People living in 38 other mostly rural communities have been exempt from property and agricultural land taxes since 2015. A law enacted by the country’s former leadership also requires the state to subsidize the prices of electricity, natural gas and water supplied to them and to provide local schoolchildren with free textbooks.
The government decided last week to double the number of such border communities.
The 39 villages added to the list are located in Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces bordering districts retaken by Azerbaijan during and after the recent war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The nearly 14,000 people living there now face the kind of security challenges that have long affected residents of other border towns and villages.
Not all border villages in Syunik have become eligible for the tax breaks and government subsidies. Khndzoresk, one of the local villages left off the list, is located just a few kilometers from the current Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The village mayor, Yervand Malunts, criticized the government for excluding its 450 residents from the scheme.
“The settlements mentioned by you were left off the list because they did not meet all criteria of the program,” said Zaruhi Manucharian, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. “But since we too have received complaints [from Syunik] discussions are now underway on revising the list and softening the criteria.”
Local government officials in Syunik communities included on the list do not expect immediate tangible results for local results. Nare Ghazarian, the mayor of Shikahogh, argued on Tuesday that her remote village already does not paid property tax and is not connected to Armenia’s national gas distribution network.
Ghazarian said the government benefits will therefore be nowhere near enough to make up for the loss of agricultural land and pastures that were used by Shikahogh farmers until recent Armenian troop withdrawals from adjacent areas placed under Azerbaijani control.