ARF Ministers Vow to Fight Monopolies, Rid Education System of Politics
YEREVAN—Upon signing the “cooperation agreement” the Armenian Revolutionary Federation on and the Republican Party of Armenia on Wednesday, President Sezh Sarkisian appointed Artsvik Minasyan as economy minister, Levon Mkrtchyan as education minister and Davit Lokyan and minister of territorial administration.
During the first cabinet meeting on Thursday, Minasyan vowed that he would take decisive action on monopolies and expressed his opposition to a controversial pension plan, which was legislated in 2013 and was opposed by the ARF. At the same time, Mkrtchyan said he would take action to rid the education system of the Republic from political pressures.
“We are going to take actions in this direction that will be in tune with the European Union’s anti-trust legislation and will help to create market-based competitive conditions in our country,” Minasyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after attending his first cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
Minasyan said a set of “actions in this area that will be presented soon” but declined to elaborate on them. He also cautioned: “I want to remind you that Armenia’s economy … is now classified as a blockaded economy. In blockaded economies it is much easier to set up and solidify monopolies than to break them up.”
He did acknowledge, however, that the breaking up monopolies, which are seen as a hurdle for Armenia’s economic growth, would not be an easy task. One of the provisions of the ARF/RPF agreement is the pursuit of an “active anti-trust” policy.
Earlier this month, Minasyan’s predecessor, Karen Chshmaritian, rationalized the existence of monopolies by saying that “the government has not fought and will not fight against monopolies. Our legislation and policies are aimed instead at tackling abuse of monopolist positions.”
Minasyan also reiterated his and the ARF’s opposition to the so-called mandatory-funded pension system, which required all Armenian citizens born after 1973 to pay a social security tax equivalent to five percent of their monthly wages, which will be matched and doubled by the government, reported Arka news agency on Thursday.
“I still oppose the mandatory funded pension system. And it is not just my personal opinion, it is the opinion of my party,” Arka quoted Minasyan as saying.
After the enacting the system, Armenia’s Constitutional Court deemed some aspects of the law as unconstitutional and instructed the government to make additional changes. Currently, the pension system is mandatory for public sector employees, with private sector mandates slated to take effect in 2017.
During Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Mkrtchyan, the newly-appointed education minister, vowed to fight the current practice of school principals or administration from lobbying teachers and educators for votes in election cycles.
He said school principals and teachers must stay away from politics and vowed to do his utmost to ensure that teachers are not pressured by principals or administrators saying that such actions would be punishable.
“Ridding the education sector of political party [activities] is a priority for us,” said Mkrtchyan.
Lokian, the newly-appointed territorial administration minister, also spoke to reporters, saying that he will work hard and did not anticipate any problems with any of regional governors, including the notorious governor of the Syunik Province Suren Khachatryan, also known as “Liska,” who has left a trail of criminal activities in his way.