Acting Amid Skepticism: Ministry of economy seeks media, public ‘tip-offs’ for better anti-trust policies

Artsvik Minasyan / Photo: Photolure

While the initiative of Armenia’s government to fight corruption appears to be gaining new forms, many observers and opposition members remained skeptical and unconvinced, discarding the process as another “imitation”.

In the latest move that sparked a controversy Armenia’s Ministry of Economy even made a proposal for cooperation with representatives of a number of sectors, including media, to raise the efficiency of the fight.

“On May 12, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan gave Armenia’s Economy Ministry an instruction to analyze monopolies in Armenia, their impact on having free competitive conditions, and to offer solutions. In relation to the execution of those instructions we expect participation of the media, NGOs, stakeholders and individual citizens in the formation of anti-trust policies,” stated the Ministry, urging all to provide information, by May 20, on violations and distortion of competition rules.

The Ministry plans to strengthen the fight against monopolies through new legislative regulations.

“We need to register new levers that are available to hold entities that have monopoly or dominant position, accountable, and to form more competitive markets through active anti-trust policies. Adequate measures will be implemented,” said Minister Artsvik Minasyan during the question-and-answer session at the National Assembly.

However, some people reacted with skepticism to the minister’s initiatives. They say, especially in social media, that Minasyan, a former government critic, knew everything about monopolies in Armenia even before taking up the position.

“Minasyan must have known [all about those monopolies] before becoming a minister,” wrote one of Armenian Facebook users.

“I will share my kingdom with the one who finds more monopolists,” ironically responded another user.

“It’s late, because they have already been given a quarter of the kingdom for not telling on [those monopolists],” the first writer replied.

Both journalists and representatives of civil society are skeptical about the Ministry’s initiative and, in general, about the government pledges to fight corruption.
Some, such as Artak Manukyan, a procurement expert at the Transparency International anti-corruption center, however, is for “trying and working”.

On his Facebook account, he has turned to some journalists, who cover news on economy of the country, to publicize information on the government’s expenses.

“Let’s start with small things,” he wrote. “Please ask for transparent accountability of Eurovision expenses, including information on how much they spend on sponsors, composers and information on other expenses. Let’s see if there is a sense in participating or not. After all, can’t we demand transparency? These are not secret purchases of the Ministry of Defense.”

“Some countries, which are in a better condition than us, and are not at war, refuse to participate. Why should we participate?” he wrote.

Interestingly, some media reports have already been followed up by the authorities. On Monday, A1+ wrote that a number of vehicles of Rusarm-Oil Ltd had been stranded in the Bagratashen border checkpoint loaded with 46 tons of diesel fuel.

The incident was described as an activity by the Customs Service to promote monopoly. The following day, Prime Minister Abrahanyan instructed that the State Revenues Committee resolve the issue within the frames of the law.