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Thousands of Protesters Give Government Deadline to Meet Demands (VIDEO)

Today, the Government’s Reception of Citizens and Appeals department head Alexander Ghazaryan spoke to hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs protesting the Law on Turnover Tax in front of the Government building. Ghazaryan recalled that during the protest on Monday the Prime Minister proposed to meet with a ten person delegation, subsequently, however, refused by protesters. Now, Ghazaryan claims that Hovik Abrahamyan has scheduled meetings, visits, and his work schedule does not allow him to meet with the protesters.

The latter statement angered the demonstrators. One of the entrepreneurs said that they also give money at the trade fairs and marketplaces and they are also paying for leaving work but they have come to protest instead.

One of the demonstrators called on the business owners to stop stating that they would leave the country if the law were to pass, because all small and medium sized businesses have loans to cover and no one would let them leave the country without covering them. According to him, the entrepreneurs would be forced to sell their apartments in order to cover their loans and would leave Armenia “naked.”

According to rumors spreading among the protesters, like two days before, buses from Gyumri to Yerevan were suspended in order to stop businessmen from participating in the protest. According to one of the demonstrators, some have come with their personal cars, while one bus was able to arrive by taking a different route avoiding police at the city’s entrance.

The protesters, after being denied access to the PM, decided to move toward the Presidential Palace. Almost 3 thousand small and medium business owners closed Baghramyan Avenue, stopping traffic from going through.

The protesters blocked off Baghramyan Avenue for around 40 minutes. They gave the government a deadline of Friday (tomorrow) 11 AM to meet their demand of nullifying the Law on Turnover Tax or not.

The protesters will go to the Government building tomorrow to receive their response from the government. The other decision made by the business owners was that in case of the government not nullifying the law, they would begin a strike, closing their business activities and not paying their taxes, starting February 1st.

When the protesters arrived at the Presidential Palace from the Government building to express their demands, they were confronted with accusations from police and officials, who, according to one demonstrators, said that “You are coming here to the President’s office and politicizing a tax issue." The demonstrators responded saying that they weren't politicizing it, and that they would not come to the President had the PM accepted them. 

The entrepreneurs gathered near Baghramyan 26 (Presidential Palace) spoke about the police’s role of getting protesters off the street and onto the sidewalk.

“If there were not so many police officers, we would have fit here just fine,” said one of the demonstrators.

The entrepreneurs restarted their fast growing protests from last September-October, which were halted after the government promised to delay the compulsory inventorization of products until February 1st of 2015. The protest restarted yesterday, because the government refused to include other amendments to the law.

Last year, the protesters against the Law on Turnover Tax stated that they do not have possibility of inventorizing their products, because large distributors often do not give them invoices. In addition, in the case of inventorizing, their turnover would be over the legal minimum threshold of 58.3 million AMD ($126,000), so they would be forced to pay VAT, which would be impossible for small and medium sized businesses. Among the business owners, some demand that they sharply increase the threshold, while others demand the law be nullified.

Those who work in the gold trade have stressed that once the new law comes into effect they would be forced to immediately halt their work. Certain experts have noted that the inclusion of the Law on Turnover Tax would entirely wipe out small and medium sized businesses, while the members of government claim that the purpose is to fight against the illegal practices in large businesses and that they are not prepared to consider the law void.

During last year’s protest, the merchants received backlash from the owners of large marketplaces they rent space from. A few large marketplaces threatened to fire (or cancel rent contracts) those merchants who did not show up to work and protested. The most covered case was that of Vosku Shuka owner Vagharsh Abrahamyan who broke tables and showcases of those merchants who participated in the protests. the destructive behavior of Abrahamyan was not dealt with by the police.