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Sara Petrosyan

Custom and Tax Burdens Force Many Syrian-Armenian Entrepreneurs to Forego Setting Up Shop in Armenia

A group of Syrian-Armenians, who have relocated to Armenia and want to transfer their businesses to Armenia, met today with Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan.

Their request - more favorable tax and customs regulations that would make the move feasible from a business perspective.

“Our suggestions dealt with manufacturing,” said members of the Union of Syrian Armenians (USA) during a discussion of the issue at the office of American Bar Association in Yerevan.

The Syrian Armenian entrepreneurs say that current customs duties and local taxes make it impossible for them to relocate their manufacturing capabilities to Armenia.

Thus, several entrepreneurs have already looked elsewhere to relaunch their businesses; for example, Egypt. They say that they would prefer to relocate their assets to Armenia since they cannot predict the future political environment in other countries.

They say that many Armenians still in Syria, listening to the negative analysis voiced by their compatriots in Armenia, will not be setting up shop in Armenia. Lamenting the fact that Armenia will be deprived of new jobs, thus, the entrepreneurs add that the country will lose out in terms of national enrichment.

The Syrian Armenians requested that they be freed of all customs duties, both on their business and personal assets when relocating to Armenia. At a minimum, they would like to see a custom free zone set up where they could at least temporarily warehouse their manufacturing assets before deciding whether to stay or leave.

All this comes on the heels of Prime Minister Karapetyan’s remarks stating that the diaspora must be more deeply engaged in the development of Armenia.

Members of the USA said that Karapetyan requested that they put their suggestions in writing for government review. The suggestions, naturally, must be sustained. That’s why the ABA brought in lawyers and tax specialists in the discussion.

A vexing question is how will an individual prove that the assets imported to Armenia belongs to an Armenian fleeing Syria, or whether it belongs to another who is using the cover of this or that entrepreneur.

The Syrian Armenian entrepreneurs say that such documentation is lax in Syria and that, perhaps, the consulate of Armenia in Aleppo could facilitate such ownership matters.

Another hot-topic dealt with the repayment of loans provided by the Armenian government.

To assist in the relocation of Armenians from Syria, the government provided loans of five million AMD, payable in five years at a reduced annual rate of 5%, to 100 Syrian Armenians; the early arrivals.

Only 25 have been able to make timely payments on their loans; their business ventures were successful. Another 25 have been taken to court for non-payment.

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