The prices of electricity in Armenia will likely rise by roughly 16 percent soon despite strong resistance from civic and opposition groups, the country’s chief utility regulatory said over the weekend.
Robert Nazarian revealed the scale of the price rise before an official decision by his Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) on a tariff application submitted by Armenia’s national electricity distribution network last month.
The Russian-owned Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) utility asked the PSRC to raise the daytime electricity fee for households from 42 drams to 59 drams (12 U.S. cents), citing the need to end its financial losses and repay its outstanding debts.
In an interview with the Armenian TV station, Nazarian said the PSRC will most probably raise the tariff by only about 7 drams. The price rise will take effect on August 1, he said.
Nazarian again dismissed critics’ claims that Armenians are being forced to pay for the ENA’s mismanagement by its Russian parent company, the RAO Unified Energy Systems (UES). He said the higher price will enable the ENA to cut its debts totaling $225 million by only one-third.
Opposition lawmakers on Monday reacted angrily to the statement, stressing the fact that it was made ahead of parliamentary hearings on the issue slated for Friday. They said it amounts to a lack of respect for the National Assembly.
Artsvik Minasian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said Nazarian predetermined the outcome of the ongoing discussions not only within the parliament but also the PSRC itself.
Another opposition leader, Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), accused the regulator of showing disdain for both the parliament and the public. He said Nazarian’s stance only underlines the need for fresh street protests against the highly unpopular measure.
An Armenian pressure group campaigning against the price hike already rallied thousands of people in Yerevan late last month. Its next rally is scheduled for June 19. The group called No To Plunder has pledged to pull an even bigger crowd.