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Sugar Monopoly; Armenian Oligarch ‘More Powerful’ Than Government

Local Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper writes that Armenia's Government may soon establish a legal monopoly over the country's sugar market since “monopolies and oligopolies in Armenia are patronized by top-level government officials.” Speaking to journalists on Monday, Minister of Economy Artsvik Minasyan did not rule out the possibility that Armenia would give a legal monopoly over the import of sugar, imposing additional obligations on the monopolist. “[The monopolist]  should operate at 90% capacity, should ensure a certain number of jobs, a certain amount of revenue, should ensure transparency,” he stated.

By looking into the prospect of legalizing monopolies, Haykakan Zhamanak notes, the Government admits that it's impossible to break the sugar monopoly in Armenia. “Because an oligarch by the name of Lfik Samo (lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia Samvek Aleksanyan) is more powerful than the Government. Is more powerful thanks to having a patron in [Armenian president] Serzh Sargsyan… Officials declare a fight against monopolies, followed by its logical conclusion: monopolies will henceforth be established by law.”

In Armenia, the newspaper continues, sugar is sold solely thanks to the existence of a monopoly, and Artsvik Minasyan's justification that a legal monopoly would impose additional obligations on the monopolist, according to Haykakan Zhamanak, is nothing but a utopia. “How can they make a plant that operates at 20-30 percent capacity work up to at least 90% of its capacity. Last year, Armenia imported 61 thousand tonnes of sugar, of which 56 were imported by Lfik himself, and the rest – by other business entities that use sugar in their production. 

“Has no one in the Government have a thought as to why these entities would prefer importing small batches of 'exorbitant' European sugar to buying the sugar produced at Lfik's factory? Doesn't this mean that the product of our monopolist is either expensive, of poor quality, or – both?” the paper concludes.