Society 15:15 12/12/2019 Armenia

Opinion: Are costly New Year celebrations in Yerevan worth it?

Author Anahit Voskanyan

While the spokesperson of the ruling My Step faction of the Yerevan Council of Elders, Asmik Khachunts justified the municipal authorities’ decision to spend $700,000 on upcoming New Year celebrations in Yerevan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also took to Facebook to defend the costly festivities.

But let’s not ignore Khachunts, since the Council of Elders is likely to have also played a role in the adoption of the Municipality’s independent decision. She believes such a hefty sum needs to be spent so that “people – children, adults – from across Armenia, who used to spent this fabulous holiday with Soviet Christmas trees and toys, were ignored for years and never saw such a holiday had the opportunity to feel part of one big family with the prime minister.”

It’s unclear how the party imagines people becoming one family with the prime minister, or how much a handwritten “mantra” or an unhygienic barbecue along Yerevan streets costs, now the time has come for a $700,000 campaign “to get rid of the Soviet-era Christmas trees”.

The PM claims distributing the money to the low-income families would not solve the problem. Of course, these questions were addressed to the previous authorities, and the same answer was given then. However, the same question and the same answer over the misuse of funds for each holiday and each festivity lead to the same conclusion: in Armenia, the lack of economy and lavish spending continue. And, I guess, no one suggested distributing money to the needy.

Not at all. By the way, in 2018 the poverty rate in Armenia was 23.5%, or 700,000 people, according to the figures released by the Statistical Committee of Armenia. And, of course, if you distribute money to the needy families from every holiday, crowded business trip or inappropriate spending, the problem wont’s be solved. Maybe. But if we don’t make lavish expenses, those funds could be reserved to help resolve the basic housing problems of those families earlier than planned through various political steps.

The premier says celebrating a luxurious New Year in Yerevan is a matter of moral and psychological issue. But how to call a family where, instead of taking care of the needy, money is collected from its working members to arrange only an escape from Soviet Christmas tree memories for 1-2 days to show what miracles are possible in the world and among the wealthy that they are missing every single day.

Or what a citizen making such extravagance can possibly feel when 30,000 people live in extreme poverty in the same country? Shame, if he is compassionate. Discomfort, when he sees that he is more or less well-off, while the need flourishes while next to him .... And certainly not joy when he thinks about celebrating luxurious holidays when ...

What to do? Organize festivities and wait for tourist arrivals? Or what an outstanding holiday New Year is to make people leave their countries to spend it in Yerevan, to get back all the lavish expenses. Securing tourist flows to Armenia is carried out not at the expense of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time, but with a focused policy, representing the country, its history…

Or, maybe, this will also work: the wealthy and the needy, miraculously escaping from the Soviet Union, celebrate the arrival of tourists in Yerevan.

We addressed a letter to then Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan, urging him to direct the funds that were supposed to be spent on the New Year’s Day celebrations to border villages to build barriers for protection against Azerbaijani shelling. It would be the best present to the residents of Yerevan, who, living far from the border, would be able to at least do something for those living under the constant threat of fire; the best gift with which the residents of the country and the capital would exchange material joy for inner, true joy.

The city hall turned down our request.

Over time, Yerevan dwellers no longer make such requests. Moreover, they are transformed so much that they look forward to some fun to be organized for them – luxurious and worthy of their status as Yerevan residents – waiting for tourists to come and admire their lavish parties. A citizen is becoming bourgeois.

Is this a family? To live side by side, but not to see or feel each other… Are we luring a stranger with a 'candy'? Lol and ok, what else can I say!

Hayk Marutyan (the incumbent Yerevan mayor) once put it: “Today, they spend $500,000 on the "celebrations", while tomorrow we wake up in a dusty, treeless city with ugly buildings and potholes. You can’t fool Yerevan residents with balloons and a boring logo.”


But, perhaps, Taron Margaryan’s chair makes a person act like him. And to address a similar letter to Hayk Marutyan would make no sense. The "courage" is actually absent – to at least get out of the whirlpool of the former authorities. 

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