Interviews and press conferences

“100 Facts about New Armenia” - Introductory remarks by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, delivered at the press conference


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Dear Journalists,
Dear Colleagues,
Dear Compatriots,

Today marks one year since I was elected prime minister, and I am glad to have the opportunity to summarize the past one year in this format. To begin with, I would like to put on record 100 facts about New Armenia. Of course, my lust is not exhaustive. We could well publish 200 and even more facts, but we need to be somewhat limited in order not abuse your patience.

1. We will have collected 62 billion drams in excess budget revenue by this yearend, well above the proposed target of 40 million; that is 129 million drams. State budget revenues have grown by 25 percent or 64.1 billion drams in the first quarter of 2019 as compared to the same period in 2018, mainly due to shadow reduction. As a result, tax receipts and state duties totaled 21.8 percent of GDP in comparable figures in 2018, an increase of 1.3 percent as compared to 2017

2. The Government has paid off 120 billion drams in taxpayer overpayment arrears, which is 90% of the total overpayment debt. You may know that for many years, the State Revenue Committee and the tax authorities used to ask for overpayments from economic entities. As of January 1, last year, this debt amounted to 130 billion, that is, the business paid 130 billion more money without having such an obligation.

After the Velvet Revolution, the State Revenue Committee, the tax authorities received tax returns from business entities, but did not charge any extra amounts for it. Instead, the arrears of 120 billion drams have been settled, which means that the Government has returned USD 300 million to businesses during this time.

3. After the Revolution, about 15 billion drams worth of VAT have been returned to economic entities as compared to the same period last year. That is, we have returned 15 billion drams to businesses.

4. After the Revolution, 82 million cash checks were printed, which is an increase of 35-40 percent over the same period last year. By saying “the same period last year” I mean the period between May, 2018 and May, 2019.

5. New-generation cash-registers are being provided at 60 thousand drams instead of 160 thousand to small and medium-sized businesses, enabling them to be paid in time. As a result of the CCM import and sale market liberalization, the CCM investment office SNCO has been implementing the project in 2019. From November 1, only gratuitous allocation of cash registers registered in frontier rural areas and free technical support will be made. There are two new companies operating in this market.

6. 51 thousand jobs have been taken out of the shadow, some of which were supposedly newly created jobs.

7. Taking into account the unprecedented growth rates of imported cars, as a result of the measures taken, it is now possible to clear the car in all customs offices of the republic, which will no longer work without breaks.

There have been developed and registered on the SRC’s official web-site, the electronic meter of personal value vehicles imported by individuals, which allowed anyone to get acquainted with the information on customs value of the car's values beforehand. That is, a citizen writes his car’s data and gives the approximate number that he / she has to pay for the customs duty.

8. Military personnel salaries will rise as of this July 1. Teachers’ wages will be increased starting September 1, 2019. In addition, the salaries of rank-and-file and contract servicemen will increase by about 20 percent, while the salaries of those serving in special conditions will be up by about 30 percent. Soldiers on active service will get higher pays.

9. 5.7 billion drams have been allocated from the reserve fund to meet the housing needs of military pensioners, while the state’s commitments to the beneficiaries living in the provinces will be fully fulfilled. These commitments will also be partly implemented for beneficiaries in Yerevan.

10. The number of conscripts serving combat shifts has dropped by about 700. They were substituted with contract servicemen. Police forces are taking part in the protection of the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border and have their own security area.

11. 47 combat positions now have industrial electric power supply, 73 combat positions are provided with fresh water supply.

About 180 combat positions were provided with refrigerators. 45 more combat positions will be provided with refrigerators soon.

About 380 washing machines were provided to military units. 136 new modern video surveillance devices have been installed along the border. The process is going on.

12. Soldiers are being surveyed about their food preferences. As a result, army food rations have been improved by adding more nutritional food, including lavash, sunflower oil, potatoes, onion, tomato paste, tomatoes and cucumbers are essential. In the near future, there will be honey, pork fat, garlic, black pepper, red pepper, canned potatoes, macaroni and much more.

13. Fixed-term servicemen are being provided with high-quality underwear. The quality of military clothing and footwear will be substantially improved in the near future. Soldiers are allowed to use their mobile devices to contact their families.

By the way, some media outlets wrote that soldiers were allowed to use their phones simply because my son was in the army. In other words, the Prime Minister’s son was the only soldier to need a mobile phone, but the problem was addressed for all soldiers.

14. Armenia has started procurement of SU30MM multifunctional fighter jets. I am saying this because it is a well-known fact. I cannot disclose any other information on the purchase of other weapons and equipment.

15. The military insurance fund has expanded its coverage to include those servicemen affected in the period from 2008 to 2016. The Fund is now paying compensation to the families of those servicemen killed during military operations in 2008-2016 or who have suffered first- or second-degree disability. As a result, 339 beneficiaries will receive a monthly compensation of 100-400 thousand drams. Before the Revolution, the Fund gave compensation only for the casualties and injuries suffered after December 30, 2016.

16. 410 apartments were provided with the right of ownership to active servicemen and the families of deceased military staff. In the case of not providing a contractual serviceman with a service apartment at the place of service, the amount of compensation for renting other residential premises has been increased by 24 percent on the average. 107 servicemen were granted apartments for free use in newly built residential buildings.

