The final speech of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the discussion of the annual report on the implementation of the 2022 state budget in the National Assembly
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Honorable President of the National Assembly,
Dear Cabinet members,
Dear members of the "Civil Contract" faction,
Dear members of the "Armenia" faction,
I carefully listened to all the speeches and I must say that as a result of listening to those speeches and questions, I feel enriched and recharged. It was very pleasant and useful to listen to those politicians, MPs who have participated in the political and economic life of Armenia since the first day of the founding of the Republic of Armenia: MPs Vigen Khachatryan, Hovik Aghazaryan, Gurgen Arsenyan, our other colleagues, our new generation of MPs. I also attentively listened to the MPs of the opposition faction, all speeches without exception. I must also say that in some places I note that we think or we have thought about many things in the same way, and as a result of all this we have to draw certain conclusions. I should also say that I have a very specific reaction to what the MPs said, in particular, Shirak Torosyan was talking about the road to Bavra. Mr. Torosyan, the decision on financing will be made during the upcoming Cabinet meetings, the tender is open, we already have a winning company and the construction will start within the next month. We hope that it will be at a sufficient pace.
In her speech, Ms. Armenuhi Kyureghyan mentioned some expressions that, in her opinion, are not very appropriate for the Prime Minister. I want to remind you that five or six times I have apologized from this rostrum for those and several other expressions, and I agree that it would be better if such expressions were never uttered. I also want to say that when one of the absent MPs, Gegham Manukyan, was speaking about symbols, I was carefully looking at our coat of arms and I think that now, especially now, the most valuable genre that we we must apply and enforce, that is self-awareness or reflection. This came to my mind on the occasion of Gegham Manukyan's speech, when he was speaking, I once again looked at our state coat of arms. And I probably wouldn't say this under normal circumstances, because it might become a reason for speculation, but it doesn't scare me, and I want you to understand what I'm going to say now as just an attempt to share my thoughts.
Look, what is depicted on our coat of arms. Dear colleagues, the topic is actually very serious, because the issue that we are discussing, no matter how much it has given rise to many discussions and speculations, that issue is here, it is in our thoughts, in our psychology. and in thinking. And I think our coat of arms expresses a lot of our psychology. What is depicted there? Noah's ark on Mount Ararat, the emblems of the four thrones, dynasties, and four wealths of Armenia. And while looking at that coat of arms, a question came to my mind recently. and that coat of arms, when we adopted it in 1991, that image, which is sacred for us, for each of us, and what does it have to do with the state established in 1991, what is it about? Moreover, looking at the center, there is Noah's ark on Mount Ararat, today's territory of the Republic of Armenia is under flood, a lion that has not lived here in natural conditions in Armenia for a long time. And this issue that we are discussing is actually about each of us, about that duality that exists in each of us, historical Armenia and real Armenia.
What is all our debate about, irrespective of how much it's emotional or supported with facts? This debate is about the following. should the real Armenia serve the historical Armenia or should the historical Armenia serve the real Armenia? And this is the political and epoch-making question to which we must give an answer. Moreover, if we want, we can solve this issue without conflicts, because, after all, 6 of the 12 capitals of historical Armenia are located in the territory of the Republic of Armenia. And when was the last time you were in those capitals, did you see their condition, did you assess their condition? We are talking so much about traditions, we are talking about values, our capitals, our historical symbols are under ruins today, sorry, this is not something to say, but some capitals outside of Armenia may turn out to be in a better condition than those in the territory of the Republic of Armenia.
What does this indicate, have we thought about this? Have we thought about how this image relates to every family, every child, every parent, every father, every mother in Armenia today and what does it say about the future? Gegham Manukyan says: you are looking for a cadastre document, that is the cadastre document, if we declare that this is our cadastre document, this means that we declare: destroy us. See, that's the problem. Lest you think that any of you are more patriotic than we are, there can be no such thing. I'm sorry, a thousand apologies, I might say something very rude, I can't imagine a person, I'm sorry, with all due respect to all of you, who can love my homeland more than me. It can't be, it's impossible, because if I think that anyone loves my country more than me, that means I'm declaring that I don't love my country, and all of you, each of you, should think like that. I am sure that it is also true that no one loves your country more than any of you, because just as if every child thinks that he loves his parent less than his brother or sister, it means that he does not like his parent. And I started with symbols, at the end of my speech I will refer to the symbol, the anthem of the Republic of Armenia.
