Davit Ananian, the head of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC), has resigned after refusing to obey Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s orders to fire one of his subordinates, the national tax service said on Friday.
The SRC’s press office said that Pashinian and Ananian had “differences of solely working nature related to a personnel issue.” “Mr. Ananian preferred to resign, rather than fire one of the efficient cadres with long experience in the [taxation] sphere,” it said in a statement.
The statement, which is highly unusual for an Armenian government agency, did not name that official or give other details.
An SRC source told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Ananian objected to the sacking of Mher Martirosian, the chief of a major customs terminal outside Yerevan which drew Pashinian’s ire earlier this week.
As part of his efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus in Armenia, the prime minister shared on his Facebook page a photograph of people standing in a line at the terminal and failing to observer social distancing. He demanded that Ananian deal with the problem.
Pashinian’s spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, declined to confirm or deny that Ananian quit because of rejecting the premier’s demand.
Pashinian was reticent about the resignation when he addressed lawmakers via a video link later on Friday. He thanked Ananian for his performance before promising “new changes” within the tax and customs service.
“We hope that the substantive changes, which began during Mr. Ananian’s tenure, will deepen and expand further,” said Pashinian. He did not say whom he will appoint as new head of the SRC.
Ananian gave no reasons for his unexpected resignation when he announced it on Thursday.
Some media outlets claimed afterwards that several other senior SCR official have also decided to step down. The SRC did not comment on those reports.
Ananian, 48, promised a tough crackdown on tax evasion when he took over the SRC in May 2018 shortly after the “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. The Armenian government’s tax revenues have risen significantly since then, a fact regularly touted by Pashinian.
The premier declared on Friday that “2019 was a historic year for Armenia in the budgetary sense.” He argued that the SRC exceeded its tax revenue target by 104 billion drams ($215 million).
The SRC collected about a total of 1.5 trillion drams ($3.1 billion) in various taxes and customs duties last year, up by 16.4 percent from 2018.