17. As a result of an amendment made to the law on funded pension system, salaries for 209 thousand people have risen since July 1. 200,000 more people will get a bump on their wages following the proposed Tax Code amendment.

18. 85 thousand retiree-beneficiaries’ pensions were raised above the poverty line to get them out of the threshold of extreme poverty.

19. Despite the signed contract, the drinking water tariff did not go up owing to the talks held with the Operator. Natural gas and electricity tariffs were reduced by 20 and 10 drams for the vulnerable groups.

20. On July 1, 2018, followed by January 1, 2019, salaries for more than 10,000 primary healthcare providers will be raised by nearly 30 percent. 15,000 healthcare providers from all state and primary healthcare sectors in Yerevan and the provinces have been included in the system of welfare package and will benefit from the healthcare component.

21. University staff salaries have been raised in a number of State-administered higher education institutions nationwide. For instance, the attendance fee for visiting lecturers has increased threefold at the State Economic University. In general, the salary of about 2600 lecturers was increased.

22. About 1650 employees of the Armenian Nuclear Power Station have seen their wages up by 16% on average; in May the salary of about 650 employees of Armenia’s high-voltage electric networks will increase by an average of 27%.

23. Salaries of about 530 employees have been increased by 40% in SNCOs; by 100% - in some SNCOs.

Zvartnots Air Meteorological Center CJSC has upgraded its weather forecast system, The salaries of 39 employees have been increased by 30%. There is a 100% profitability rise as compared to 2017.

As a result of the reforms implemented in the National Center for Veterinary, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Lab Services SNCO, the average salary of 148 employees has been increased by 10.7%.

Salaries for 1722 teachers and technical staff have been increased by 6-15% due to savings in 44 schools in Gegharkunik Marz.

The salary of approximately 485 employees in the city of Armavir has increased by an average of 10%. And this is the case with other regions as well.

24. A new, monthly rewarding system has been introduced in the remuneration of police officers. As a result, in the months of January, February and March, 2019, police officers got a bump of 27.7%, 25.08% and 25.03% respectively on their monthly salaries.

A new system of labor efficiency assessment has been introduced, according to which those policemen boasting effective performance in detecting and preventing crimes can get salaries two or three times their premiums. That is to say, within one month a person may receive a bonus exceeding his salary 3 times as a result of his activity efficiency.

I am emphasizing this point because I have also promised the police at the Republic Square that their salaries will grow tangibly. The salaries in the National Security Service increased by 30%.

There has been an increase in payments to state-owned government agencies, as well as through well-known rewards.

25. The amount of lump-sum benefit for a child is tripled when the second child is born, becoming 150,000 drams instead of 50,000.
26. As a result of a government decision, about 100 people affected by domestic violence will get up to 150,000 AMD starting 2020.

As a result of a legislative amendment, minors who have been recognized as victims of trafficking will receive one-time monetary support of 250,000 drams.

27. As a result of legislative changes, commercial banks have been granted the opportunity to forgive individuals and legal entities of overdue loans and penalties, as a result of which over 20,000 borrowers were forgiven fines and penalties for overdue loans totaling around 11.5 billion AMD.

28. The lending history of nearly 125,000 borrowers, co-borrowers or guarantors was cleaned with up to 50,000 AMD in overdue loan balance.

29. At the Government’s initiative, 303 repressed people and their next-kin heirs were dismissed on loans of AMD 1 billion 300 million provided under preferential conditions.

30. The Government has granted 49 customs duty privileges under various investment programs, 15 of which were granted a VAT delay, resulting in AMD 255 billion investment and 4,000 new jobs. VAT extension was made available for 7 investment programs with a total investment of about 21 billion drams and 444 new jobs.

31. 50% of the cost of construction or reconstruction of small and medium-sized cattle-breeding facilities will be returned; the amount returned will make 70% in border villages.

32. Loans are available at 2% interest rate for cattle breeding and agricultural cooperatives and 0% - in border villages.

33. Loans for establishment of intensive orchards, modern irrigation systems and hail-proof networks are provided at 0-2% interest rate.

Farmers can choose between low-interest loans and the 40-50% money back facility.

34. The amounts overdue for fruit and grape harvested in 2018 amounted to only 0.7% of the total value of the harvest as compared to 5.9% in 2017.

35. Trainings were organized for around 290 start-up entrepreneurs in the regions. As a result, 120 business entities were established and registered, of which 56 received financial support from public funds.

A financial training program has been implemented, involving 3100 teachers from 360 schools nationwide. At the same time, Technology academic discipline was introduced in all schools countrywide with the introduction of entrepreneurial education elements.

36. With a view to improving territorial development and social status, 152 projects have been implemented in the communities totaling 3.8 billion drams. Note that similar programs had not been implemented in 2017. The government plans to allocate 10 billion drams for this purpose in 2019.

37. In the first quarter of 2019, the own revenues of communities grew by 2 billion drams. High-Voltage Electric Networks’ revenues stood at 1,3 billion drams in 2017, while they rose to 3.3 billion drams in 2018.

38. Armenian software developers can now sell their apps on the Google Play platform, which was impossible previously.
The list of users of tax privileges in the field of information technology has been expanded and nowadays the companies that start producing electronic systems and computer animation receive tax benefits.

