YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — A debt-ridden Yerevan chemical plant’s bankruptcy recommended by the World Bank is not “suitable” for the Armenian government, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Yervand Zakharian said during discussions in the parliament on Tuesday.
Zakharian stressed that the bankruptcy procedure for Nairit, a Soviet-built sprawling enterprise on the outskirts of the Armenian capital, would be much more costly for the government than its operation.
“It does not at all suit the government that the [Nairit] company becomes a bankrupt, because it will bring quite sizable financial expenses in its wake, as well as safety and [hazard] neutralization issues that will require millions of dollars in expenses over years,” the minister said.
“So, I want to state it with all responsibility and disprove the widespread opinion in society and in the media that the government is taking the company to dissolution. It is absolutely not true.”
After conducting relevant studies the World Bank has concluded that Nairit does not have the technical and financial viability for continued operation.
Minister Zakharian refrained from giving any assessments to these findings, promising, however, that answers to lots of questions will be provided during special hearings on the issue due in the National Assembly next fall.
Vardan Ayvazian, a lawmaker affiliated with the ruling Republican Party’s faction, told his colleagues that World Bank representatives had wished to talk about their evaluations related to Nairit in a closed-door discussion format without the presence of media. But a majority of Armenian lawmakers attending the discussion spoke against this suggestion and World Bank representatives eventually did not have speeches.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Nairit plant said they found the minister’s statements to be “reassuring”.
Hundreds of former and current workers of the idling chemical plant have held protests in front of the government offices in the past weeks and months demanding more than a year’s worth of back pay. Nairit owes an estimated $15 million in unpaid wages to its employees.
Energy Minister Zakharian reiterated today an earlier promise of Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian that the plant’s workers will receive their back wages by the end of July..