BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
It’s been three days now that residents of Yerevan are staging protests at City Hall against a decision to hike public transportations rates by 50 percent from 100 drams to 150 drams (the rate for the smaller trolley buses were raised from 50 drams to 100 drams). The protests have also been marred by clashes with police, who have arrested then released several activists. But tensions are high and, as the saying goes, residents in Yerevan feel that they were “thrown under the bus.” Indeed they were.
The citizens’ feeling of abandonment and betrayal, however, extends beyond the borders of Yerevan-proper into all of Armenia as prices for basic essentials have increased since the two elections—presidential and Yerevan municipality—despite promises by candidates and ruling party officials of increased wages and no sharp rises.
Almost immediately after the presidential elections in Armenia, government announced an increase of electricity and gas prices. Then the announcement was made that public transportation prices would increase, forcing citizens to shoulder the costs, while not seeing an increase in their daily wages. Parliament failed to pass legislation last spring to increase minimum wages.
The bizarre system of public transportation administration in Yerevan also doesn’t bode well for residents, many of whom rely on it as their primary mode of transportation. The system is run by privately owned transport companies, most of which are run by government-linked individuals. The price hike is also forcing drivers to increase revenues that are paid to the company owners.
The beneficiaries of this fare hike are the owners of the routes, one of which is reportedly owned and operated by the son of Henrik Navasardyan, the director of Yerevan’s public transport authority. According to hetq.am, Navasardyan is in fact the owner of the No. 18 bus route in the Armenian capital. The route is operated by a company called Dyako-Art, which is owned by Navasardyan’s 22 year-old son Andranik. The director of the company is another relative, Artak Navasardyan.
The public transportation fare hike is emblematic of a government run amuck by greedy oligarchs and is the latest is a long string of economic decisions that leave the public holding the bag while those controlling the coffers become more emboldened as they line their pockets with ill-gotten wealth.
President Serzh Sarkisian, during his “Toward a More Secure Armenia” re-election campaign promised that his government would initiate far-reaching economic reforms to improve the quality of life for Armenia’s citizens. Since the elections, however, the citizens have had to endure not only being duped, once again, by their government, but also price increases in the basic essentials of daily life.
The public outcry is justified and must be supported. To stand in solidarity with this movement will bolster the activists drive to further their cause for more just socio-economic conditions in Armenia. The fact that this protest movement is being spearheaded by youth is doubly encouraging since they are taking their rightful place in society and, through their activism, are trying to instill change in their country—our homeland.
Let this be the impetus for citizens of Armenia to reclaim their rights in Armenia and end the government’s ill-conceived policies, which only hurt Armenia’s citizens.