A legislative initiative is being discussed, as a result of which the import of electric vehicles to the Republic of Armenia will be exempt from value added tax.

39. The Engineering City project was launched with a budget of USD 10.5 million. In 2018, the number of active ICT companies reached 800, providing 23% growth as compared to 2017.

In 2018, the turnover of the Armenian software and services sector amounted to about USD 730 million; the annual growth rate was 28%, the number of people employed in the ICT sector reached 19,552 in 2018, as a result of which 27% growth was stated against 2017.

40. More than 20 memorandums have been signed between primary and secondary vocational education institutions and employers. As a result, the Ministry of Education and Science- affiliated institutions are preparing specialists for these organizations, new professions are being introduced. The companies concerned are providing professional equipment and laboratories.

41. Around 186 million drams were allocated with a view to establishing robotics groups and engineering labs in public educational institutions, and 352 million drams – in 2019. As of the first quarter of 2019, there are 263 robotics groups and engineering laboratories operational in Armenia, involving 308 groups and about 6,500 students. The number of students in the program has increased by 2,500, compared to 2017.

42. As a result of legislative amendments elaborated and finalized by the government, the identification of real owners of mining companies has become mandatory. In other words, we will not have to wonder about who are the actual owners of mining companies, and we will not have to go overseas in order to find out who the real owner is, and this is a must.

43. As a result of the administrative amnesty, about 150,000 people have been released from the obligation to pay a fine of 13.7 billion drams previously paid for violation of traffic rules.

The number of violations detected over the past 12 months by video and photographic devices dropped by 485,880 as compared to the same period last year. Photo-speedometer devices are no longer used for speeds of less than 60 km / h. There is a significant increase in the number of online warnings given to those in breach of traffic rules. 84,421 such warnings were issued during the previous period, and 221,617 – in the present period.

44. Student loans are available at 6% for highly motivated students and at 7% annual interest rate for others instead of the previous 9% and 10%, while the size of loans is now 700,000 drams instead of 450,000 drams.

45. Servicemen have the opportunity to re-structure their high-interest and short-term loans to lower interest rates. Since the start of the relevant program, about 650,000 loans have already been re-structured to the amount of 350 million drams. As a result, the interest rate has decreased to 10%, the repayment term may be prolonged by the borrower.

46. The electronic system of tax encumbrance of cash available on bank accounts has started. The system allows business entities to freely dispose of their amounts over their current tax liabilities, which used to be frozen previously.

47. In October 2018, the European Investment Bank and the Central Bank of Armenia signed a loan agreement of 50 million euros for SME lending. It is not a government debt and is not considered in the estimate of debt restrictions. These funds will be used to lend to small and medium enterprises.

48. From August 2019, the actual interest rate for credits will be published in line with the nominal interest rate, in the same format and in the visible place. That is, the situation will be eliminated when there is a difference between declared and real interest rates.

49. The cost of cardiac stenting has dropped by 250,000 drams and a change has been made in the Stent for Life program, resulting in a drug lent instead of a non-pharmaceutical stain.

50. A free program for treatment of acute ischemic stroke has started on February 1. As a result, 85 people have already received free medical care as part of the State Order. This is the case when the stroke is cured without any visible effects, such as heart stenting, if it is successful, we have the same effect in the case of stroke.

51. Some 230,000 Armenian citizens in socially disadvantaged and special groups have benefited from an improved hospital care package, including 18 newest expensive services. The visible change here is that the State Order has been amended so that citizens will no longer need to make extra payments.

52. Dental care is organized free of charge for persons with disabilities of the 1st group, persons under the age of 7 years, socially vulnerable children aged 18, for pre-conscription and draft age, instead of the previously existing co-payment principle

53. Malignant tumors are operated on free state budget funds. 15 anti-tumor drugs for children have been procured, covering the nationwide demand. Some of these drugs are already in circulation, and the others - in customs warehouses.

54. A medical air service has been introduced in Armenia, as a result of which 11 patients have already been relocated from remote locations.

55. A great momentum has been reported in the construction of the third Armenia-Iran power transmission line that started as far back as in 2006. During the six months of 2018, nearly the same amount of work has been done as over the past 12 years.

56. The road construction target was exceeded by 60% in 2018. 200 km of roads, 11 transport facilities were repaired. It is planned to repair about 300 km of roads and 12 transport facilities in 2019.

Under Lifelong Improvement Programs, 62.3 km-long road sections were rehabilitated in 2018, covering 21 communities in Shirak, Tavush, Ararat, Vayots Dzor, Aragatsotn and Syunik marzes with a population of around 23,000.

It is envisaged to rehabilitate about 58 km of lifeline roads in 2019. The funds have already been allocated and the rest depends on the builders. This year record-breaking road construction will be implemented in the Republic of Armenia as compared to the past 9-10 years.

57. In the water supply and drainage system of 11 cities and 41 villages, about 555 km of new water lines were reconstructed, 36.5 km of sewer lines were installed, 27.400 individual water meter wells were installed.

At 19 water intakes of fish farms and 97 SHPs, online water metering devices were installed and 372 water use violations were registered and inspections were sent to the inspectorate (only 15 such violations were detected during the previous three years), 706 l / s water saved from Ararat Artesian basin.

