01 April 06

Since April 1 the Russian gas will cross the border of Armenia at
110 dollars per 1000 cubic meters. It is not an April Fools joke,
it is not a joke at all, especially when new details are becoming
known day by day. Particularly, different sources inform or "forecast"
that Armenia will transfer the fifth generating unit of the Thermal
Power Plant of Hrazdan and its share of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline
to Russia. Vardan Khachatryan was the first government official that
news reporters could ask for elucidation. He gave a press conference on
March 31 to tell about his American visit. However, Vardan Khachatryan
used the American visit to not tell anything definite.

The minister announced that he was not aware of the details of
the Russian-Armenian talks on the price of gas and hopes to get
information from relevant bodies on the process of the talks and the
agreement. Such a relevant body is Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan,
for instance, who personally announced that Armenia has no more
property to transfer to Russia to repay the debt. But the vague
and avoiding answer of Vardan Khachatryan apparently confirms the
rumors and refutes the words of the prime minister. The minister of
finance and economy did not say yes, but he did not say no either
to the transfer of the fifth generating unit and the shares of the
Iran-Armenia gas pipeline.

"There is no absolutely good and absolutely bad. It depends on the
problems that must be solved, on the way how to solve them," says
Vardan Khachatryan, adding that Armenia wants to keep the fifth
generating unit of the Thermal Power Plant and the gas pipeline
operating. Vardan Khachatryan even said that Armenia evaluated the
fifth generating unit rather high, and there is information that it
was evaluated 250 million dollars. Vardan Khachatryan says it is a
very good price for a half-built generating unit.

Generally, the words and behavior of Armenian officials allow thinking
that Armenia cannot have an operating thermal power station and Iranian
gas unless these are controlled by Russia. Whereas, the program of
property for debt shows the opposite thing, that if Armenia wants to
have something that operates, Armenia should not transfer it to Russia.

But thus the problem of gas, which threatens to become a far more
burning issue than the problem of bread, is not settled, for it is
two-fold: the border and beyond the border. The terms might cause
confusion, however we should also think for our compatriots living
outside Armenia, for them to understand what is going on in their
native land. And in the native land the government does favor to
people on the money of people. Since April 10 people will have to pay
90 drams per one cubic meter of gas, and industries will pay twice
as much. It was the decision of a governmental body, headed by the
former mayor of Yerevan Robert Nazaryan.

"If the government does not accept these tariffs, it can decide
to cover part of these tariffs. I hope it will do," says Vardan
Khachatryan. To put it mildly, the minister of finance should despise
this phrase, for it is illogical when a commission "lets down" both the
citizen and the government. The minister of finance is not a minister
of social security, he has to fear for every cent of the government,
and should at least announce that it is absurd when the government
covers the costs of some private company, be it Armrusgasard or
Whateverprom. In the meantime, Vardan Khachatryan is hopeful that it
will be so. Moreover, for a long time.

"The estimation was done with consideration of several factors. It is
not going to give a surprise to the government. As far as I know, it is
a three-year program," says the minister, who has just returned from
the United States, and announces that he does not know much yet. He
does not know either what Armenia and Russia are negotiating for if
the 110 dollars for the Russian gas at the border is already fixed.

In the meantime, this secrecy is rather doubtful. From whom are the
governments of Armenia and Russia hiding the details of the talks
and the options discussed? It is even difficult to understand why
the negotiations for Karabakh are secret, let alone the talks for the
price of gas. Secrecy would be justified if the negotiating officials
discussed with Russians the option of paying for the gas from their
own pockets, but obviously the Armenian state is concerned, and it
means that all of us are going to pay, but one or two, or maximum
three will decide how much we are going to pay. Even if the government
members paid from their pockets, one will wonder where the ministers
got so much money that cannot be found in the budget of Armenia.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress