Prime Minister's final speech at the discussion of implementation report of the Government's Action Plan 2021-2026 for the year of 2022 in the National Assembly
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Honorable President of the National Assembly,
Dear Cabinet members,
First of all, I want to thank the President of the National Assembly for the decision made this morning and also thank the leader of the largest opposition faction for offering a constructive solution. In the last three or four days, I have spent maximum time in the National Assembly, because I considered it important to listen to the questions and the speeches of all MPs, including of the opposition, and I was absent only when it was not possible otherwise. And I'm sorry that I missed the speeches of several MPs of the majority and several MPs of the opposition, but I also tried to fill that gap on the Internet.
In general, and I want to emphasize, this is not only an institutional approach, respect for the institution, because we are a parliamentary country and the main political thought should be generated in the parliamentary debates, but it is really very important to analyze every sentence and try to extract the rational part from every sentence. which later can really become a political thought. And it is also important to give some clarifications, to respond to some claims and theses.
In general, the tendency of our esteemed partners of the opposition was to show that the report presented by the Government is, in fact, a document the achievements highlighted in which are not felt by the citizens of the Republic of Armenia. The head of the “Armenia” faction said exactly that.
But I have to record that I absolutely do not agree, because, on the contrary, this is the case that any citizen of the Republic of Armenia cannot simply not feel, because a citizen cannot have failed to travel on 2500 km of roads built, overhauled and repaired in the last five years, cannot have failed to notice it. One cannot have failed to notice that the money from the family budget, which used to be spent on repairing cars, are now being spent for other needs. The citizens of the Republic of Armenia cannot have failed to notice the 437,568 cases of additional health care services that they received in the health institutions of the Republic of Armenia. It is impossible not to notice it, because it is not a number, it is not a declaration. it's the people who actually received those services at the expense of the budget. A certified teacher cannot have failed to notice that his salary has doubled. And we all cannot fail noticing that there is are teachers in the Republic of Armenia who receive a salary of 400-450,000 AMD. This is a reality that once was from the fantasy genre. The 29,000 citizens of the Republic of Armenia cannot have failed to notice that they received AMD 35 billion from the Government in 2022 for the purchase of apartments. Scientists cannot have failed to notice that their salary has increased by 66-166 percent.
Athletes who receive state support cannot have failed to notice. Without disclosing personal data, because it is forbidden, I can say that our athletes who appeared in the press headlines in recent days, already received support prior to this next milestone, for example, one person received 1,400,000 AMD from the government every month, 2 people received 760,000 AMD per month , 1 person - 400,000 AMD per month, 1 person - 350,000 AMD, 2 people - 300,000 AMD, 4 people - 150-270,000 AMD. And the Government accompanies them since their first success. Another thing is that every time we give that money, we don't make a reportage, we don't organize big events, we don't take pictures in the background of those athletes. This refers to Olympic sports. Let me also say that after recording the success of our sambo wrestling team, I gave an instruction to include sambo in that list of sports, and we will make those payments to our champions in the same way, especially given that we are going to host the World Sambo Championship in November this year.
More than 700,000 workers cannot have failed to notice that their average salary has increased by 31,528 AMD in 2022 compared to 2021. Representatives of our opposition say that thousands of citizens sleep hungry. It can be and there is such a thing, but we say that there are thousands of vacancies in the labor market. Thousands: More to the point, the new statistics on jobs was published a few hours ago, and we have a new all-time record of 706,000 jobs, up from 704,000. These are the people who may no longer go to bed hungry because they are working and getting paid. Moreover, compared to March 2019, the gross salary fund has doubled. In other words, the working citizens of the Republic of Armenia received twice as much salary in March of this year than in 2019, when the comparative increase was still large compared to previous years.
Residents of our regions cannot have failed to notice that 1.2 billion US dollars have been invested in the regions in the last 5 years. In the regions of the Republic of Armenia, there has never been an investment of this size in any five-year period. I want to remind you that there are people in our parliament who continue to present themselves as almost the rightful owner of Syunik. The Government has invested 100 billion AMD in Syunik Province since 2018. In no region have we invested more than in Syunik region. Now let's see what was happening in Syunik region before that. And has anyone counted how many Armenian villages in Syunik Province were physically emptied by 2018? Dozens of villages have been emptied and everyone knows about it.
We are talking about Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine, the taxes paid by Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine in 2022 were presented here. And before that, where were those taxes, where did they go? You say that we have not fulfilled our promises. In Kapan, we promised, we said that’s enough, the people of Armenia, represented by the Government, will have their share in the Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine. When that share was obtained, and we turned off the sources of this corruption one by one, there was a party here that smashed to pieces. Why? Because their concern was not Syunik and Armenia at all. It was the sources coming from that ZCMC, from which they were fed, which were cut off. We closed that source, and now they are no longer engaged in political activities, because now they are still trying to hide the few million dollars they stole to enjoy later. Don't worry, we will find them as well. What are we doing today? We are implementing the pre-election program, which we implemented very quickly, within two months, and today we are building 40 educational complexes in Syunik. You are talking about our children, aren't they our children who are getting education? Your children studied in elite schools in Europe, here, and our children were shepherds.
I listened to Gegham Nazaryan's speech and hoped that he would address a specific topic, but he did not. He did not address the fact that the Government is saying the following today. All the bordering and border-protecting regions, including Syunik, including the so much talked about Acharkut and Kirants, the Government says: dear people, if you have land, build a house, the Government gives you 16 million AMD, build a house in a border settlement. And why don't you mention that? We accepted the program, you said that the program is not working well, it should be improved, we improved it. Why did we improve? We did it, improved it including in memory of our fallen soldiers.
A resident of Yerevan cannot fail to see the difference, because today dozens of new buses are on the streets, one cannot fail to see hundreds of changed elevators, even if he wants to, he cannot fail to see them. A citizen cannot fail to see that the Patrol Police does not differentiate between a member of parliament, a minister, a relative of the prime minister. And the issue here is not only that some people are stopped by the police, the issue is that people's dignity is preserved and protected, because a person sees that there are no first-class people, second-class people in the country. A citizen never encounters a case that he is fined for a small violation, but someone makes a violation with a "Gelandewagen", but the police officer pretends not to see it. This cannot be failed to be noticed.
The business cannot have failed to notice that in 2022, compared to 2021, the trade turnover increased by 2 trillion AMD. This is about 5 billion US dollars. Where did that money go? That money went to the pocket of small business, big business, medium business, jobs were created with this. Do you know anyone who today may not pay taxes due to special relations with the government? Such a thing is excluded. And it should be recorded. Today, the businessmen look at how much money they earned during the last year, they doesn't believe their eyes, because the representatives of the government have no eye on every penny they earn, which was not the case before. In 2022, Armenia will have a historical profit tax record, that is, the business in Armenia has set a historical profit record, because no one had an eye on their profits, we said: pay taxes and you have no problem, and those who did not pay taxes, we will go after them.
Well, what am I saying all this for, to say that all the opposition's arguments are wrong, that everything is shiny and rosy? Of course not. And if everything is so good, what’s the problem? The problem is that people are alarmed, people have anger and bitterness in them. There are great uncertainties and it must be said directly that we are experiencing a security crisis. Yes, it has to be said, and no one is going to relinquish responsibility for this.
And here is the next point that I consider rational. In several places, not directly, but this idea was raised by our opposition colleagues. well, in this security environment you do asphalting works, install lights, maybe we should invest all those billions in security, and hell with a sphalt. There is logic in this, but it is not yet complete, because firstly, the asphalt itself also has a security component, because the asphalt is also the mobility of the troops, the mobility of the security system. And secondly, who said that if today, for example, we give 5 billion or 2 billion, twice as much as we gave to our army or any of our state institutions, that institution will be able to spend that much of amount? Here we have deep fundamental problems, from institutional to practical. Today, we are not able to fully spend these funds due to objective and subjective reasons. And if someone thinks to have a better understanding of these objective and subjective reasons, it is not a matter of boasting. When you were in power, you had a better understanding, it was impossible for the opposition to have better understanding. Today we are the Government, we have better understanding than you. By and large, there is nothing to argue about here.