58. There are 350 toilet renovations in the Republic of Armenia. The renovation of the toilets is underway, and some of them are finished. This fact is very important for tourism development since our country has been discussing for 15 years that the problem of this toilet is not solved, and our government, on my recommendation, has charged the Ministry of Territorial Administration with the commitment to comply with the law. 2018 As compared to 2017, the number of tourists visiting Armenia has grown by 10.5 percent.

59. Agricultural and utility services have been purchased for 18 communities, including 94 units of equipment worth around USD 3.7 million.

60. 17 pre-school establishments were established in Yerevan and in the regions, covering about 425 children.

61. 50% tuition compensation is available for those students who served on combat duty during the April war, instead of 30 percent, while the tuition fees for students with 2 or more children are compensated by 100 per cent through State budget funds.

Formerly this program used to be funded by different foundations, particularly through youth funds that universities transferred to the Youth Foundation and were funded from there. As this mechanism has been abolished, some of the higher education institutions have raised salaries.

In cooperation with the AGBU and Calouste Gulbenkian foundations, the government reimbursed 50 percent of Syrian-Armenian students’ tuition fees in 2018-2019. 294 students were enrolled, resulting in 13,700 thousand drams provided as compensation.

62. The financing of high schools has been increased by about one billion drams, as a result of which there has been a risk of falling school teachers’ wages due to the previous government’s change of funding formula. As a result, schools did not have to cut salaries, and in some places wage arrears were settled.

63. Specific work has been dome to de-politicize schools and other educational institutions. As a result, the latter were not involved in the electoral process during the general election and the local elections, and there were no incidents in the educational institutions such as listening, propaganda, referral and other similar cases.

64. Owing to the School Subscription Program, about 380,000 students and 35,000 teachers have received and will still have triple access to cultural institutions, museums, theaters, and concert halls.

The Lesson A program has been introduced, which is now being implemented in pilot schools in Yerevan, within which Yerevan State Symphonic Orchestra musicians visit high schools in Yerevan and carry out musical education. About 13,000 free tickets are provided to schoolchildren within the framework of the program.

Some 50 cultural figures have been presenting their art in educational institutions under the Your Art in School program.

I consider this point very important. For example, several writers and artists participated in a competition announced by the government; they submitted a program and received some funding to go to schools and present their art to schoolchildren.

65. As a result of publishing and related programs, libraries throughout the whole territory of Armenia have been replenished with more than 25,000 pieces of modern and valuable literature. 2018 A record number of books has been sold in the history of the third republic in bookstores in Yerevan.
66. 20,229 private enterprises were registered in 2018, 5,492 more entities than in 2017. 6.137 limited liability companies were registered in 2018, 1,694 more than in 2017. The number of registered self-employed people rose to 6,059 in the first quarter of 2019, which is 1,475 more than in the same period of 2018, and 2,753 more than in the first quarter of 2017.

67. As a result of the Government’s debt reduction program, the government debt / GDP ratio dropped by 2.3 percentage points to 51.4 percent in 2018 as compared with the previous year.

68. The ambassador appointment procedure has changed. During the past year, no political appointments were made in the diplomatic system, and only professional diplomats were appointed as ambassadors, primarily retaining the principle of rotation. This, of course, does not mean that political appointments are theoretically excluded from the post of ambassadors but they will never go beyond the internationally accepted circles.

69. In the World Press Freedom Index, Armenia improved its position by 19 points in 2018 to reach the 61st place. The press in Armenia is free than ever. According to the Freedom on the Net report, published by Freedom House international organization, Armenia has made considerable progress, shifting from “partly free” countries to the group of free nations.

Among 66 countries, Armenia is one of those 19 countries where internet freedom has made considerable progress. In 2018, The Economist recognized Armenia as the country of the year.

70. According to the “Doing Business 2019: Training and Reforms” report as published on October 31, 2018, Armenia has moved up 6 points among 190 countries to the 41st from the 47th position.

The Fitch Rating international rating agency has affirmed Armenia’s long-term rating at B + level with a positive outlook in its report published on December 3, 2018. In 2016 and 2017, Armenia’s rating was at B+ level, with a stable outlook, that is, Armenia’s rating was raised one level.

Armenia has seen progress in a number of other international ratings and indexes, including its 13-point progress in the Happiness Index.

71. A former President, a vice prime minister, a defense minister, the ex-Chief of General Staff, a Minister of Nature Protection, the Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer and other high-ranking officials have been involved in criminal cases. Moreover, the court has rejected the pre-investigation authority’s motion to take the former deputy prime minister into custody.

Criminal charges have been brought against two acting deputy ministers, the head of the State Control Service and other high-ranking officials. I do not mean to break the presumption of innocence of anyone. I am just stating this as an unprecedented statistical fact.

72. Local elections were held during the past year, including the Yerevan City Council election and the snap parliamentary elections, all of which were assessed as free, fair, competitive and transparent.

For the first time in the history of the Third Republic, a female mayor has been elected in our country. The early parliamentary elections of 2018 were the first not to be contested in court.

An unprecedented event for Armenia’s history took place on the day of the parliamentary election campaign, with a debate involving the first figures of all the forces participating in the parliamentary elections, on the Public Television’s live broadcast. People’s trust in the electoral system has been restored.

