“Zhoghovurd” comments on reports that the Armenian government is poised to cede its remaining 20 percent stake in Armenia’s gas distribution network to Gazprom to limit a sharp rise in the price of Russian natural gas. The paper notes that the government was already rumored to have sold the stake last year to conceal a gas price rise. “The only question now is whether with that 20 percent they will cover only last year’s debt or will manage to clinch Russian funding for a gas price subsidy for a couple of years,” it says.
“Zhamanak” says those reports highlight the fact that the Russians will not give Armenia anything for free. The paper says their desire to gain full ownership of the ARG network makes mockery of the Armenian government’s claims that it is seeking a Russian “grant” to subsidize the gas price. “Even if the Russians give us a grant they will make up for it elsewhere, by wresting something from Armenia,” it says. “They are going to wrest the last piece of ARG belonging to Armenia.” The paper concludes that the government will thus have no say in decisions made by the national gas company.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” fears that the 20 percent share in ARG is not the only the price which Armenia could pay for the gas subsidy promised by its government. The paper suggests that in theory this development will make Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan even less likely. “But only in theory,” it says. “As we have pointed out, Russian gas became more expensive in late 2011 and Armenia has incurred big debts to Gazprom since then. And that means it is more likely that we will both cede 20 percent to Gazprom to repay that debt and join the Customs Union in order to get relatively cheap gas in the future.”
“168 Zham” reports that an opinion poll conducted by the Armenian Sociological Associations has found that nearly half of Yerevan residents are ready to move abroad. “This reflects the relatively favorable picture in Yerevan,” writes the paper. “It is more appalling to imagine the results of such surveys conducted in the republic’s regions.”