“Community Enlargement: More Effective Management or New Challenges?”
On November 10, 2011, the Government of Armenia adopted the concept of “Community Enlargement and Formation of Inter-Community Unions” which aims to unite small and weak communities into a large community and form a new local self-governance model.

According to the concept, the community center should occupy a central position, have at least 3,000 inhabitants and have a transport hub, which will connect the settlements on the main roads.

Despite the fact that the enlargement process has been going on for several years, however, dissatisfaction over the process does not stop in the enlarged communities.

In 2017, among other communities it is envisaged to enlarge the Akhuryan community of Shirak marz, including the surrounding villages of Aygabats, Arevik, Basen, Kamo, Karnut, Hovit and Jrarat. 

Representatives of the above-mentioned communities have dissatisfaction and concerns over the consolidation process.

Media Center held a public debate entitled “Community Enlargement: More Effective Management or New Challenges?” on July 7 with the participation of community representatives who expressed their concerns about the process and the responsible officials.

Ashot Giloyan, Head of the Department of Local Self-Government of RA Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, presented the objectives of the community enlargement and the positive outcomes in the enlarged communities.   

Aram Antonyan, Head of the Department of Local Self-Government and Republican Executive Bodies of RA Shirak Regional Administration, touched upon the issue of complaints in the communities, noting that mostly heads of communities complain who will no longer work after the enlargement.

“Even if there is dissatisfaction among the residents, I do not think they are informed and they have discussed the positive and negative aspects of the enlargement,” Aram Antonyan noted, adding that the positive experience of the enlarged communities is very prominent, and the residents will hardly have a reason to complain.

Heads of communities did not share the optimism of the officials; in particular, the heads of the communities of Basen and Arevik expressed their points of view. 

As a reply to the officials’ accusations that heads of communities who are going to be deprived of this position, are complaining, Hamlet Petrosyan, Mayor of Basen, responded that they had the right to complain, as their constitutional right was violated. Since they have been elected by the community for a four-year term, the government will cease their powers five months later.

Problem of property rights and the inability to impact on decisions 

Hamlet Petrosyan considers the most fundamental issue about the enlargement to be the lack of impact of small communities on the decision-making mechanism and the possible arbitrariness associated with the disposition of community property.

“The worrisome thing is that the community's property will also be enlarged. This is very dangerous for us. The main property of our community is pastures, the land, the main occupation is agriculture and cattle breeding. If the community were enlarged, everything would be concentrated in Akhuryan, and most of the council members would be elected from Akhuryan. And if they do not take into consideration the opinion of the villager and lease pastures in their own way, what will we do? There were cases when held a Council meeting and they were against providing plots to build a service facility in the center of the village. In this case, they can easily ignore us, do not ask, whether the residents want or not,” Head of Basen Community said.

At the same time, Hamlet Petrosyan expressed support for the enlargement of governance and funding but repeated that he was against the enlargement of community ownership.

Gevorg Petrosyan, Head of“Biosophia” NGO, shared the concerns of Head of Basen community adding that the RA Constitution guarantees the right of ownership and the Government must follow it.

“There are already rumors about buying or renting of lands of two or three thousand hectares which should be due to the regular emigration of the local population, or the local population will simply turn into a labor force. If he is now considered a master, then he will be considered a worker for a businessman. We will form feudal order in the Republic of Armenia, if not slavery.”

Talking about the international experience in this field, Ashot Giloyan stressed that there is no such thing that this reform would last for 6-7 years, only in Armenia it lasted so long. The official assured that the state will not save a penny at the expense of funds allocated to communities.  

“Reform does not mean that any public service provider is enlarged, enlargement concerns only to municipalities,” Giloyan said.  

Seryan Martirosyan emphasized that it is necessary to inform people about the processes that are most relevant to them. 

“It is written in the Constitution of Armenia, in the concept of enlargement but nothing has been done. The government is approaching the problem in a managerial style, this is an authoritarian approach,” Martirosyan said, adding, “It is necessary to stop. We have conducted studies with our organization, there is absolute ignorance. There is no word in the Constitution about the enlargement, who decides that not two but 8 communities should be enlarged?”

To watch the video, follow the link.  

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