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Workers Of Pawnshops, Exchange Offices Protest Against Planned Rise In Duties


Employees of pawnshops and exchange offices hold a protest in front of the Armenian government building, Yerevan, 14 March, 2019

Employees of pawnshops and exchange offices on Thursday threatened to block the central streets of Yerevan if the government representatives did not listen to their demands.

Several dozen of them rallied outside the government building as Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian chaired a regular meeting of his government inside.

The Central Bank of Armenia recently proposed draft amendments in the law on state duties, which, if approved, will sharply raise the annual rate of fees paid by pawnshops and exchange offices.

Thus, under the bill, in the case with pawnshops, the state duty will amount to 6 million drams (about $12,300) instead of the current 100,000 drams (over $200), and in the case with currency exchange offices their owners will pay 3 million drams (over $6,000) instead of the current 50,000 drams (over $100).

Minutes after the protesters threatened to start blocking the streets, two of the demonstrators were allowed inside the government building.

Mher Gevorgian, a pawnshop manager, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that they had a meeting with the prime minister’s assistant Nairi Sargsian and received a promise to discuss the issue before Monday.

According to the protest participants, if the state duties are raised so sharply, banks will simply push exchange offices and pawnshops out of business and more than a thousand workers will become unemployed.

“We now hold protests because if such a decision is made, only big players will remain in the market. There will be consolidation of business. But one of the ideas of the economic revolution today is that they want to fight against such consolidation,” Gevorgian said.

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