YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Students from the provinces studying at the universities in Yerevan must be given more financial aid, said Armenian Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian Tuesday while campaigning in the villages of Zaghkahovit, Talin, Abaran and Ashtarak in Aragatsotn Province.
Little changes make a bid impact on people’s lives, according to Hovannesian, who is also a member of the Bureau of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. University Students from the Provinces receive the same amount in subsidies as those who reside in Yerevan, while Provincial Representatives, who usually have their own homes in Yerevan, are given increased stipends in order to pay off their personal expenses, Hovannesian explained.
"Why don’t you receive a respectable stipend, when your representatives do?" Hovannesian asked rallygoers throughout Aragatsotn. "If we give extra stipends to provincial representatives living in Yerevan than we must give extra stipends to provincial students who study in Yerevan."
Since the start of campaign season in Armenia, Hovannesian has been touring the provinces, speaking to villagers in some of Armenia’s most impoverished and disadvantaged regions about issues of democracy, corruption, the economy, and social and political inequality. The vast disparity between a developing Yerevan and the almost lethargic state of the provinces has been among the core themes in the Deputy Speaker’s campaign.
In Aragatsotn, Hovannesian discussed with voters the country’s current tax policies and their negative effect on the provinces. People who own small businesses in the provinces are subjected to heavy pressure under the current tax policies, according to Hovannesian, who pledged to correct the tax system and create true competition. The provinces, he said, should be given privileged status when it comes to taxes in order to restore competition and create a free economic playing field.
Like in other provinces, Hovannesian pointed to systemic flaws as the culprits behind the continuity of corruption and mismanagement in Armenia. The country needs to undergo systemic changes. Changing one government official with another will not fix anything, he maintains.
"Throughout history, we have always been forced to choose between the bad and the worst. Why?" Hovannesian asked voters in Talin. "Do you want a change in the system, or just a change in the last name of the authorities?"
Part of the problem, Hovannesian maintains, is that the authorities are not accountable to the people. They are not appointed democratically and if they are elected, they win because they are able to buy victory.
"We have lost our faith in the current authorities," Hovannesian said. "I am going to restore the faith and trust, because I am going to remove the government operatives who oppress you. I don’t need people like that in Armenia. They will be put to work for the nation, and their sons–they will serve in the army."