73. Corruption in the country is overcome. The oligarchs are deprived of their levers of influence on government decisions.

74. As a result of the government’s consistent efforts, there are no privileged persons before the law in the Republic of Armenia. Citizens’ political and civil rights are protected and fully applicable. The separation of judicial and executive powers is ensured.

The government was guided by the principle of independence of the judiciary that rules out any mechanism or manifestation of instructions from above.

75. There are no political prisoners and political prosecutions in the Republic of Armenia.

76. The doors of the National Assembly and the Presidential Palace are wide open to the public. Baghramyan 26 regained the status of Presidential Residence.

77. Government sessions are open and public, despite the law adopted before the Revolution, which stipulated that the government sessions should be closed.

78. The process of reducing the number of ministries has begun. The post of 1st Deputy Prime Minister has been removed, which was considered unconstitutional by the opposition as early as at the time of its inception.

79. The opposition has been offered a quota in the Public Services Regulatory Commission and the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition,. This proposal will soon get a legislative form.

80. The number of arrivals in Armenia exceeded by 15313 that of departures in 2018, which was recorded for the first time over the last 12 years.

According to Eurostat, the number of Armenian citizens seeking asylum in EU countries for the first time was 41.3% down in 2018 as compared to 2017. Last year, 4815 Armenian citizens applied for asylum in EU countries, whereas this figure was 6805 in 2017. There was a positive balance of cross-border movements, entries and exits, as of the first quarter of this year: +2,526.

Here, I would like to state an important detail: last year there were many concerns voiced about illegal migrants from other countries. Thus, about 3,000 such migrants left Armenia in the first quarter of this year. In the meantime, we did not resort to any repressive measures; we just implemented a set of measures prescribed by law, we inquired about them, talked to these people and so on.

81. In the first quarter of this year the number of marriages exceeded last year’s figure by 5%, while divorces fell by 17%.

We do not have anything to do with this. The citizen of the Republic of Armenia is behind all these developments as they shape their own status and mood in the country. Our task is to collect and present to you the statistics.

82. Economic monopolies have been eliminated. By the end of 2018, the share of the largest sugar importing company was 78 percent, instead of the previous 95 percent, the share of the largest banana importer - 38 percent instead of the previous 57 percent, the share of the largest gas importer - 29 percent instead of the former 43 percent, and finally that of the diesel fuel importer was 29 percent instead of the previous 51 percent.

This is to note that the indicators recorded from May to December 2018 are. We have nothing to do with it, just some businessmen have decided to import sugar in the Republic of Armenia, petrol, etc., whatever they want to import. Naturally, we do not decide who to represent.

83. The problem of overloading in penitentiary institutions has been addressed. As of April 1, 2019, 2287 persons are kept in penitentiaries, which is less by 1248 as compared to the same period in 2018.

There was a large-scale criminal amnesty. The institute of early conditional release has been launched. 276 individuals, including one sentenced to life imprisonment, were released from prison.

The number of short-term and long-term visits of persons convicted to life imprisonment for a life-term and particularly grave crime (for a certain period of time) has doubled. there were at least 6 short and 2 extended visits per year.

The first reading of the bill in the National Assembly envisages a long-term visit to detainees, except for a short visit, at least once in two months, up to 3 days.

Instead of short visits with close relatives, distance, relative’s disease and other reasons, including for foreigners, instead of short visits, it has been possible to use twice a month for video calls up to 20 minutes.

Currently, all the penitentiary institutions are provided with necessary technical equipment for videoconferencing. As a former prisoner, I can say that these events are very important for returning the right path to a criminal.

84. The demolition of historic-cultural monuments is ruled out in Armenia. In 2018, the number of visitors to museums has increased by 121,000, compared to 2017.

85. 35 cases of murder were registered in 2018, which is the minimum indicator since 1980. And, naturally, we have nothing to do, simply the citizens have established an atmosphere of love and solidarity in the country, and I hope this atmosphere will continue.

86. In the period from April, 2018 to March, 2019, the banking system’s assets rose by 15.7% or 698 billion drams, liabilities by 17.4% or 646 billion drams, capital by 7.4% or 53 billion drams, loans by 16.0% or 412 by 11.8% or 292 billion drams.

In 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank jointly implemented the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP), the IMF Executive Board assessed Armenia’s financial system as stable and 97% compliant with the Basel Committee’s Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervision.

87. As a result of changes operated in the National Mortgage Company’s mortgage programs and to the Housing for Youth lending program in 2018, the volume of mortgage loans exceeded the index of 2017 by 20%, and the weighted average interest rates fell by 1.3%, fluctuating around 10.5%. In particular, subsidized mortgage loans are available in Yerevan and in the regions under the Affordable Housing for Young Families program at 7.5% and 5.5% interest rates respectively with up to 30 years payback period.

As a result, the amount of loans provided under the aforementioned program increased by 131% in January, 2019, as compared to the same month last year. This figure was 145% up in February and 124% - in March.

Real estate prices rose by more than 10 percent in Yerevan, as a whole, and 17 percent – downtown the capital city as of March 2019 as a result of increased activity in the real estate market.

