The government extended its electricity price subsidy to some Armenian small businesses on Monday ahead of new demonstrations planned by the organizers of the recent “Electric Yerevan” protests.
The two-week protests forced the government to pledge to keep the tariffs, which were raised by 17 percent in June, unchanged for consumers at least until the results of a special international audit of Armenia’s debt-ridden power distribution network. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian made clear earlier this month that his government will subsidize the electricity used by households but not corporate consumers.
Abrahamian’s statement prompted strong criticism from organizations representing Armenian small firms and No To Plunder, a youth movement that launched the “Electric Yerevan” campaign. The group said late last week that it will resume its “civil disobedience” actions on Tuesday.
“This morning I discussed with the president of the republic the question of also supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and we decided to submit this draft to the government,” Abrahamian told a weekly meeting of his cabinet.
He said small firms will pay the old price for up to 250 kilowatts of power used by them each month. Entities exceeding that limit will be covered by the higher tariffs, he said.
The number of businesses that will benefit from the subsidy was not immediately clear. Energy and Natural Resources Minister Yervand Zakharian suggested only that most of them will be cafes, restaurants and other firms involved in the services sector.
The government decision failed to satisfy No To Plunder, with one of the group’s leaders, Maxim Sargsian, calling it “laughable.” “This is yet another stupid thing with which they try to divide people,” he said, adding that the protests planned by the youth activists will therefore go ahead as planned.
No To Plunder will gather supporters and members in a Yerevan park on Tuesday to discuss its plan of actions.