Hello, and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review. This Week we’re going to talk about the following major topics:
● The Government’s 5-year Plan
● Russia Rearming Armenia. And Artsakh?
● Press Freedoms Curtailed in Parliament
● Topics from the Panelists
○ Professionalism in Politics
○ COVID Complacence
To talk about these issues, we have with us:
Asbed Kotchikian, who is an Associate Professor of political science and international relations at the American University of Armenia.
Hrant Mikaelian, who is a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences at the Caucasus Institute, based in Yerevan.
Last week Pashinyan unveiled a new 5-year plan as his government’s guiding document. It’s highly aspirational, so here are the top ideas from the plan, and if you want to see them they’re in our show notes on our website:
● So this document will work hand-in-hand with the Prime Minister’s Armenia Transformation Strategy by 2050 plan from a year ago.
● Reforming the armed forces to secure the nation
● Active and proactive foreign policy
● Strategic alliance with Russia and the CSTO
● Working with the OSCE to determine a status for Nagorno-Karabakh, that’s Artsakh
● Opening regional infrastructures to enhance stable regional environment
● Annual economic growth of 7-9%
● Minimum monthly salary raised to 68K AMD (from current 55K), and finally ro 85K
● Poverty level below 10%, extreme poverty 0%
● National infrastructure upgrades with EU support: Roads, reservoirs, etc.
● School upgrades
● Child support: 3rd child and above get 50K AMD/month until age 6.
● Asbed Kotchikian: What were your takeaways from this 5-year plan?
● Hrant: Are the economic growth targets reasonable? Outside of the large Euro investment in Armenian infrastructure, what would be the drivers of a 7-9% annual growth?
○ How will the government support taking minimum monthly salaries from 55K to 68K and finally to 85K? That’s a 55% raise from current levels. Does the math add up? Is it funded by additional national debt?
News broke out earlier this week that Russia has started rearming Armenia. Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev loudly complained that Armenian troops and weaponry are also making their way through the Lachin corridor to Artsakh, and said that he sees no need for rearming Armenia because the war has ended. Later in the week Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that supplying arms to other countries is Russia’s sovereign right, and that “confrontational” and “bellicose” statements do not help the peace process in the South Caucasus. She was clearly alluding to Aliyev’s statements on CNN Turk, although she didn’t name him.
Meanwhile, the tripartite negotiations between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have restarted, about opening communications, primarily through Armenia.
● Is Russia rearming Armenia? Why now? And what do you think about the quality and quantity of this process? What about armaments flowing into Artsakh?
● Given this bellicose rhetoric on the part of Aliyev and how it dissolves trust among the members of the November Agreement signatories, how can they actually be restarting the negotiations around Point 9 of the agreement about opening communication channels?
● Russia has made statements about maintaining the balance of power in the South Caucasus. Is a resumption of war likely, and do you think that is the scenario that Russia has in mind?
● We discussed the government’s 5-year plan earlier, and one of the line items was reforming the military. Is the Russian rearming of Armenia’s military complementary to this reform?
Since the start of his term as parliament speaker for the 8th convocation of the National Assembly, Alen Simonyan has been dealing with a heavy hand with the press reporting on the proceedings in the parliament. He has ordered the press removed, or photographing stopped, or live televising halted at moments of high tension in the parliament.
At the start of the convocation, the media were informed that they no longer had the same freedom of movement in parliament as they did before. Specifically, it seems that they’ll now be restricted to a “media box” which is set up at the balcony level of the national assembly.
The official reason given for this was security, but this basically allows MPs who don’t want to deal with the press to come and go without being questioned.
● Is this the start of something sinister, or is it an insecure government out of its league?
● This week president of the Center for Press Freedom NGO in Armenia, Shushan Doydoyan said that the issue of these restrictions must go to the Constitutional Court. Many NGOs have protested about these press limitations as well. We know Civil Contract pays great attention to international ratings and rankings, such as the Press Freedom Index. Should these issues end up in the Constitutional Court or even in European Courts? Will these issues hurt Armenia, or this government’s relationship with its Western patrons?
That was our Week in Review show, and we hope it helped you catch up with some of the issues in and around Armenia from this past week. As always, we invite your feedback and your suggestions. You can find us on most social media and podcast platforms, or our website Groong.org.
On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels, Like our pages and follow us on social media. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.
Asbed kotchikian, Hrant Mikaelian, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, South Caucasus, Turkey, Russia, Reconciliation, Communication channels, Borders, Peace Negotiations, 5-year plan, Rearming, Armed Forces, Army, Military reform, Press limitations, Press Freedoms, Politics, COVID,