But when I say security crisis, we have to understand what kind of security crisis it is. This is a crisis of the security architecture created throughout our independence. This crisis did not emerge in 2020, it had emerged earlier. And, yes, we can mention dates. Yes, October 27 was also mentioned, it was an expression of a deep and serious crisis in our security architecture, but later on, if we come to the issue of Karabakh and the region, for example, you tell us, it was said during the question-and-answer session that we created that crisis. Did we create this crisis in our security system?
Let's go to what happened in 2011. If you conducted very good diplomacy, if you were a very good negotiator, so how did it happen that our strategic ally concluded an arms deal worth three billion USD with Azerbaijan? And you expressed concern about it from far away, from Argentina. Perhaps you went so far to see if you can come back after that statement or not, then you saw that it seems normal and came back.
That crisis was there in 2016, and before that. Nobody remembers now. You were going to sign an association agreement with the European Union, then you suddenly decided not to sign the association agreement in one day. You curse us so much about our foreign policy, do you think that all this has been forgotten? You had been negotiating for three years, maybe longer, to sign an association agreement, and what happened that you decided in one day to reverse everything? What happened, how did it happen, what did you negotiate, how did you negotiate?
Again, issues were touched upon here, which I have touched upon dozens of times. But, after all, there is a Soviet cartoon called “That will be this way", it was going to be like this, it was going to be like that, they were going to enter from this side, we from this side, with this status, etc. It could be, my dears, it could be. If it was going to be like that, why did you announce the end of the negotiation process from this rostrum in April 2018, why did you herarld war if it was going to be like that? You should have said no, this is how it will be.
See what they say. Again, I don't want to speak in the context the accusation, I want us to understand our logic, they say Azerbaijan was the one that didn't sign. This is such a common thing, they say, Armenia was doing so that Azerbaijan would not sign, Azerbaijan was becoming unconstructive, Armenia was constructive, and Armenia's position was getting stronger. In 2011, Azerbaijan did not sign, what happened after that? Arms were sold to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan started escalation. In the committee examining the details of the war we will talk about this in much more detail to show that after Azerbaijan did not sign in 2011, the cases of violation of the ceasefire on the border increased tens of thousands of times and turned into a war.
As a result of our negotiations, Azerbaijan received a legitimate right to say "no" at the negotiating table. And Armenia had no right to say "no", it had no right to say "no". The representatives of our opposition, presenting their negotiation methodology, say that Azerbaijan lost hope that it will resolve its problem through negotiation, from which it becomes obvious that our negotiation strategy was to constantly give hope to Azerbaijan that it will resolve its problem through negotiations And Azerbaijan never hid its problem from anyone. And that ridiculous slogan "the worst negotiation is better than the best war". This is nonsense. Now, as a result of this, we brought the situation to the war of 2016 through that worst negotiations. The 2020 war did not start in September 2020, the 2020 war started in August 2015, in April 2016, and stopped after four days. They say you participated in May. I called on the first day, Mr. Ohanyan was the Minister of Defense, on the very first day, the same morning, I was the head of pre-election headquarters in Hrazdan elections, I called the Minister of Defense. May arrived until they organized. That’s also an issue of promptness. You talk about the army, you say the army should be like this, the army should be like that. Are you talking about the army? you know that the most important strength of an army in wartime is the reserve resource. During your tenure as minister, how many times did training camps take place, on what scale, on what scale did they take place every year? That is why in 2020 our reserve resource neither knew how to shoot nor orientate on the spot in general. I don't want to say this accusingly, I'm telling the reality. Now they say why we did not meet with hose who had negotiated earlier and consulted with them. We have met and the first impression was that these people think we are naive. Or, I'm sorry, why should we learn about the negotiation results through meetings? This is a state, isn’t it? where is the process of negotiations recorded in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Unfortunately, we found a couple of papers under the shelves, under the legs of the refrigerator, and stuck them together. Or if Serzh Sargsyan, Vardan Oskanyan, the others had something to say, then how could Serzh Sargsyan send someone to me, saying, you know what, solve the issue of my house, but at the same time could not send me information about some nuances over the Karabakh issue. Bako Sahakyan, the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, used to come and drink coffee with me, he used to go to the same place for months and years, drink coffee with him. He told me that he was going there, he also told him that he was coming to me. He could have written an unsigned letter to inform me. Oskanyan had something to tell me back then, I say let him say it now. He says: I should have told you to give 5 regions or 7 or 4 or 3. You should have said at that time, you sould have said publicly, both of you sould have said, you sould have said: stand up and surrender the lands. Why didn't you say? And why did you say: he has come to surrender the lands, he is surrendering the lands, he has come to surrender the lands? You should have said: listen, it’s good you have come, you are legitimate, surrender the lands. Was it hard to do all that?
