YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Saturday took an unannounced tour of several villages to learn about the life of local residents and problems they face in their rural communities.
“I have decided to make an experiment and without informing anyone visit a village in one of the provinces. I did not even inform the governor what village I am going to visit,” the prime minister said in a live Facebook broadcast.
“I just want to see what’s going on there, what are the problems that can be solved quickly, what people there expect from the government, which of their expectations we can quickly meet and what we need to work on?”
Pashinyan was in several villages in the Ararat province where he visited individual households, walked through the communities and listened to the problems raised by local residents.
The main complaints of the villagers in Ranchpar were related to the lack of pastures, problems with water supply and distribution of arable lands. Villagers there even argued with their local leader in the presence of the prime minister as it turned out that a local sand mining site, which the villagers complained about, belongs to mayor Manuk Ohanyan and his nephew.
“We used to have 20 hectares of land [for pastures] here, now nothing is left from that land as it has been turned into stand holes. They are extracting sand and taking it out. We don’t know what they do with that sand. Trucks laden with sand drive through the village day and night and people are lost in dust,” one of the villagers complained.
“Why don’t you raise this issue with your representatives, your community leader?” Pashinyan said.
“It is our community leader who is doing this. How can we raise this issue with him?” was the villager’s reply.
“Mr. Prime Minister, the sand mining site has a license, everything is by law, the government has allowed it,” the village mayor explained, acknowledging that he is the owner of that mine.
Later Ararat Governor Garik Sargsyan joined Pashinyan on the tour. It was at that time that one of the residents of the nearby village of Avshar raised the question of the new principal of the village’s secondary school.
“For five days students at that school have been on strike because they do not accept the newly appointed principal,” the woman said.
The governor clarified that the new principal was overwhelmingly elected by the school board rather than appointed.
The woman, meanwhile, claimed that the vote was “guided” and that the new principal brought with her a new head teacher, who was related to the provincial governor. Sargsyan denied having any role in that promotion.
Pashinyan visited the school where in response to villagers’ complaints that there is no kindergarten in their community he suggested that part of the school premises that is not used for classes or some other premises be provided for a kindergarten.
While visiting rural communities Pashinyan also heard people complain about poor roads and absence of natural gas supply. In connection with energy problems, the prime minister suggested that villagers consider installing solar panels instead of seeking installation of gas supply which he said may be unprofitable for the operator.
“God has given ample sunlight to this region,” Pashinyan said, advocating the use of alternative energy sources.