Armenia declares state of emergency from March 16 to April 14
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An extraordinary Cabinet meeting was held today, chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The Government approved the draft decision “On declaring state of emergency in the Republic of Armenia.” The decision comes as a response the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the world and in Armenia, the March 13, 2020 declaration by the Head of WHO on the recognition of the spread of this disease as a pandemic. The Government decided to declare a state of emergency in the Republic of Armenia from March 16, 18:30, local time, through April 14, 17:00.
A crisis management center (hereinafter Commandant’s Office) will set up to ensure centralized crisis management. Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan shall be appointed to the post of Commandant. The Commandant’s Office is composed as follows: Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministers of Emergency Situations, Healthcare, Economy, Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, State Revenue Committee Chairman, Acting Head of Police Force, Acting National Security Service Director, Head of the Coordination Bureau for Inspection Bodies’ Activities, Head of the Market Control Authority, Head of the Food Security Inspection Body. The Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan will support the activities of the Commandant’s Office.
The decision prohibits organizing, conducting or attending rallies and strikes on the territory of the Republic of Armenia. The organization, holding and participation in public events shall be prohibited on the territory of the Republic of Armenia.
The activities of all state-run, community and non-state educational institutions (including preschool establishments), primary vocational schools (including the ones teaching arts and crafts), secondary special and higher educational institutions, as well as the centers of extracurricular education, including creative and aesthetic centers, music and art schools, clubs, sports schools, health camps and other out-of-school organizations, educational processes shall be suspended for the entire period of the state of emergency. The arrangement applies to Armenia-registered international educational institutions, with the exception of those providing distance learning.
At the end of the meeting, Nikol Pashinyan said that he had a telephone conversation with President of the Artsakh Republic Bako Sahakyan and discussed the current situation with coronavirus.
“Not a single case of coronavirus infection has yet been registered in Artsakh. We urge our citizens to travel from Artsakh to Armenia and vice versa only in cases of exceptional need,” the Prime Minister said. The Head of Government advised that the temperature of citizens will be measured at the checkpoints on both sides: “In the event of a high temperature, we will ask citizens to return to their places of residence.”
The Prime Minister next referred to the financial system: “I want to say that the financial system is functioning smoothly in Armenia; the banking system has a high level of liquidity, which is more than enough to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted process of banking operations on a daily basis. At the same time, the Central Bank is prepared to provide additional liquidity to the financial system in drams and foreign currency, if necessary.”
Central Bank Chairman Artur Javadyan noted that there are no problems with the banking system in Armenia: the situation is fully controlled and stable. Nikol Pashinyan noted that the Central Bank had asked trade banks to support those businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis mediating an individual approach.
“The Central Bank has called on banks to abide by a special approach with regard to businesses affected by the crisis in order to help them restructure their loans and the interest rates, if necessary,” the Prime Minister said.
Arthur Javadyan noted in this connection: “We have agreed with our partners, including the National Mortgage Company, the Affordable Housing for Youth Program, international programs with third parties, that if a commercial bank changes conditions with its client, that is, it defers repayment of the loan, extends the loan term and reduces the interest rate, the partner organizations will in turn amend the terms and conditions for the banks.”
Nikol Pashinyan noted that Armenia’s foreign currency reserves were at a record high level - over USD 2,800 million by the end of 2019. “Last year, the Central Bank of Armenia purchased about USD 560 million-worth foreign currency,” the Premier said, stressing that Armenia’s financial system is stable and the level of liquidity is high.
The Prime Minister noted that the Government and the Central Bank will support the banks and the economy, as a whole, to uphold the current level of liquidity, if necessary.
“Of course, we are now discussing what measures should be taken to defy those economic challenges that we will face inevitably, but I want to clearly state that we have not formulated our task in such a way that we should not but try to overcome difficulties. We formulated our task in a different way: we must be prepared to take advantage of imminent changes in the global economy. In particular, according to our estimates, global GDP is expected to decrease by about USD 2 trillion.
On the one hand, this is bad indeed, but it also means that a niche of about 2 trillion U.S. dollars is being formed on the global marketplace and our efforts should go along the lines outlined in the policy paper adopted two years ago, according to which Armenia’s economy should fill the emerging vacancies in the global economy. Thus, the crisis ushers in not only problems, but opportunities as well, and we need a strategic vision which states that difficulties open up new opportunities, and we should focus on that agenda in order to take advantage of any such opportunity,” Nikol Pashinyan concluded.