“Haykakan Zhamanak” comments on the $180 million sale of Armenia’s Vorotan cascade of hydroelectric plants to the U.S. company ContourGlobal, which was announced on Wednesday. The paper notes that a non-Russian company has not privatized an Armenian power plant before. It questions the takeover price, suggesting that the Vorotan Hydro Cascade is worth much more. “Even so, the fact of its sale to a non-Russian company is remarkable in itself,” it says, suggesting that political motives might have been behind the deal.
“Zhoghovurd” also emphasizes the “political significance” of the deal that comes on the heels of controversial agreements that deepened Russian presence in the Armenian energy sector. The paper also says that the Vorotan plants were the last multimillion-dollar economic assets owned by the Armenian state.
“168 Zham” quotes Hrant Bagratian, an opposition deputy and a former prime minister, as speculating that Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and other senior officials stand to personally gain from a controversial reform of the national pension system. Hence, he says, their reluctance to abandon the reform.
Citing government data, “Chorrord Inknishkhanutyun” reports that electricity production in Armenia fell by just over 4 percent last year. The paper attributes the drop to last July’s sharp rise in the electricity price for households and what it sees as a decreased purchasing power of many Armenians.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that companies belonging to “oligarch” Samvel Aleksanian and enjoying a de facto monopoly on food imports to Armenia paid a total of almost 25 billion drams ($62 million) in various taxes last year, up by almost 3 percent from 2012. The Armenian government’s overall tax revenues rose at a much faster rate in 2013. “This means that although Aleksanian keeps expanding his operations and getting hold of more and more businesses, the taxes paid by him are barely going up,” comments the paper.