Now I want to say something else. The debate is about what this Government has to do with the 12% growth, as if it fell from the sky? Dear colleagues, you know, I have to disappoint you? Today there is a big construction boom in Armenia, yes, dear friends, how did that construction boom happen, we were simply walking and the construction boom happened? It is related to a very specific decision of the Government, when we decided that: a) we will continue to refund the income tax for the mortgage loan, and starting from January 1, 2025, this program will stop for Yerevan. All those investors who knew that there is a huge demand for housing in Yerevan rushed to invest, because in 2022, those 35 billion drams were not going to be invested in that project. Now we are taking the next step, don't worry, that construction boom will continue for a long time, because we are making the next decision now: that program will leave Yerevan in 2025, in the next phase, perhaps from January 1, 2027 or January 1, 2028, we will close this program for the regions near Yerevan, after that we will keep it open for all other regions. And this construction boom will reach the most remote settlements of the Republic of Armenia, after flourishing Yerevan and the regions near Yerevan.
And today we already see this. We have newly built buildings in Kapan, we do that also with state programs, we also support in order to increase purchasing power and competitiveness in the market. We have newly built apartments in Masis. I will not say enything else so as not to be mistaken. All this happened due to that decision. Another program: look at the Republic of Armenia today, what equipment is being used in those constructions? Today, these constructions use equipment that has never been in Armenia for 30 years. Due to what? Thanks to a very specific decision of the government that we subsidize the interest of loans taken by all companies for the equipment acquired under the program called "Economy Modernization", we basically bring the interest rate to zero, but we have a certain condition, we say that the equipment that is acquired, must be brand new, unused.
The banking system had historically biggest profit in 2022. Do we have a role there or not? Of course, we have, because since 2018, the banks of the Republic of Armenia operate only and only on commercial logic. Since 2018, no one can say that they gave a loan to someone or did not give a loan to someone, because they were told by the government to give a loan to this person, or not to give a loan to this person. There can be no such case. And this has increased the attractiveness of the banking system. The banking system aggressively develops services in a good sense of the word, and these services become attractive, including in the context of government decisions and political positions.
MP Tadevos Avetisyan says thank you for not obstructing the flows. I apologize, but at least if he says such a thing, then he knows that in the past there was an institution to obstruct the flows, otherwise, I'm sorry, why should he thank the "enemy" government? In other words, he knows that for political reasons they said: let this come, let this not come. I'm not saying you did such a thing, I'm responding to what you said.
The next issue: Armenia has regularly announced about floating exchange rate. After 2018, the dram in the Republic of Armenia has a truly floating exchange rate, and the government does not interfere with the exchange rate of foreign currency and dram. Moreover, I am not saying that there has never been such a floating exchange rate in the past. There was a floating in 70 percent, sometimes 50, sometimes 60, sometimes 40. Moreover, it was considered the most important factor of economic development. And the rate is floating. Half of our Cabinet members come, every time they tell me: something should be done with this exchange rate. I say that the government can intervene in the exchange rate only by using the tools that are allowed: issuing government short-term or other bonds, etc., and so on. And we keep this.
Today, let's listen neither to the opposition, nor to the government, let's listen to the international community. What does the international community say about the democratic situation in Armenia? They say that the Republic of Armenia is a democratic state. This is one of the most important conditions of economic attractiveness. Although you, Mr. Sukiasyan, mentioned that the opposition hindered economic development with rallies last year, half joking, half serious, let me say something else. on the contrary, we noticed last year that the opposition tent camp had become a very interesting destination for tourists to visit, because, for example, there were people who, I'm not joking, I'm serious, arrived in Armenia as tourists from countries where there are no demonstrations at all. I say it with all sincerity. People went to see, what is it, how is it, they took photos and so on. This came to the center of attention of our special services. what is this movement of foreigners in the camp of our native opposition about? Then we found out that there are many people, for example, let's say, a 30-year-old person has never seen a demonstration in his life in his country, not even once, especially in a tent. They went and looked at it. It's half a joke, half serious.
What is the contribution of the fight against corruption to the economy? Sitting there, I personally used to say for ten years that there can be no economic development in the conditions of corruption. The opposition may not notice Armenia's progress in economic freedom indices, even the government may not notice, even the public may not notice, but how can investors not notice? They get up every morning and consider what to do in order to plan their activities.
