(Saturday, July 31)
“Hayots Ashkhar” reports that the pro-presidential factions holding the overwhelming majority of seats in Armenia’s parliament on Friday put their signatures on President Robert Kocharian’s revised constitutional amendments. Deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian tells the paper that the amendments would not change the existing “principles” of the government’s formation. The ruling cabinets will continue to be appointed by the president, he says. For Hrair Karapetian of the Dashnaktsutyun party, more important is the planned lifting of the ban on dual citizenship.
Aram Sarkisian, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, predicts a collapse of the governing coalition in an interview with “Aravot.” “There have arisen serious problems inside the coalition. Especially regarding the return of [Soviet-era bank] deposits,” he says. Sarkisian claims that the coalition might fall apart as early as this autumn and that the ruling regime’s eventual exit from power will be “inglorious.” He says unlike Armenia’s former rulers who got some guarantees” from those who ousted them, the present authorities will find themselves in a “more difficult situation” because of the very high degree of their “criminalization.”
“Aravot” comments that the Armenian opposition has exhausted its political resources and now needs “recharging.” Years of activities by the opposition have failed to change anything in the political and socioeconomic spheres. “The system remains just like it was [in the past],” the paper writes. “In short, Kocharian has retained power which is rapidly turning to an unrestrained regime.”
“Golos Armenii” believes that the sharp strengthening of the Armenian dram has hit hard a large part of the population which is dependent of regular hard currency remittances from their relatives working abroad. The more so given a sizable increase in consumer prices over the past year. “Following the fluctuations of the dollar’s exchange rate, our citizens perfectly understand that someone has cashed in on this fraud,” the paper says.
“Golos Armenii” also quotes the head of Armenia’s State Taxation Service, Felix Tsolakian, saying that his agency collected 74 billion drams ($144 million) in taxes in the first seven months of this year. This is 15 percent up from the same period last year. Tsolakian also says that the informal sector of the Armenian economy is at least 30 percent the size of the country’s official Gross Domestic Product. He claims that the authorities have stepped up their crackdown on widespread tax evasion with 64 relevant criminal cases already opened this year. He says there were only 24 criminal inquiries into fiscal fraud during the whole of 2003.