Commenting on the worsening crime situation in Armenia and the 25 June shoot-out in Yerevan between rival oligarchs, the newspaper "Ayb-Fe" reports that several days ago an airplane landed at Zvartnots airport carrying 51 passengers, 31 of whom were famous mobsters from all over the former Soviet Union. They came to Armenia to mark the10th anniversary of the death of the so-called "thief-in-law " Svoy Rafo in what the paper describes as a major gathering of criminals in Yerevan. Criminal kingpins from all over the former USSR held a major gathering of this magnitude in Kalmikia, Russia years ago, but today no other country in CIS would allow them to meet and talk, the paper says. The paper also claims that the 31 crime bosses met with senior Armenian officials, including the head of the Armenian Police Investigation Department.
"Haikakan Zhamanak" reports that following President Robert Kocharian's 1 July appointment of a new mayor of Yerevan and a new head of the Internal Revenue Service, there will be no more changes in the top echelons of the Armenian government. But at the same time, the paper predicts that if the crime situation in the country does not improve in the near future, the chief of the Armenian Police Haik Harutiunian could be sacked. The government has already discussed possible replacements for Harutiunian, but no decision has been made yet, "Haikakan Zhamanak" writes.
We need people of genius, the best economists and lawyers who could pull out this country out of the present crisis, "Hayots Askharh" writes. "Some people try to convince us that we don't have enough qualified people. It is not difficult to find the best minds, but there is a lack of courage to appoint them to the appropriate posts, because to appoint the new people you need to fire the old ones. But the old guard stands there united. And so instead of appointing new people, we end up reappointing the old ones, "Hayots Askharh" comments. Officials who failed in their previous posts are being promoted or reappointed to other posts. We are always being told that corruption is deeply rooted in the government. But it is impossible to strengthen our statehood by promoting corrupt bureaucrats. Society does not want reappointments or reshuffles, it needs a change of principles, the paper concludes.
"Based on several conclusive developments, we can predict that the prices of basic consumer goods will go up," "Haikakan Zhamanak" writes. The prices of basic goods in 2004 will go up by 15-20 percent, the paper predicts. According to official statistics, the average income will rise only by 15 percent, which would certainly lower the real income of Armenians, the paper concludes.
"Hayots Askharh" believes that foreign policy issues, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, will be high on the political agenda next autumn. The opposition has never been considered as taking a hard-line on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, whereas the government could not have adopted a more hard-line approach to this issue. And so there will be no influential political force that could criticize the government's policies on Nagorno-Karabakh and relations with Turkey from a more radical position. There is a need to create a powerful nationalist opposition, the paper concludes.