Monday, 24 September

Why Doesn't the Government Pull the Plug on

Inferior construction in Gyumri leads to new contract in Spitak Two months ago, it became apparent that the buildings constructed by Glendale Hills with government money intended to house homeless families in Gyumri, were sub-standard. The buildings were so inferior in terms of quality that the government, at the directive of the president himself, forced the company to basically start from scratch. For example, Glendale Hills had to strip about 30,000 square meters of plastered walls and refinish them. But it seems that Glendale Hills hasn’t learnt from its mistakes. A scandal is about to break in Spitak, where the company has a contract to hand over 300 apartments to the government. It turns out that the ceilings on the top floors have been fashioned out of "penoplast" (a foam polystyrene construct). This has amazed many in the industry who are surprised that the builders were even able to install roofs on the top floors. Glendale Hills and the names of its shareholders have been popping up in various government decisions ever since 2004. One of the company’s owners is Vahe Yaghoubian, a diaspora Armenian entrepreneur. Yaghoubian, an attorney by profession, has been a government insider for the past twelve years. But this isn’t sufficient for the company to get away with such construction methods and to pocket super profits. Company construction sites are off limits not only to inquisitive reporters but also to officials from the Ministry of Urban Development. Thus, one can assume that the company owners enjoy a privileged position in the ruling government’s pyramid of power. Glendale Hills is a closed joint stock company and the names of all its shareholders aren’t known. In addition to Vahe Yaghoubian, another name bandied about is RoA MP Davit Harutyunyan . There’s also talk of an unnamed Arab from Lebanon as stockholder. The owners of Glendale Hills are adept at pulling strings because they’ve once again been able to get their hands on state funds for Gyumri construction, rather than being sued for misusing state funds. There’s a certain top government official that’s been to Spitak and seen the roofs of the new buildings. This official has said that even Armenia’s worst enemy wouldn’t have built something similar. The question on everyone’s mind is why the government is allowing Glendale Hills to continue operating at taxpayer expense, given its lousy track record? Perhaps Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan has a rational explanation.

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