Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fight for your rights.

Today's 'AZG' has two articles that were of interest to me. The first one was about plans to build small dams and hydro-electric plants on the Vanadzor river in the Vanadzor gorge. To sweeten the deal, the builder, 'Hasmik Ltd.', is offering to build recreational facilities next to the damns which they label as 'our investment in Vanadzor'.

There are three arguments against the plan. The first is that building these dams will saturate the ground and cause mud slides. Apparently, there have been such plans in the 60-s but geological studies have indicated that once built, the dams will be dangerous and will cause the ground to slide down towards the populated areas a few kilometers downstream. Also, there is a list of rivers that the Armenian government has that allows the building of hydro plants and dams, and the Vanadzor river is not on it.

The second argument is that the amount of electricity generated will be so negligible that any investment in the project will not be recovered in the foreseeable future. As such, it does not make sense for a reasonable businessperson to invest money in the project.

The third argument is that all this is a ploy for the Hasmik Ltd to prepare ground for privatizing the gorge. Argument number two, combined with the offer to build recreational facilities, is what makes me suspect that this is the true motive behind all the hoopla. The area in question is the only area available to the Vanadzorci for recreational use. As a kid, I have gone there for weekend picnics, BBQ or gathering mushrooms. There are a number of restaurants but most of the area is public. If someone privatizes the area, the chances of it remaining available to the public are slim to none. In its dog-eat-dog philosophy, the Armenian government does not have a policy of making sure that the public lands are open to the public. Te public lands are leased to private parties who then restrict the public access to these areas. The citizens thus become serfs in their own country.

There is a big outcry in the city among the intellectual elite and concerned citizens who want to make sure they remain free and the owners of their own fate.

The second article was about the continuing practice of marshrutka drivers smoking. This is a direct violation of the law about smoking. Apparently, there are notices plastered in these minivans but the drivers ignore it. The passengers are reluctant to do anything as they are not willing to get into an argument with the occasional grumpy driver.

The problem is, if you don't fight for your rights, nobody else is going to. The non-smokers are lucky that there is a law and they got the law without a fight as it was presented to them by the government pretending to be a European country. All that is required of them now is to put a little effort to defend their rights.


Haik said...

I remember Bolor kar and the Ergi Ton. I guess the Ghshlaghetsi mayor has an eye on that place as well. When all of this will come to an end? These are the ills of capitalism.

nazarian said...

It's not capitalism, Haik, it's cleptocracy. There is nothing wrong with capitalism functioning in a democracy where everybody has equal rights.

haik said...

people can not have equal rights if the gap between their capital ownership is wide. At the end the capital owners (land owners) become the bosses and the noncapital owners (peasants) become their workers. In that level the capitalist tells the non capitalist what to do (in developed countries: brainwashing). So at the end Halliburton sends non capitalists to Iraq to fight for its interests. However when the capital is shared between the people - the possibility of equlity is higher. modern day examples are the co-ops which usually are very successful businesses. There are very big co-ops in Basque country (Mondragón Cooperative Corporation).

haik said...

Also see John Lewis Partnership which employs over 64.000 partners in the UK and provides the best customer experience in the UK. On the other hand look at Harrods - a rotten place.

nazarian said...

re:"people can not have equal rights if the gap between their capital ownership is wide".

Very true. That is why in capitalist societies the non-capital owners have the chance of owning capital. A simple stock ownership qualifies as such. The elites may dislike it but they realize that it is to their advantage as well. Unfortunately, historically, the societies have had the elite that has owned the bulk of the resources and the power. A successful modern society is the one that manages to spread the wealth somehow.

It may not be because of unconditional altruism but in order to prevent social unrest. You keep the ones who are to be employees (due to many factors such as social background, education level, ambition or intelligence) happy through high level of living standards, and provide avenues for the ambitious and successful move up the social ladder.

nazarian said...

BTW, isn't Harrods owned by a Saudi? I'm sure you know the kind of wild capitalism the elites in the Middle East practice where anyone of lower social standing is openly despised. At least the Westerners are polite in doing that or truly less hostile or snobbish.