The Caucasus press review (November 18-24)

By Vestnik Kavkaza

The New Times paper of Yerevan reports that there is great activity in Gyumri (Armenia), where the 102nd Russian military base is located. Roads are being cleaned and coated with asphalt, buildings are renovated. The city is preparing for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will arrive on December 2.

The president is expected to inspect the military base, take part in the annual Armenian-Russian economic forum in Gyumri. City Mayor Samvel Balasanyan denied rumours that the city would be closed during the Russian leader’s visit and access will only be granted for holders of special passes. Vaan Tumanyan, leader of the Shirak-Center public organization, told a local paper that a visit of a high-ranking official, especially a state leader, was without doubt good for the city. In his words, the last time streets in Gyumri were coated with asphalt was in 1992-1993, when Margaret Thatcher arrived for the opening of the school named after Byron.

The Russian base is in the state of instant readiness for deployment. It will be expanded and strengthened in the near future. According to Armenian Deputy Defense Minister Ara Nazaryan, the Russian military will get new territories for a helicopter squadron and for construction of administrative buildings and fuel warehouses. An area will also be provided at the Erebuni Airport of the capital. 18 new helicopters have been moved to the base this month. Until now, the number of soldiers at the base has not exceeded 5,000, about a division. A missile division equipped with S-300V and BUK-MI-2 systems, a Smerch missile artillery and MiG-29 fighters are stationed at the base. It will be further enforced.

Military expert David Arutyunyan said that the trend to enforce the Russian military presence in Armenia had started long ago but had activated when Armenia had announced readiness to join the Customs Union. The processes are no doubt interconnected, the expert believes. The Russian military base is gradually becoming more multifunctional. It used to serve as mainly an air-defense facility with ground forces as auxiliary. Its ground forces have become much stronger. The new helicopter park will make Russian infantry much more mobile. This, according to the expert, is significant for Armenia and the whole region because the base becomes more effective in projecting Russian military and strategic influence in Trans-Caucasus and the Middle East.

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The Azerbaijani parliament passed the budget for 2014 with a deficit. Income of the state budget will total 18.384 billion manats, expenses 20.063 billion manats (1 manat = $1.28). Thus, the deficit will total 1.679 billion manats, or 2.87% of the GDP. Expenses will increase by 1.1%, income will drop by 4%.

The Zerkalo paper says that reduction of income of the state budget is a result of dropping transfers from the State Oil Fund. In 2014, they will drop by 2.013 billion manats. Expenses will total 10.888 billion manats, capital expenses 8.401 billion manats. 781 million manats will be spent for servicing of the internal and governmental debt.

Commenting on whether the budget shows a change of state strategy, Gubad Ibadoglu, head of the Center for Economic Research, said that it was a different approach, and that corrections in the state budget that may be praised. The government, in his words, wants to get more income from the non-petroleum sector and reduce petroleum expenses. The expert believes that transfers from the State Oil Fund (SOFAZ) should be forecasted for the next years and fiscal rules should be set accordingly. “Transfers from the SOFAZ were reduced in the budget project of 2014 by 17.7% but we do not know their volume in 2015,” explained the expert. In his words, his organization has studied experience of some states and classified it into four groups. The purpose of the research is to give the Azerbaijani recommendations to regulate transfers of oil income to the state budget of the country.

The first approach, like in Norway, is to use no more than 4% of oil income a year.

The second approach is to correlate the growth of income in the non-resource field of economy and use oil income. For example, if the non-petroleum sector grows by 9%, transfers that year should drop by the same amount.

The third approach is to use the Kazakh system. The government there has a stable sum of $8 billion for oil transfers. The sum may change by a maximum of 15%, depending on the economic growth rate of the country. The bigger it is, the fewer transfers there are.

The fourth approach means that 30% of income will be accumulated. The method was presented at the State Oil Fund and the Ministry for Finances.

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The Georgian Times published an open letter of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili after his resignation. It is called Postscriptum. Ivanishvili said that people who thought that he was resigning to avoid responsibility had absurd thoughts. He said that he was not afraid of entering politics in such a complicated situation, when the country was on the edge of entering a long period of authoritarian rule, when the society was in full despair and lack of prospects and opposition was utterly destroyed. “That was when I put my life, my family, safety of my children on the scales and decided to save my homeland. I managed to unite the best part of the political forces, brought the society into a single fist and force the regime of Saakashvili to hand over the power peacefully, without blood. And now, when I have brought real democratic forces to power, being at the meridian of power, I resign. Maybe it is hard for many to understand because there are few such examples. Maybe this is what confuses anyone because one of the main motivations for the majority of political parties and their leader is to gain power and control the country and state affairs,” the ex-prime minister wrote. According to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s assurances, he will not govern Georgia ‘from lobbies’ and will remain an active citizen instead. “The human rights, European values, striveing for Euro-Atlantic space, the fact that America should be our strategic partner, that we must systemize our relations with neighbours, including Russia, are my values, and if someone is against this, they should really worry because I will indeed influence this aspect,” warns the ex-prime minister of Georgia in his letter. In his words, he respects the values and has confidence that he will not give up on them at the age of 57. He believes that resigned leaders can affect the life and politics of the country, it is common practice and a tradition in democratic states. Ivanishvili urged Georgians to get through stereotypes and believe that the heart and mind of a man could reach out to becoming a free citizen, regardless of richness and power. “My temporary emergence in politics and my resignation were meant for realization of my dream,” concludes Bidzina Ivanishvili.

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“90 farmers have received grants worth 31 million rubles for development of family cattle farms” within the framework of the purpose program for development of family farms in Karachay-Cherkessia in 2012-2014, Den Respubliki reports. Authorities of Karachay-Cherkessia have decided to increase the number of owners of the grant to provide more farmers with state support. The main requesters of the grant are farms with cattle, agriculture, lands where new workplaces may open. The support will be a great contribution to further expansion of production and development.

The program for development of cattle farms in Karachay-Cherkessia was launched in 2012. 125 out of over 300 farms participating in the contest have received grants. The government granted over 44.7 million rubles. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of Karachay-Cherkessia, farmers purchased about 1,000 cattle, 2,000 sheep and goats, agricultural equipment worth 10 million rubles, seeds and fertilizers. 40% of farms were repaired. Overall, 253 jobs opened.

Another important social program is the Startup Farmer program. 85 farmers have received grants according to it.

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The Dagestanskaya Pravda paper reports that Dagestan and the Moscow State University named after Lomonosov signed a deal on November 18. According to the document, local authorities will make research proposals for the republic and send them to the university, encourage establishment of contacts and cooperation between scientists and teachers of Dagestan and the university, form programs for joint work in priority aspects of cooperation in science, education and innovations. The MSU will train high-skilled specialists for economic and social fields of Dagestan, take part in realization of programs for qualification-improvement and post-graduate training of specialists in the fields of economy, society, state service and management. The MSU will take part in complex assistance in realization of social innovative projects in the priority fields of development of education in Dagestan, develop and organize activities for improvement of prestige and formation of conditions for opening of new science schools, discovery and support of talented researchers, support of creativity of scientific young people. The paper adds that joint projects between educational structures of Dagestan and the MSU are being realized. The Dagestani Sciences Center of the RAS organizes joint projects with the botanic garden of the university. Chemical and physical faculties of the MSU has an agreement with the Makhachkala Education Department and the Institute for Qualification-Improvement to train Dagestani teachers. This concerns teachers of foreign languages. The DSU, Dagestani Pedagogic University and the MSU Faculty of Foreign Languages cooperate in this field.

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