“Harmonious territorial development and the demographic problems are among the government’s priorities” - Nikol Pashinyan holds consultation in Kotayk Marz Administration
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A consultation was held in Kotayk Marz Administration, chaired by Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The meeting was attended by Acting Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan, Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister Arsen Torosyan, Kotayk Marz Governor Mesrop Mesropyan, Hrazdan Mayor Sevak Mikayelyan, the deputy governors and the heads of local law enforcement authorities.
Before discussing the socioeconomic problems faced in Kotayk Marz, Nikol Pashinyan pointed out: “First of all, I wish to give some statistics which, in fact, are specific to all regions of Armenia. Only 37% of arable land is cultivated in Kotayk Marz. In other words, most of arable land goes uncultivated, which is a nationwide challenge. We have only two marzes - Ararat and Armavir - where more than 50% of arable land is being cultivated. In view of the above, I feel we need to inform the public at large about the programs initiated by the government, so that people could see the opportunities available in terms of state support to agriculture. We should develop and introduce new programs. I would like to single out the program which provides that the farmers using drip irrigation will be exempt of irrigation water fees for a period of 5 years, and this is extremely important. The decision will come into effect in the near future, after which we will proceed to its practical aspects.”
The Acting Prime Minister noted that 74% of arable land is not irrigated at all in our country, including Kotayk Marz. In his words, this should be a priority for the government.
“That is, we should see statistical improvements in our working plans year after year in terms of land use. Demographic issues are of paramount importance to us, I see a problem here as well, or at least I would like to understand how well the local population is informed about the ongoing programs. I wish to remind you that on May 14, last year, we adopted a state-supported housing program for families with two or more children. Special beneficiaries are the residents of regions, the families who have at least two minor children. In purchasing an apartment on a mortgage loan, they can be supported to the rate of 5% of the value of the purchased apartment, but not more than 1 million drams.
In practice, people can buy a pretty good apartment for 20 million drams. But that is not all. In case of the birth of a third or more children, a surplus of 500,000 drams is added to the amount of child allowance. In other words, beneficiaries shall be entitled to AMD 500,000 in lump-sum assistance. This applies to the residents of all the provinces of Armenia. The same scheme applies to construction. At the same time, I wish to emphasize that beneficiaries under the age of 30 years shall get 30% more assistance. In other words, they will receive 1,300,000 drams instead of 1 million for their new apartment, and 650,000 drams instead of 500,000 for the birth of a third child, and this is not all, either,” Nikol Pashinyan concluded.
The Acting Prime Minister noted that the government has developed another program, which is being implemented in both the provinces and the capital city. The program consists in the following: in case of repurchasing an apartment with a mortgage for the first or second child, 10% of the remaining principal amount is paid by the state, but there is a nuance here, namely that the mortgage loan must have been properly serviced during the past 12 months, that is, it needs to be already be in process.
“As regards the residents of the regions, they can benefit from both of the aforementioned programs. In case of the birth of a third or more children, 50% of the loan balance is repaid in the regions as well. In fact, beneficiaries under 25 will see 70% of the loan principal repaid by the State. By the way, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that these programs are applicable to construction as well, I mean when a loan is contracted for construction. And considering that we have increased the lump sum for the birth of the first or second child in addition to 1 million drams provided for the support of the third child, we can see that a beneficiaries family may get up to 5 million drams and even more when buying an AMD 20 million-worth apartment. But I want to draw your attention to the fact that problems are a little bit different in the regions, and to this end, we have developed an income tax return program. If by contracting a 20-year mortgage loan a family buys an apartment from the primary market, and for example, has a monthly income of 250,000 drams, it can save 14 million drams during those 20 years through the applicable mechanism of tax return.
I mean that we should think about developing the housing estate in the provinces, because today it is practically impossible to buy an apartment from the primary market in the regions. But if we manage these programs properly, it can turn out that, in fact, young families can buy apartments through state support, or at least the state, depending on the price, can cover up to 70-80% of the total cost of housing. I mean that all these programs will have to be accompanied after approval. On the one hand, first of all, citizens should be aware that there are such opportunities, because by giving information once or twice, we assume that people have taken note of it, which is not the case. People need to get regular updates. Even our social assistance services or regional administrations may analyze, find potential beneficiaries, invite people and say, “You have such an opportunity, and you are welcome to take your chance,” Nikol Pashinyan said, stressing the need for the promotion of housing in the regions.