88. To halt the process of deforestation, the Ministry of Nature Protection provided nearly 15,000 families with 102,000 cubic meters of waste wood, 1800 cubic meters of firewood, 70 tons of fuel briquettes and energy-saving furnaces for free in the adjacent communities. 100 competitively selected households in forest-side communities of Syunik and Tavush Marzes were provided grants of up to 1.5 million drams.

As part of continued international cooperation, 14 environmental grant facilities worth about 20 billion drams have been approved since June 1, 2018.

Within the framework of the project, all households in Shikahogh community of Syunik Marz will be fully equipped with solar water heaters. About 80 households in 16 communities of Syunik Marz will be given a start-up grant amount of 500-800 thousand drams for implementation of family business programs.

An agricultural market and a fresh-dry fruit procurement center will be built in Meghri. USD 2.5 million will be made available under the development programs of Dilijan National Park and the communities neighboring the Khosrov Forest Reserve. A USD 1.5 million grant will be provided for implementation of similar projects in Artik.

89. The roadmap for implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement, featuring 205 events involving justice, transport, energy, environment, consumer protection, migration, and other spheres is at the final stage of coordination with the EU.

The EU has expressed satisfaction with the draft of the roadmap as a good starting point for implementing the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement. As part of EU-Armenia cooperation, the EU and Armenia have signed 3 agreements in the spheres related to education, justice and economic relations to a total cost of € 34.5 million and two other arrangements related to democracy and regional development to a total value of 36 million euros. € 20 million-worth facilities are under discussion at this point of time.

90. The World Bank Board has approved the document of cooperation between Armenia and the World Bank for 2019-2022, which sets a USD 500 million-worth framework of cooperation.

We have agreed upon and finalized a USD 250 million Standby credit facility with the International Monetary Fund. Under said project, the IMF will support the Government’s comprehensive economic programs aimed at providing intensives for a more inclusive growth conducive to fiscal stability and reduced external vulnerability.

There is another important fact: as of April 27, 2019, the volume of government bonds purchases by individuals amounted to 6.3 billion drams, increasing by 2.2 billion drams, about 50 percent, as compared to the same period last year. This is to show that both the international community and the domestic entities fully trust the Government of the Republic of Armenia and make optimistic forecasts about the economic outcome of its activities.

91. The Prime Minister’s motorcade stops under the traffic lights’ banner, except for special cases when we are short of time ahead of international meetings for some objective reasons. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia has been a witness to the court, which is an unprecedented phenomenon.

92. The first joint meeting of the Security Councils of Armenia and Artsakh was held in Stepanakert, the capital of the Republic of Artsakh. It reaffirmed that as a key party to the conflict, Artsakh should have a decisive say and engagement in the process of achieving a lasting peace.

93. As a result of forming a personnel bank, non-partisan citizens of the Republic of Armenia have been appointed Deputy Minister, Adviser to the Prime Minister, Assistant to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Head of State Water Management Committee, Head of the Social Security Service. You may remember me stating that anyone who wants to get involved should be engaged in public service. The examination of CVs continues.

94. The number of service cars has decreased by 239. They will go on sale. This process is to be continued.

95. The State Revenue Committee has received annual income declarations from 6,323 citizens in 2018 against 3,021 educational submitted in the previous year. Income declarations have been filed by singers Arame, Saro, Martin Mkrtchyan, and I want to thank them as public figures who have made such a move.

96. 1446 proceedings have been launched on charges of tax evasion since May, 2018, exposing a total damage of 89.3 billion drams caused to the State. 32 billion drams have already been recovered. There is 7.1 billion drams worth arrest imposed on immovable and movable property, currency or foreign currency.

The law enforcement authorities identified 1345 offences in 2018, three times as much as in 2017. In the meantime, the number of probes into corruption-related offences has increased by 691 or 127.4 percent.

97. A process of return of public spaces is underway, particularly in the territory adjacent to Liberty Square and the Ring Park in Yerevan.

98. Armenian specialists, de-miners and doctors are involved in humanitarian missions in Syria, which is a manifestation of our historical debt to the Syrian people who sheltered thousands of Armenian Genocide survivors.

99. The Government provided money to World Chess Olympiad Champion Levon Aronyan to finance his championship match and build Olympic Champion Arthur Alexanyan’s Wrestling School in Gyumri.

100. The Prime Minister and his family members are only wearing Armenian clothing to encourage local industry development. And I have the honor to state that today as well I am wearing Armenian clothing. I only buy Armenian clothes, if any. And, by the way, let us say that when you look from this point of view, you can see many high-quality jeans and other good products, so I would advise you to buy them.

Every citizen has the opportunity to ask questions to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, which can be done through Facebook-borne live question-and-answer sessions and meetings. And every journalist is free to ask any question to the Head of State, which is an unprecedented phenomenon.

In conclusion, I would like to say one more thing about the economic situation and the economic revolution. I record that the starting phase of the economic revolution is much more successful than predicted, and our problem is as follows: I have already said that this year we have exceeded the State budget revenue by 62 billion drams, or USD 129 million.

Every time Armenia received a USD 129 million loan from anywhere, people would say “This is wonderful as others trust Armenia and give it a credit.” We have increased the State budget receipts by a year-on-year outcome of USD 129 million owing to reduced shadow.

