YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Declaring bankruptcy of the debt-ridden Nairit chemical plant’s, as recommended by the World Bank, is not “suitable” for the Armenian government, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Yervand Zakharian said during discussions in parliament on Tuesday.
Zakharian stressed that the bankruptcy procedure for Nairit, a Soviet-era plant on the outskirts of Yerevan, would be much more costly for the government than maintaining its current operation.
“It does not at all suit the government that the [Nairit] company becomes bankrupt, because it will bring quite sizable financial expenses in its wake, as well as safety and [hazard] neutralization issues that will require millions of dollars in expenses over years,” Zakharian said.
“So, I want to state it with all responsibility and disprove the widespread opinion in society and in the media that the government is taking the company to dissolution. It is absolutely not true,” he said.
Though the World Bank concluded that Nairit does not have the technical and financial viability for continued operations, Zakharian refrained from giving any assessments to these findings, promising, however, that answers to questions will be provided during special hearings on the issue in the National Assembly in the fall.
Representatives of the Nairit plant said they found the Zakharian’s to be “reassuring”.
Vardan Ayvazian, a lawmaker affiliated with the ruling Republican Party, told his colleagues that the World Bank representatives had wished to talk about their evaluations related to Nairit in a closed-door discussion without the presence of media. But a majority of Armenian lawmakers attending the discussion spoke against this suggestion and World Bank representatives eventually did not have their requested meeting.
Hundreds of former and current workers of the idling chemical plant have held protests in front of government offices in recent months demanding more than a year’s worth of back pay. Nairit owes an estimated $15 million in unpaid wages to its employees.
Zakharian reiterated today an earlier promise made by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan that the plant’s workers will receive their back wages by the end of July.