“Why Should We Know About Such Things?”
He really comes into the picture during national elections when residents of Akhtala come out to support him under the banner, “For the honor of our Vazgen.” In this context Mr. Khachikyan himself state that in the National Assembly elections of 2007 the Republican Party garnered 1000 votes out of 1350 cast in the three electoral districts in Akhtala. This is how he explains such a result, “When people see what type of members of their community are in the government they naturally have sympathy for the ruling regime. Right now I’d rather not emphasize my own role in the matter.”
Suren Tamazyan, the Mayor of Akhtala, also agrees that the role of Khachikyan in the elections is substantial. Let’s just say that his wife, Anahit Ghazaryan, who’s a pediatrician, carries quite a bit of weight within the community. Dr. Ghazaryan described her position this way; “ I’m the beloved doctor of these needy people because the question of paying for my services never arises.” As a result of their positions of influence in the community the interests of Vazgen Khachikyan and Mayor Tamazyan don’t always coincide. At issue is the fact that come election time the grateful residents of the community do not demand solutions to their pressing problems from the government formed by the ruling party. Instead, they place their hopes on Vazgen Khachikyan, a member of that same party. All the while the ruling state of affairs in Akhtala proves that their votes for the government are firstly going to Vazgen Khachikyan.
During the last year Mr. Khachikyan made news by his business operations in Alaverdi. He built the giant “Dzoragaz” gas filling station along the Shahumyan Sanahin stretch of road and just 1-2 weeks ago he purchased a gas filling station on the Alaverdi-Akhtala road that belonged to the former Mayor of Alaverdi, Garen Yesayan. He also purchased a taxi line that services the Alaverdi to Yerevan route at a cost of 36 million drams. He also heavily invested in the “Dzori Taxi” service that now serves all inter-city routes in the area. Everyone employed in these companies consider Mr. Khachikyan to be their boss. When asked about these companies Mr. Khachikyan gave us some confusing answers. At first he said that they belonged to a guy from the village of Shnogh. Later on he said that he owned 50% shares in the firms. In the end he declared that, “I don’t own a single piece of any of that. I was simply a sponsor. It all belongs to my father and my aunt’s son who lives in Moscow and owns a restaurant there. My brothers simply are the managers of the gas stations.”
People in Alaverdi and Akhtala are happy that Vazgen Khachikyan is so successful. He’s created jobs and occasionally makes a donation to some charitable cause. What’s sad is that along with these successes the lives of the people of Akhtala has not improved even by a small amount. As proof, Akhtala resident Meghak Mkrtchyan says, “Any one who gets sick in Akhtala is taken and thrown off a cliff.” Garnik Adamyan also chimed in that, “Whoever doesn’t have money dies unassisted in their home.” Dr. Anahit Ghazaryan also stated that Volodya Amirdjanyan, a resident of Akhtala’s Barit neighborhood, suffered a serious stroke two days ago. Since he can’t be transported to Alaverdi his recovery rests in the hands of the doctor. Mayor Tamazyan says that, “The most pressing problem facing Akhtala is the health of the residents and the ability to keep the hospital afloat.” We found out that the 70-bed hospital in Akhtala that falls within the jurisdiction of the Lori Marz had closed its doors. Since hospital director Garen Azaryan wasn’t around, Mushegh Matosyan, the accountant, stated that, “Since 1998 the hospital’s salary and social payment liabilities amount to some 6.3 million drams. On June 1, 2007 the hospital shut down and a polyclinic was opened instead. The clinic now employs a staff of 21 persons.
Dr. Ghazaryan explained that the hospital’s poor financial condition in the following way, “Of course debts will accrue since the resources are being spent inefficiently.” She also expressed her discontent with the fact that Akhtala, with a population of some 2,400, doesn’t have an emergency care service or a medical ambulance.
Dr. Ghazaryan stated that, “Oftentimes family doctors and nurses who visit patients who have fallen sick during the night must take the patients to their homes in order to administer the necessary intravenous injections.”
Mayor Tamazyan says that, “Only myself and the Council have fought to keep the hospital open. Mr. Khachikyan has countered our moves saying that a hospital isn’t needed here.”
Mr. Khachikyan retorted that, “I wouldn’t say that having a hospital here is the most pressing problem in Akhtala. If I have the money I’d go to Yerevan for medical treatment.” He adds that, “I wasn’t aware about the emergency center issue and I personally haven’t given it any thought. I am glad that you brought it to my attention. Perhaps we can obtain a modern ambulance.”
Vazgen Khachikyan also stated that he was responsible for the installation of a gas delivery system in Akhtala It turns out however that practically no one has contracted for any deliveries.
Pensioner Meghak Mkrtchyan complains that. “They tell us we have to pay 100,000 drams up front to get gas. How can I pay such a sum on my 30,000-dram pension? We’ve told them to first deliver the gas and gradually take the payments out of our pension.”
Gurgen Vardumyan adds that, “They also tell us that we have to go to Alaverdi to make our gas payments. What’s the matter? Is it so difficult to open a payment center for us here in Akhtala?”
Residents of Akhtala get water once every four days. Mayor Tamazyan states that, “Come the elections the water flows every day so it’s a problem that can be fixed.” In response Vazgen Khachikyan says that, “With my mediation the government of Greece completed a grand water distribution project here in Akhtala in 2002 and gave financial assistance to the Mayor’s Office. The Mayor implemented the project. If he was a good mayor he should have completed the work so that the waters flowed.” He then added, “Do you have any idea how big the budget is and how the monies are spent? Have you asked the Mayor how is it that 7 million drams, out of a total budget of 34 million, was spent to purchase a Mercedes-Benz car for his personal use? Compare this to the $4,000 - $5,000 that Henrik Kochinyan, a former Regional Governor of Lori, dared to spend to purchase a similar Mercedes-Benz.”
When discussing the community budget Mayor Tamazyan said, “ Everything regarding the budget is normal.” The annual budget of Akhtala comprises some 34.5 million drams. Revenue from personal taxes was forecasted to be some 9.6 million drams but the amount realized actually was 17 million drams. The Mayor explained that the surplus was the result of 8 million in back taxes being paid and that the budget was free of wage and other liabilities. Credits granted by the ROA government amounted to some 16 million drams.
Budgetary expenditures mounted to 32.6 million drams of which 16 million went to ‘general community services’. The community’s reserve budget was forecasted at 8.2 million drams but actually amounted to 7.3 million. It was from this reserve that Mayor Tamazyan allocated some 7 million drams to purchase the Mercedes that Khachikyan alluded to earlier. It was also evident that the residents of Akhtala hadn’t a clue as to the expenditures financed by the community budget. In this context the following reply by Akhtala resident Garnik Adamyan was all telling, “Why should we know about such things?”