YEREVAN — “Monopolies in Armenia are hampering the expansion of business in Armenia and hurting the growth of small businesses,” said Vahakn Hovnanian, well known Armenian businessman from New Jersey, USA, during a press briefing in Yerevan, Armenia.
Speaking to journalists at the “Haylee” Club (Mirror), Wednesday June 29, Hovananian also complained about the new labor law.
Hovnanian said that he wanted to go into business by importing wood from Russia into Armenia, and some people told him not to venture into that business, just to buy the wood from those people who already have imported the wood. He said that they would create many obstacles on the border of during transportation. Although the journalists asked him to give names, Vahkan refused. He said that he went into the grain business, but they told him that before the grain grows they will burn his fields.
Hovnanian, a builder, put together the Vahakni Estates, a gated residential community in Yerevan. He has other investments also.
Hovnanian mentioned that in general the business atmosphere in Armenia is not conducive and government officials as well as other people try to intimidate overseas businessmen. To make investments in Armenia is very difficult, he said. He mentioned about a friend of his, whom he advised to come to Armenia and open a jewelry business. While building his business structure, different inspectors constantly were visiting him and telling him “you have to change this, you have to change that” and so on, making his life miserable. He was so infuriated that he left everything behind and went back where he came from, Hovnanian said.
Hovnanian, a respected businessman in the US, is a philanthropist par excellence. Among the many awards he gives in Armenia every year, has established a day school in the United States, the Hovnanian Armenian School in New Milford, New Jersey.
Of course Hovnanian is not the only Diasporan businessman who filed complaints about the way Armenia conducts it business, taxation, permits, and especially monopolies, which also control the prices.
Prime Minister’s Reaction
Armenia’s Prime Minister as well as other ministers did not expect this burst from Hovnanian whose reputation is well known in Armenia.
“You know that I pay weekly visits to Armenian regions, hold meetings with businessmen and I am well aware of the problems of our economic system,” Armenian Prime Minister said in an interview with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, as he answered a question about the Armenian Diasporan businessman Vahakn Hovnanian, who expressed his discontent with the business environment in Armenia.
Hovnanian was advised against importing grain to Armenia.
“Of course, we have numerous shortcomings in our economic system. However, I should say that, when we discuss particular complaints, we see that they do not sometimes correspond to the facts. In this particular case of grain import, I can assure you that there is not at all a problem of importing grain to Armenia. People are often guided by rumors rather than by facts,” the Armenian Premier said.