The Acting Prime Minister underscored that business should be informed accordingly, because a market demand may appear if it turns out that, for example, we have a potential number of X beneficiaries interested in buying an apartment in the city of Hrazdan. Nikol Pashinyan stressed the need for local self-government authorities to promote this process. The Acting Premier reminded that according to the government’s decision, mothers who do not work in rural areas are entitled to 26,500 drams in childcare allowance before the child turns two, while working mothers receive twice as much, i.e. 53,000 drams in rural areas.
“To sum up, please note that we were talking about salaries, income tax, etc. I would like emphasize again how important it is in terms of implementing these programs, when: a) people are registered as employees. That is, unfortunately, we know that in many cases people work without registration. And secondly, how important it is to get the right salary, because it seems that in order not to pay income tax, it is necessary to hide, reduce, but the opportunities to use these social programs are limited. Especially, I want to remind you that we have adopted a policy of income tax reduction, flat income tax.
Today the income tax is 22%. According to the law we have adopted, the income tax will come down to 20% in a couple of years. In this respect, we have made a lot of changes, and that policy is to be continued indeed.
I just tried to explain the chain, which, if arranged correctly, can change the situation, and to my mind, awareness is crucial in this regard. When we say that knowledge is the main driving force behind the economy, the country, we sometimes mean difficult things, for example, mathematical formulas, but being aware of one’s own abilities is knowledge as well. When people know that they can use a program, they initiate a certain process of family planning, that is, the family must plan its steps in order to get the most out of these programs and improve the living standard based on that knowledge.
I consider these questions very important; I feel that an important function for public entities is to inform people about their opportunities, because programs may not yield tangible results, if not properly advertised. I hope that the regional administrations and other state agencies will always keep these issues in the center of attention, so that we could achieve progress,” Nikol Pashinyan noted.
Marz Governor Mesropyan referred to the socio-economic situation in his marz, the problems faced and the status of the ongoing programs. Kotayk Marz was said to have 155 thousand hectares of agricultural land, of which 74 hectares are arable lands. Only 37% of arable land is being cultivated, the main reason of which is the fragmentation of land lots, the lack of owners, and the deplorable state of irrigation systems.
33 thousand hectares of land were cultivated during the fall sowing campaign, and more than 10 thousand hectares will be cultivated during the spring sowing campaign. According to Mesrop Mesropyan, the volume of cultivated lands is expected to increase by 1,500 hectares in his region as compared to the previous year. The Governor added that there are 100 hectares of greenhouses in the region, where vegetables, strawberries and flowers are grown. Compared to 2019, the number of hothouses increased by 28 hectares last year. There are also 627 hectares of intensive orchards in Kotayk furnished with anti-hail nets and drip irrigation systems. New 108 hectares of raspberry orchards will be established in the near future under an investment program.
Currently the number of large cattle in Kotayk is 54,200, which is 2,400 more than in the same period last year. The number of small cattle is 44 thousand, an increase of 5 thousand heads compared to April of the previous year. There are 18 slaughterhouses in the region, 7 of which are large. The Governor assured that most of the local farmers have their animals slaughtered in slaughterhouses.
Coming to the capital programs, the Governor advised that two basic schools are being built in Hrazdan and Abovyan, and the reconstruction of three schools is currently underway. Subsidy programs worth over 6 billion drams are due to be implemented this year. More than 40 projects are in process. Capital programs cover the reconstruction of the Yerevan-Lanjazat-Garni motorway and the road section leading from Garni to the Stone Symphony, the rehabilitation of the site near the Garni temple, and the road leading to the Khosrov forest.
The 4-kilometer-long section of the Abovyan-Arzni highway and the 6-kilometer-long section leading to the Garni-Geghard monastery complex will be overhauled this year. Mesrop Mesropyan informed that the establishment of Tumo centers in Abovyan and Hrazdan is underway.
Summing up the meeting, the Acting Premier prioritized the work on modern agricultural programs, housing projects, which will help raise the population’s living standards and address the demographic challenges. Nikol Pashinyan highlighted the collection of communities’ own revenues, which in turn will stimulate the implementation of large-scale subsidy programs and will facilitate the solution of intra-community problems.
The operative situation in Kotayk Marz and the activities aimed at fighting crime were presented during the meeting.