YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian parliament held behind-closed-doors hearings Tuesday on the increasingly controversial plans for privatization of the Yerevan cognac distillery. Prime Minister Armen Darbinian was to explain to deputies the rationale for the famous factory’s takeover by a French company.
Reports have claimed that France’s Pernod Ricard–a leading cognac producer–has won an international tender for the factory with a $30 million bid. The reported sum caused an outcry among some Armenian political and economic circles who believe that price is too low.
The Armenian government has argued that privatization will bring substantial investmen’s in the factory and the related agricultural sector. But it has refused to disclose the volume of the deal on the grounds that it is confidential. Finance and Economy Minister Eduard Sandoyan told RFE/RL on Tuesday that the privatization is necessary because no government in the world is involved in the production and distribution of cognac. But critics express doubt as to whether the French will be interested in developing production of Armenian brandy–which is a potentially strong competitor on the world market.
Armenian cognac is renowned for its high quality and distinctive taste–and is particularly popular in the former Soviet republics.
Meanwhile the Armenian parliament has still to decide on an initiative backed by the Communists and some other factions that would revoke the deal.