Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has again defended his government’s controversial deal with Russia’s state-run gas giant, urging energy sector officials to work better to explain the benefits of the decision to the public.
Speaking at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources on Friday, Sarkisian emphasized that “any good decision is only part of the job.”
“We should be able to give explanations on that decision in a competent and timely manner so that people understand its importance,” he said, according to the presidential press service.
The Armenian government signed a new agreement with Gazprom late last year ceding to the Russian energy company the remaining 20-percent stake in the local distribution network. As a benefit that also stems from Armenia’s planned membership in the Russian-led customs union Yerevan is now entitled to purchasing natural gas at Russia’s domestic prices.
The government has repeatedly presented it as an achievement, saying that paying $189 per 1,000 cubic meter of natural gas is one of the best prices available in the world. Critics, however, have discarded the advantages of the deal, stressing that end consumers in Armenia have to pay to the Gazprom-controlled distribution network a retail price almost twice as high as the purchase price at the border.
Speaking at the consultations with the Energy Ministry staff, President Sarkisian put emphases on the predictability that the deal with Gazprom gives Armenia and its economy.
“It envisages that the price in the next five years will be tied to domestic prices in the Russian Federation, which will not particularly grow or will grow by five percent a year at best,” the Armenian president said. “Not only our citizens, but also foreign businessmen know about it, and seeing this predictability and the price they already think about setting up their energy-intensive production units in Armenia. We already have such examples. They even think that they can export their products from here without any obstacles to other Customs Union member states.”
At the same time, Sarkisian urged Energy Ministry officials to explain to people while the price of natural gas increases when it reaches their households.
“We talk little about it, but explaining it is our work, this is the work of the ministry,” he said.
In particular, the president said that it should be explained that the additions to the gas price are also due to investments that are being made in the infrastructure. “You should explain to people that if these measures are not done, if the old pipes are not replaced with new ones, if new equipment is not installed in time, tomorrow we may face very big problems,” Sarkisian underscored.
The Armenian leader also expressed his positive attitude towards the establishment of a parliamentary committee that is to examine problems in the natural gas sphere. “This is a very good occasion so that these issues are once again studied. We have nothing to hide,” Sarkisian concluded.