But considering the returned money of over 120 billion drams and 15 billion drams in value added tax and, for instance, if we had not given out that money, we would have had about 200 billion drams instead of 62 billion. But we decided to let USD 350 million be circulated in business.

Our economic strategy is to spend most of those 62 billion drams on capital projects: road construction, other capital expenditures, construction, community projects to boost the economy in the second round of the economic revolution.

I have already instructed the government members, and now I want to say publicly that our chief task is to spend the money so generated efficiently.

Today, the government’s most important task is to carry out the needed expenditures by the end of the year, and we will thereby switch over to the second phase of the economic revolution because those 62 billion drams will be rolled over to citizens in the form of profit, in the form of income, which in turn will boost economic processes in Armenia.

Thank you. I am not attempted to give any new facts on my government’s accomplishments, since I decided that 100 is enough as a symbolic number.

At the press conference, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan answered journalists’ questions, including the questions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process

Zinuzh Media, RA Ministry of Defense - The situation at the line of contact between Artsakh and Azerbaijan has escalated in the recent period. In particular, we can witness noticeable activation of enemy snipers. Do you think this might be due to the fact that some military experts, analysts keep claiming that Azerbaijan is intensively preparing for a war? How realistic is the possibility of resumption of hostilities in the near future?

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - Azerbaijan has been preparing for a war over the past 25 years. That we suffer shelling and gunshots everyday, no matter many or few, is the indication of a war, a semi-war situation.

Generally speaking, yes, there has been some rise in tensions in the last couple of months, but I want to note that stability has been maintained, as a whole. And now we are in the following situation: you may know that direct communication channels have been established between me and the President of Azerbaijan. Now I am trying to understand what is going on, and we exchange information and concerns. Of course, there are, as always, mutual accusations, and I hope we will succeed in understanding the situation and what is happening and why. I wish our injured soldiers quick recovery.

Zinuzh Media, RA Ministry of Defense – And coming to the second part of my question, namely that some analysts keep claiming that Azerbaijan is intensively preparing for a war.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - I just said that Azerbaijan has been intensively preparing for military operations over the last 25 years, but on the other hand, the news is that nothing has changed in that respect and will not change as long as the issue has not been settled. This means that all of us, including the Defense Ministry and the General Staff, are taking note of all incoming information, and I mentioned it in my recent statement of 100 facts about the new government’s activities. But, on the other hand, we believe that the statement of Vienna should be abided by all sides. And there we have noted that the ceasefire regime should be maintained and strengthened.

Now we have to understand what is going on, why it is happening whether any of the parties has issued a decree to destabilize the situation, if not, why the situation keeps destabilizing. Although I would not call it destabilization, but incidents have been recorded on specific days.

Either the Azeri side has conveyed some concerns about the incidents. I say there are mutual accusations, we must try to understand the working order, including through the Personal Representative of the OSCE Secretary General; we are trying to make relevant conclusions.

168 Zham newspaper, Gayane Khachatryan – Our Foreign Ministry has so far failed to comment on the concerns recently circulated in media outlets about the European Union-Azerbaijan agreement to be signed in the near future.

Mr. Prime Minister, under the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, you are vested with the highest responsibility for foreign policy. I would like you to make it clear whether there are troublesome clauses in that agreement or such provisions as may be at odds with the EU-Armenia agreement.

My next question relates to foreign affairs: we heard My Step faction-affiliated MP Hovhannes Igityan state that a kind of agreement or a document could be signed within the framework of the Minsk Group. Please let us know whether this issue has been on your agenda and, in general, in which format this could be done, if possible.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - Frankly speaking, I was unaware of Mr. Igityan’s statement, but I suppose he meant that the settlement within the format was possible. We all consider it possible, so we are negotiating. Moreover, we consider that the only format for negotiating a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the OSCE Minsk Group format, and if we keep negotiating, we consider it possible to resolve the issue.

As for the specific document, there is no talk about a concrete document. I have said that I will not have any secret about the Karabakh issue either. Yes, I cannot have secrets. I would prefer have this all live on my Facebook page, nevertheless, I understand that it is just impossible for ethical considerations, but I am not going to keep any secret concerning the Karabakh issue.

There used to be a common understanding that only 5-6 or 7 people were advised on the Karabakh issue at the expert level. I think that every citizen of the Republic of Armenia, moreover every Armenian has the right to be an expert on the Karabakh issue.

As regards the EU-Azerbaijan negotiations, indeed they have to do with us in a way, but ultimately they are the negotiating sides’ private affair. And I also talked with my colleagues from the European Union in my conversations that it would be right for the negotiation process to be based on the internationally recognized principles. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that we are talking about EU-Azerbaijan negotiations, and we do hope there will be a principled approach there.

168 Zham, Gayane Khachatryan – Has the European side assured that those principles will not be distorted. Have there been assurances from them?

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - You know, they do not disclose, of course, the content of their negotiations, discussions, as we do not reveal to others the texts of our negotiations, etc. I hope everything will be normal.

Public Television, Tatev Danielyan - Mr. Prime Minister, I would quote your remarks delivered in October 2018: “People’s opinion is the decisive factor that should determine whether a settlement scheme is acceptable to us or not. Should there be a solution that I might deem worthy for public debate, I will do so as a first step.” What does this mean, Mr. Prime Minister, how do you see that: through a rally, through a referendum, which way will the people express their opinion?