Now about the mistakes. There have been many mistakes, many before me and during my time, unfortunately, there will be mistakes after. The issue is not here. But what is the biggest mistake? The biggest mistake is that I should have given my last year’s speech about lowering the bar back in 2019. I should have said what I said today. I want to say again. And I want to talk about a statement of our opposition partners, but also of our colleague representing the majority of the government. After all, we didn't understand our concept of self-determination and we still don't understand what we said. I discussed self-determination in detail in my speech. The question is if Nagorno Karabakh’s self-determination has ended. If it is self-determined, then we don't have any problems, the issue is solved, and if it is not self-determined, it means that it is part of something from which it must be self-determined, it has a status from which it must move and get the second status. This is what we have not admitted.
They ask why we didn’t recognize the independence of Karabakh? For a very simple reason, because back in 1996, the international community clearly told us that the Nagorno Karabakh issue should be resolved within the framework of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Back then there was no Facebook for everyone to share and spread. And that's why Ter-Petrosyan used to say that 6 people, experts master the details of this issue. Because at that time it was not possible to watch those sessions live. This is the truth, and this is why I say that we spoke something there, we came and spoke something else here. And especially the current opposition part of the parliament. Do you know why? Because they came to power under that motto, and the narrative related to Karabakh, what they said in Armenia, was exclusively aimed at keeping power inside, and what they said abroad was dedicated to that the international community did not notice their illegitimate nature. This is the whole truth. We were in the same logic, and yes, they say that we wrote "self-determination" and didn't fulfill it, wrote "remedial secession" and didn't fulfill it. The problem is the same in both places, because we don't recognize the basic state, we don't accept it, so we can't manage the continuation in any way and we lose.
Yesterday our colleague talked about the concept of "remedial secession". Friends, what does secession mean? Secession from what? Secession from whom? It’s called “remedial secession” in English. I opened the Oxford dictionary this morning to see the explanation of the word secession. It is: "the fact of an area or group becoming independent from the country or larger group that it belongs to". Do you understand? We have not faced these facts. This is where all our problems come from. We have not faced Lisbon 1996, the documents before that, we have deceived ourselves. We have fooled ourselves. And this is my biggest mistake. Because, look, whenever we went to a birthday party or elsewehere in 2018 and before, everywhere people always rasied a glass for a toast for peace. We did not listen to this message of the people and did not say: people, you know what, it is impossible to have peace and preserve the status quo at the same time. There will be no such thing. When we say peace, we say, let's continue to play for time like this. And by the way, the negotiation tactic that "the worst negotiation is better than the best war" was about that. When they say successful diplomacy, they mean that they have successfully played for time. But a) in reality, we did not play for time, but Azerbaijan did, and b) there was no more room to play for time in 2018. That has been and continues to be our biggest mistake.
But what was really keeping us back from making concessions? It’s what Armen Rustamyan talked about and what Artsvik Minasyan talked about, and what I have said in different formulations several times at various press conferences, saying that the problem was not that there was no political will for compromise or concession, but that there was no sense of where that concession would end. Because the feeling that there will be a new demand after the concession, and, by the way, Serzh Sargsyan's negotiation history also shows that, and yes, the fact that they want to destroy us, it is that very clear understanding that did not allow it to be done, because if there was a feeling that there is a line where we make concession and that's it, we get peace, that concession would have taken place.
They say that it was written that Nagorno Karabakh should have joined the negotiations. No, it is not said that way, it is said that the representatives of Nagorno Karabakh, that is, the representatives of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno Karabakh should have come to the negotiations. I have read that document maybe 500 times in the last 5 years. Our task is to manage the ambition of others to destroy us. Let's record this and think about methods. I have never said that we are bearers of the absolute truth, and if I had said it, this dialogue wouldn't be happening.
