The Armenian government announced on Thursday plans to borrow $30 million from the World Bank to compensate two large power plants for their losses caused by the national electric utility and two chemical enterprises.
“We are taking a loan in order to solve previously accumulated problems,” Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian said during a weekly session of his cabinet. He said the low-interest loan will be repayable in 30 years.
Energy Minister Yervand Zakharian said the money will be provided to the state-owned Metsamor nuclear power station and a thermal power plant in Yerevan so that they can repay short-term loans extended by Armenian commercial banks. He said the energy facilities resorted to expensive borrowing last year in order to sustain their operations after failing to ensure timely payments for electricity supplied to the power grids and the idling chemical giants.
According a separate statement by the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Electricity Networks of Armenia (ENA) utility alone owes them 22.4 billion drams ($47 million). The loss-making ENA’s total debts to power plants and commercial banks exceeded $200 million as of last September.
Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetian’s Tashir Group was expected to assume the debts when it purchased the ENA from a state-controlled Russian company in October. The planned World Bank loan means, however, that the government will cover a part of them.
Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting, Zakharian declined to clearly explain why Armenian taxpayers should pay for losses incurred as a result of poor management of the ENA and the other enterprises.
Opposition representatives were quick to condemn the government move. “This is theft committed in broad daylight,” said Vahagn Khachatrian of the Armenian National Congress.