You see, there is a lot of talk that the IT industry came because there was a war in Russia. Yes. But why did it come to Armenia? There is no other country? At the same time, they criticize the decision to make the income tax flat. If the income tax did not become flat from 35, 28 and 23 percent, did not become 21, then 20 percent, would an IT worker come to work in Armenia, would he come to work in Armenia, would he pay 35 percent income tax or would he pay 28 percent income tax? Because of those decisions, those people came to Armenia.
The opposition said, and the MPs of our own faction also said that it is good that the security of the Prime Minister has been strengthened. To tell the truth, I see my security in one window, nothing new is visible from there, I say, what did you add? Dear colleagues, do you want to say that today more funds are spent on my security than on Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan? I have personally seen dozens of times when either Serzh Sargsyan or Robert Kocharyan had to go to a region, a policeman was standing under every tree, alone, dry, there was nothing next to him, under the trees, in the rain, huddled. The protocol maintains the same procedure today, with a difference that today the policemen are not huddled under trees, but carry out their service in new cars, brand new equipment, new clothes, new salaries, and a new system of social guarantees. Moreover, they do not appear on that street, on that highway, because I am passing, but because they always serve there, they serve there 24 hours a day.
And when was the last time you heard of a patrol policeman taking 1000 drams from someone? I'm sorry, but you have a very bad idea about my movement, and maybe that's somehow gratifying. I walk dozens of kilometers on the streets of Yerevan. How could you ever see Robert Kocharyan or Serzh Sargsyan on the street during the 10 years? Or if they entered the cafe, at least Robert Kocharyan, they left corpses behind. Why do you keep inciting us to say these things?
Even now, these hints of hatred, I don't know, terrorism, that we surrendered Karabakh. Excuse me, was Vazgen Sargsyan surrendering Karabakh, was he assassinated for that, or maybe you were giving Meghri, that's why he was assassinated? Moreover, how did October 27 happen? It happened that some people in the cafes, including those present in the hall, while talking to the Nairihunanians, said: "The whole problem is Vazgen, Vazgen, oh Vazgen, Vazgen is to blame for the many problems existing in this country? It's Vazgen, if there was no Vazgen..." They knew the weak points psychologically, didn't they, he was their cadre. One was the president, the leader of one of the factions, the other was the director of the National Security Service, whose employee was reporting, saying there is such a person, he says he will enter the parliament and shoot him. And where was Serzh Sargsyan on October 27, 1999? He was not in the city, he was somewhere far away.
Why were you generating that hatred in the same way against Vazgen Sargsyan, did Vazgen Sargsyan surrender Karabakh, did Vazgen Sargsyan want to surrender Karabakh? I will not touch on that topic much today, I will be brief, in the Examining Commission we will touch on it in detail and thank you that we have agreed that the conversation will be public. Since you were not going to surrender Karabakh, why should you give Meghri to take Karabakh? You have accepted that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, even discussing the subject of exchanging Karabakh with Meghri. Otherwise, why would you have to give the whole region of Armenia to get Karabakh? But I say, I will not talk much about this topic today to save time, we will talk about all the circumstances in detail in the Examining Commission.
I touched on the questions a lot… It’s not like we don't draw conclusions from those questions. I can even tell you what my conclusion is from those questions. My conclusion is that the citizens of the Republic of Armenia should be shown the way. We need to show the citizens of the Republic of Armenia a new way. Those numbers are the proof of that, nothing else. And we will go that way because we love our homeland. There are other political issues, perhaps not worth mentioning, but you say that the real culprits will leave Armenia. I agree, many real culprits have left and are wanted today. Even today there are many culprits, they ask us, they say: let us leave Armenia and live somewhere else. We don't allow.
As for the diaspora. Diaspora is constantly touched upon, Mr. Khachatryan spoke about breaking and discrediting traditional structures. Sorry, our government has a normal, working relationship with at least two of the three traditional parties. I'm not saying they support us in everything or they support us at all, but we have a very good dialogue with the Ramgavar Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Honchakyan Party, two of those three, how did that happen?
They ask what we got from the activities of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs? A very important thing: last year, a Pan-Armenian summit was held in Armenia, which was unprecedented in terms of its participants, because completely new layers of the Diaspora came, the potential was revealed. There are MPs, various councils: regional, local, etc., etc., and we are working in that direction.
And let me say one more thing, I don't understand why you keep accusing us that we "pour water into the mill" of the enemy. You take what they say, they have to spend billions to spread these propagandistic theses, including in Armenia, you take them, you bring them, you say them from the rostrums. Are you doing it on purpose or not? I'm not saying don't do it, but in fact I'm asking you not to do it and I'm urging you, but not for me, but for us, because you are laying very serious traps not under my feet, but under the feet of the Republic of Armenia.