You say that you have undertaken committments under the co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group. You are right. We wrote in our paper. Dear friends, the Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group do not communicate with each other, they say I will not talk to him, I will not sit at the same table. Please, tell the Government of the Republic of Armenia how to force the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group to sit at the same table.
You remembered the incident with the cash register of Kelbajar. Thank you for reminding me, because that is the cornerstone question. That's about it. it seemed to us that we could not pay taxes, not print cash register receipts, and then deliver patriotic speeches. Cash register receipts are the price we pay for having a state. Two days ago was the day of taxpayers, and I say again, let's understand what tax is. Tax is the price of having a state. The ZCMC has renounced the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia in the amount it has hidden taxes in the Republic of Armenia. And we are suffering the consequences.
We must state that if we want to have an economy, our economy must generate taxes. We have to pay taxes, every one of us. In the near future, the universal tax declaration mechanism will be introduced, vote in favor of it, dear oppositionists, because it is not about someone wanting to take money from someone. It is about that if we, as a people, want to have a state, we must pay for the right of that state to exist, because having a state is the most expensive pleasure that people can afford. There is no greater pleasure than that. And we, yes, have not paid for our state for 30 years, others have paid for our state, and others continue to pay for it, so the faucet is somewhere else. Now we have to move the faucet here, to this building, you, we, the deputies of the National Assembly should have that faucet in their hands. The problem is that faucet is not in our hands.
There are a few more observations that I would like to address, it’s about October 19, that Shushi would remain ours. Come to the committee on examining the details of the war, and we have to do it publicly, no matter how difficult it may be, you will have such great disappointments, and provable disappointments. Come, please, come, ask all the questions. Moreover, we will divide it into two parts: I will give a public speech, and then we will listen to the questions. I will answer the questions that can be answered publicly, and I will answer the other part behind doors.
They say that you have not fulfilled this pre-election program, this particular point, there is a crisis of legitimacy. Does this mean that we actually were legitimate to you before this? This is the first time you have admitted that we were ever legitimate, and this in the context that there is now a crisis of legitimacy. If we were legitimate, why were you cursing us?
I would like to conclude with a topic that is constantly being discussed and circulating in this hall and outside the hall. They are trying to present that the relations between the Government and the Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Government are not good, or that there are problems in those relations. You know, I am going to make a very strange and loud announcement. If the Church's relationship with the Government is not good, then the Church's relationship with God is not good, according to Christian theory. And I want to prove this by quoting from the Paul the Apostle's letter to Romans, verse 13, which says, "Because there is no authority except from God
and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God, so anyone who disobeys an authority is rebelling against God’s ordinance". Let the Church think about its own essence, its own theory and its own faith, and may God help us to preserve, develop and strengthen and bring peace to the Republic of Armenia.
They say he will go, he will sign this, he will sign that. Again, if it gets to the point to sign or not to sign the document, it's not bad news, it's good news. I want to recall the history of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020. You may remember how you cursed it, trampled it? That November 9 declaration was not the statement we dreamed of, but today what we are talking about, what we are saying, our legal position regarding the Lachin Corridor, regarding Nagorno Karabakh, regarding the Nagorno Karabakh contact line, regarding regional communications, regarding prisoners, we substantiate everything with the trilateral declaration of November 9. It’s another thing that this statement doesn't come to life. And this is why, taking into account that experience, we say that there should be mechanisms in the peace treaty to exclude such a situation. You ask what we are negotiating about. I said about everything in my speech, point by point, I said about our positions and the problems that exist. But let me tell you, the document we are offering you, we can show that paper, when we sent it to the Azerbaijani side, I was ready to sign it at that moment, I am ready today to sign that document today. Another thing is that Azerbaijan does not accept the paper we sent, and therefore, it is necessary to decide what to do.
And we believe that we have enough legitimacy, enough mandate to make decisions regarding the future of the Republic of Armenia. If you wish, we will be fully transparent in these decisions to you as a parliamentary force. But, unfortunately, we cannot be transparent live, we can be transparent at the working level.
Anyway, thanks for this discussion. I have to admit that this discussion increased my optimism, with all its difficulties and problems, because optimism is very much needed at this stage, as well as determination, wisdom, flexibility, stability. And I want to thank the parliamentary majority for standing firmly in the positions of preserving the stability, sovereignty, and statehood of the Republic of Armenia.