(Saturday, June 2)
“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the prices of fruits, vegetables and meat sold in Armenian supermarkets have gone up sharply following accusations of large-scale tax evasion levelled against the country’s largest retail chain owned by parliament deputy Samvel Aleksanian. The paper close to the new Armenian government assures readers that there is “nothing terrible” about the price hikes because the cost of these foodstuffs sold in smaller shops and markets remains unchanged. It also argues that the government needs to put an end to corporate tax fraud.
“Hraparak” says that the retail “oligarchs” are retaliating against the crackdown launched by Nikol Pashinian’s government. “On the one hand, this is blackmail directed at the authorities that have breached ‘rules of the game,’” writes the paper. “On the hand, it’s a slap in the face of the society that has carried out a democratic revolution.” It hopes that the price hikes will be more than offset by extra tax payments to the state budget.
“Aravot” reports that the supermarket managers have sent a collective letter to Pashinian. The paper says their message to the prime minister can be summed up as follows: “If we stick only to the law we will go bankrupt and food prices will rise.” It says that while public anger about large businesses evading taxes is legitimate “government officials and experts have something to think about.” “Maybe relevant laws were really written in such a way that it was very hard not to circumvent them,” it says.
“Zhamanak” reports on a corruption scandal surrounding activities the Armenian Youth Fund, a state-funded structure that has long been effectively controlled by the youth wing of Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) headed by Karen Avagian, a parliament deputy. Avagian alleged on June 1 that the fund’s executive director has embezzled over 326 million drams ($680,000) from the fund. Law-enforcement authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the allegation. The paper wonders if Avagian’s allegation is a further indication of mounting friction within the HHK.