YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The Armenian government has rejected a recommendation by the World Bank to put the debt-ridden Nairit chemical plant into bankruptcy.
Armenian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Yervand Zakharian told National Assembly members on July 28 that the bankruptcy procedure for Nairit, a Soviet-built sprawling enterprise on the outskirts of Yerevan, would be much more costly for the government than continuing to operate the plant.
“It does not at all suit the government that the 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.
Zakharian called rumors and media reports that the government plans to dissolve the company “absolutely not true”.
After conducting studies, the World Bank concluded that Nairit does not have the technical and financial viability for continued operation.
Minister Zakharian did not comment on the World Bank’s findings, but promised that the matter will be investigated during special hearings in the National Assembly next fall.
Vardan Ayvazian, a lawmaker affiliated with the ruling Republican Party, said that the World Bank representatives had wished to talk about their evaluation of Nairit in private without the presence of media. But a majority of Armenian lawmakers objected.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Nairit plant said they found the minister’s statements “reassuring”.
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 repeated an earlier promise of Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan that the plant’s workers will receive their back wages by the end of July.