Notes From Hairenik
January 29, 2011

It's been nearly a month now since the new mayor of Yerevan and former head of ArmRosGazprom Karen Karapetian, imposed a ban on selling produce and goods on the street. The ban effectively likely put thousands of people out of work overnight. Not even fruit stand owners can display their merchandise in front along the sidewalk.

The ban also applies to anyone selling anything, from sunflower seeds to chewing gum (although one rather intimidating old man who hangs out near the Opera House is still peddling, ironically where there's an active police presence). The reason of the ban was supposedly to clean up Yerevan's streets. Now they are barren and whatever lively character the city had has been erased. It seems surreal.

The vendors always seemed to have been respectful to pedestrians, keeping out of the way of foot traffic, and they generally cleaned up after themselves. In spots where people sell fruits and vegetables for instance I have never seen even one stray piece of parsley at the end of the day lying on the sidewalk. People who defied the ban were allegedly shooed away by police.

A couple of days ago on my street I saw a few vendors secretly selling their usual merchandise from oversized reinforced nylon bags that they held in hand. Yesterday they disappeared again.

One of the mayor's closest advisors should have talked him out of imposing this heartless, ill-conceived citywide ban. It simply isn't fair to force so many people out of business, all of whom make a modest, not to mention honest living. They all have regular customers because they offer high quality produce and reasonable prices, certainly cheaper than in the markets. Instead the mayor should crack down on the drug dealers peddling their junk to kids in the neighborhood -- I personally saw a deal go down last summer from my balcony.

A couple of weeks ago hundreds of vendors assembled in front of Yerevan City Hall in protest to the ban, but as far as I know their complaints were heard only for a single day. Had they kept going back perhaps something would have changed, it's hard to tell. But if they had the backing of Yerevan citizens chances are the ban would have been overturned. That didn't happen due to persistent inaction. In the meantime, the apathetic, self-destructive mentality that "the country's not a country" remains the general public's conviction. Gee, I wonder why?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
honest living is arguable - i doubt many pay taxes. not that i am for or against the ban, just pointing out another aspect of the issue.

Blogger Marash Girl said...
What in the world could the mayor have been thinking? I just don't understand. Could you explain in your next blog, please?

Blogger Marash Girl said...
What is the Mayor thinking!!!??? Will his attack on street vendors have the same results as in Tunisia?

Blogger Ankakh_Hayastan said...
What is the reason behind this? I suspect two options:

1. the mayor has interests in the supermarket/grocery shops in Yerevan;

2. the mayor is mimicking the actions of the new Moscow mayor.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
To the best of my knowledge, vendors were protesting for at least a few days, not one (see here and here and here

I too am missing the street vendors who were respectable toward potential customers, cleaned up after themselves and offered good quality and mostly local produce at reasonable prices (all good points you raised in your post, Christian).

Though I may understand the arguments for "cleaning up the streets" and vendors perhaps not paying taxes, I think it was a horrible decision on newly elected mayor Karen Karapetyan's part — especially as his first action as new mayor! There are many other problems Yerevan has (drug trafficking one of those you pointed out) and I think there are other issues Karapetyan could've addressed FIRST before depriving local vendors of perhaps their sole source of income.

And to answer some (perhaps hypothetical) questions as to what the mayor was thinking: yes, chances are if he isn't in some way involved in the supermarket chains, he is trying to at least get big business' support.

Anonymous ARMEN said...
We can talk about this every day but let's talk the truth...

Anonymous Ara Manoogian said...
The mayor was not appointed to take care of the needs of the people, he was appointed by SS to take care of SS and his cronies needs. You don't get the mayor job if you have nothing to offer the powerful people at the top something. I feel very sorry for the street vendors and only wish that before imposing the ban, they had giving time for people to find alternative sources of income.