian and some of the latter’s relatives. The paper is inclined to believe that Gevorgian was indeed plotting to avenge the killing of his nephew which was blamed on Aleksanian. It says this and other vendettas illustrate a widespread lack of public trust in the Armenian law-enforcement and judicial authorities. “Every second Armenian citizen is prepared to take a hand grenade and settle his scores by himself because he does not believe in being protected by the law. He doesn’t trust police officers, prosecutors and judges; knows the extent of their dependence and corruption. And that is much more dangerous than criminal acts and a redistribution of zones of influence.”