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - I am very grateful for your question. There was a time when many used to wonder how come the people should decide who is to be the prime minister. The Republicans and their affiliates gave interviews and laughed at the idea. And now there are people who say how come the people should have a final say on the Karabakh issue. Then who should decide? It is up to you to decide thereupon, and not a few corrupt officials who have robbed the army.

They have homes in Italy, Baden-Baden, in different parts of the globe. Let them take a private plane and go home. Who are they to decide on the Karabakh issue after all? Of course, our nation is the only one to make a decision, people should decide everything.

Come to terms, people shall decide everything in the Republic of Armenia as prescribed by the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia. Once I have a solution acceptable to the people, I will call perhaps a rally, a press conference, a video message may be possible, a referendum and I will say, my people, there is a settlement scheme, and I am asking for your consent to negotiate within this framework.

What matters most in the Karabakh issue is that we clearly formulate what we want. Let us formulate it clearly and tell the government and the Prime Minister, go and negotiate. It is up to the people to give up land, you should be the one to sell land. No one has the moral right to blame me for selling anything.

Those who robbed the country all the way keep saying that we are going to sell land. Who has given them this right? They do not have the moral right to make such statements, no matter their status and the medals they have on their breasts. The one who robbed the army has no right to talk about the Karabakh issue at all, and yes, the people will decide.

When we say that the people should make a decision, they get in to panic, how come the people should decide. Let them know that today their place is where it is. Tomorrow we will see where they ought to be. Preliminary investigation and the court will rule accordingly.

Shant TV, Artak Hovhannisyan - My question refers to Artsakh. If I am not mistaken, you said after Dushanbe that there is an agreement with Ilham Aliyev that in some cases you will have operative communication.

I wonder whether the aforementioned communication channel worked following the recent incidents, when a soldier was injured on the Armenian border, and a soldier was wounded in Artsakh. And, if it is not a secret, how many times did you actually discuss anything with Aliyev? Thank you.

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - You were probably not that attentive, I said that we are now in discussions, and yes, we keep in touch regularly, in everyday mode. But again, I want you to understand me correctly. Mr. Aliyev and I communicate through our authorized representatives, and there are some cases of misinterpretation, that is, they also have transmitted information about injured servicemen, just as we did. At this point, we do not have the same comment on the situation.

This communication channel is useful now as we try to understand, try to combine and try to understand what is happening and make conclusions accordingly. Yes, it is being used as needed. There is a circle, we use everyday mode, but I can say that we are not talking to each other personally., Kristine Khanumyan - Do you think we will eventually come up with a substantive discussion? Is it not expedient now to finally publish all those documents that were negotiated or declined at a specific stage, although agreed upon originally?

Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan - After being elected Prime Minister, quite naturally, one of my first steps was that I asked to bring me all the documents on Karabakh. After reading those papers, one of the first ideas that came to me was that they were worth publishing. I wanted them to be published, frankly speaking, but it is such a delicate matter that we should discuss and understand, because those documents are not our property. They are the property of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, negotiators and mediators.

But you know when I refer to the Karabakh issue, for instance, I have the answer to that question. What kind of framework can be applicable to the Karabakh issue since you may understand that it is not question of a single variant; we need to have a framework. But before that, we need to have another conversation, and I have raised this issue several times. For example, each of us is ready to bear the responsibility for the solution of the Karabakh issue.

This is in the logic of my political ideology, because for me, in any case, the chief actor is the individual, the individual effort and behavior, because when we say, look, there are such situations, say what they have gone, are you?

At the next moment, they say your son, for example, is turning the draft age and must be drafted into the army; they want their neighbor’s son to be drafted instead of theirs; they claim to be a well-known politician, a well-known cultural figure, economist and so on, and want others to be drafted into the army.

After all, I wonder whether we are ready to take on a nationwide responsibility and bear that responsibility to the last. This is the main issue. When I talked about the cash registers, they countered: what are you talking about?

Now I say that 82 million more receipts have been printed and the salaries are increasing by 20-30 percent in the Armed Forces.

I remember a Prosperous Armenia MP ask me directly about the teachers’ wages, I said they would increase when we checked the cash register, so that we all could realize that who was not doing that, affected the teacher’s salary. We have 82 million more cash registers receipts, and the teacher’s salary will rise. If we have 500 million more coupons, they will be up even more and other issues will be solved as well, and how will armament issue be resolved? Are we ready to address it?

They want the government to boost army supplies, but they are reluctant to ask for a cash register receipt. In a supermarket, they declare that they do not need a receipt, as they are not the type to ask for a receipt. That is the way you steal the soldier’s bread, people’s effort. Do you want me or not? If you do not want a new Armenia, where everything is done honestly, no problem, you are free to go back to the old system, restore the corrupt system and be happy, if you do not want it. But I think the revolution has shown that our people want a new reality, a new Armenia, and each one of us has a role to play in bringing about political and economic changes. Each of us has a role to play in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

I am ready to bear my share of responsibility - a hundred times more responsibility – but I expect anyone else to have a sense of responsibility in paying taxes, asking for receipts or abiding by laws.

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