Those who accuse us for victims say that it is better to give 120 thousand victims and I don't know what to do. For what to give 120 thousand victims? In fact, it turns out that I actually killed our soldiers, the Azerbaijanis did not. Do you understand this formula of thinking?
You are talking about weapons. Mr. Ohanyan, I think the answer to this debate was given by the commander-in-chief during your tenure, who said in 2016 that our army is fighting with weapons from the 80s. What is the debate about? It’s you who said that. Your Prime Minister said from this podium that there was no diesel fuel in the tank. I didn't say. But you say something very important in your speech, very, you say that security is the army, it is geopolitics, and you accuse us of leading a wrong foreign policy. But I have a question for you: why in 2016 the Armenian army was fighting with weapons of the 80s, while the Azerbaijani army received 4 billion in product credit from our partners who supplied us with weapons of the 80s and bought their most modern equipment? And why was it like that, and will you address that question ever or not? I am speaking because you are not speaking, because as Mr. Khachatryan mentioned, you may not speak because your head is in a crocodile's mouth. I don't know, maybe.
What have we done for the army? We spared nothing for the army. Nothing. And that’s the case until now. We trusted our army, we trusted. Moreover, we knew about certain political affiliations, even knowing some things, turning a blind eye, we trusted and spared nothing. And I say again: from 2018 until today, there has been no single case when something did not happen in the army of the Republic of Armenia because the government said there is no money. There is no such thing. But maybe that was our biggest mistake, that we trusted the army, because you remember, I also told a case when even during the war, people close to me came and tried to say that some high-ranking commander is not doing something, I kicked that person out, I said, I will not allow you to say such a thing about an officer of the army of my country. Today, that officer is being charged in a criminal case, unfortunately.
Are you talking about a mineral, banana state? Excuse me, is this state 5 years old, and as of April 2018, was it mineral, banana or hi-tech? I thank Mr. Arshakyan. So you blame us for actually completely crushing the high-tech sectors? Why don't you say, what was the situation in 2018? I'll tell you now.
Mr. Nazaryan says that in 2001-2003, in fact, there was no working enterprise. You're almost right. There was a working enterprise. For example, the Zangezur copper-molybdenum combine, which very quickly, in the same period you mentioned, transformed from state property into the property of the family members of the well-known people. You know that, don’t you? At least in the newspaper where we worked together, it was referred to many times, you must have read it, if you have not participated in writing it in any way. And what is happening, and why don't you say, how is it that in 2022 the Zangezur copper-molybdenum combine pays more taxes than in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 combined? And who will address this question?
You ask what we do for development? Kerobyan mentioned, he said, today he is hunting for talented people. Let me tell you about a program, that program works now. If an Armenian company hires a graduate of the world's 400 best universities, the government pays 20 percent of the salary, if that employee has a PhD, the government pays 50 percent of the salary. Moreover, that salary can be 10,000 dollars, 50,000 dollars. If the specialist with that PhD also teaches at any Armenian university, the Government reimburses 70 percent of his salary. And why are we doing this?
Arshakyan told what was happening with the research institutes, and why were you not raising their salaries? Why are we increasing the salaries of scientists by 300 percent, so that they can grow bananas?
As for the obsession with remaining in power. our colleagues reflected, but I also want to say: if we were obsessed with keeping power, I'm sorry, you wouldn't be sitting in this hall. In 2021, we were told to resign. We resigned and went to the elections. We did it for the reason that you said no, you have to give us the power. We said that we are not the owner of the power to give it to you, the owner of the power in this country is the people. We will give it to them, let them decide who should be in power, and they decided.
And taking into account that today is the day of state symbols, I also want to touch on our national anthem. Different people constantly turn to me and say, I feel the same thing and I don't have a final conclusion. I say all this again in the genre of thinking out loud. Today, the official words of our national anthem ends with the word dying. The ideology itself is correct, I mean I don't have any problem with the text, but it ends with the word and scene of dying. I've been thinking a lot lately, of course, it may not be easy to implement from a purely aesthetic, poetic point of view, but I think it would be very correct from a political point of view for the anthem of the Republic of Armenia to end with the following lines:
Look at it, three colors
It’s our gifted symbol,
Let it shine against the enemy,
May Armenia be glorious forever.