07, 2008

President Serzh Sargsyan visited the Yerevan City Hall

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Today President Serzh Sargsyan visited the Yerevan City Hall and conducting a working meeting on a number of significant issues related to the city’s life. According to the President “these issues should be addressed through the joint activities and united efforts.”

In his remarks the President of Armenia mentioned, in particular that “Problems existing in Yerevan are observable for all of us, we see them and we have to firstly solve the problems which do not demand large investments. After that we should reckon over the problems, solutions for which require considerable means.

Evidently, it is not possible to cover all the issues in one day, during just one meeting. Moreover, it is impossible to solve all of Yerevan’s problems in short period of time. However there is no doubt that we are obligated to speak loudly about these problems and disclose the way we are dealing with them. There is also no doubt that we should be persistent not only in unveiling the problems but also in addressing them.

I have had numerous meeting with the residents of Yerevan – during the parliamentary elections, as the Head of the Government and, of course, during the presidential elections. I was told about many problems, many questions were raised, and I promised to work on them. Thus, I think nobody should doubt that we are ready for hard, serious but at the same time very important and gratifying work.

I am confident that if we combine our efforts we will be able to achieve noticeable results in the short period of time. If any one is doubtful about this, or is not ready to give his or her best to serve Yerevan, then that person should think about finding another job. The City Hall is a structure which should employ people who realize that they work for Yerevan and for its residents. I would like to repeat that the residents of Yerevan are expecting much from the city administration.

Many of you present here can give a few names of the people, who are well-respected and cherished by the residents of Yerevan, such as former Mayors and employees of the City Hall. Regrettably, those people were working here during the Soviet times. Today you have a great opportunity to do a great job and make good names. This opportunity doubles daily. It doubles also because the City Hall as well as the Government and the state in general every day find new means to beatify Yerevan and make it more comfortable for living.

In general, I would propose that in our work we are guided by two principles: first, as I mentioned before, Yerevan should be comfortable for living, and second, the problems of Yerevan must be solved not at the expense of its residents but for their benefit.

I attach special importance to the second principle. I would like to bring an example: the development works of the recent years, despite their huge impact and positive results, created social tension which we could have and were obliged to avoid. I don’t mean to underestimate the accomplished works; on the contrary, they are very important. I believe that they granted Yerevan a new look and ushered a new stage of development. However in every successful accomplishment we should be aware of shortcomings to be able to avoid them in the future. With this regard I would like to bring the example of Kond neighborhood. Thank God, today development works do not create additional tension. Over a hundred development projects have already been implemented and so far there have been no reverberations. No reverberations means no complaints. In cases like this we should constantly be guided by the principle of offering the residents new apartments in the same neighborhood. It serves also the developer’s interest. However, the problem is quite different if the resident doesn’t want to live there. In this case a person should be offered a market- based deal. Undoubtedly, the residents themselves should understand that they can’t shoot for astronomical figures, and realize that they have no right to impede development of the city.

Our capital is a dynamically growing organism. It is quite natural that on the background of the country’s general development, Yerevan’s development is advanced. We should be able to figure out the problems that may pop up in the future and should be able to decide on the compound measures that will be necessary to withstand the challenges. It is very important. It is also important that the City Hall does not get lost in the everyday routine. Handling the routine is certainly a must but the City Hall should have people, a group of people who are looking forward, into the future, who see the future problems and can offer solutions.

With this regard I would like to bring another example and remind you that ten-twelve years ago one could hardly imagine that transportation would become one of the largest problems for Yerevan. The very fact that the City Hall has started to look for congestion solutions some time ago is certainly commendable. But on the other hand, finding junction solutions is not enough. We should have been able to allocate parking spaces ahead of time, during the development process. But today we have what we have, and we need to find other solutions.

Specials hold the opinion that traffic and other problems with transportation are not conditioned by the narrowness of Yerevan’s streets or because they were not designed to accommodate the existing number of cars, but first of all because very often restricted or unauthorized areas are used for parking. We should find other spaces for these cars.

When talking about Yerevan being a city comfortable for living, we, of course, mean also the architectural appearances of the city, and with this regard a lot is still to be done. Strict measures must be taken against all the attempts to distort Yerevan’s look. We must start, wherever possible, with the efforts to eliminate the errors which have been done before. Today we must stop entirely construction of the so called “objects” which mushroom in the green areas and on the sidewalks. It is unacceptable for me when in response to my question why there is a construction going on, the answer is that the permission was given two, three, or five years ago. I categorically prohibit such an approach.

The second issue related to the look of the city is voluntarism, which started back in the early 1990s, when whoever had a space or rented a space at the ground floor initiated “beautification”, cleaning, and alterations after which the whole building looks like a patched piece. And those patches do not add to the beauty of the city. I don’t think that the owner would do that if strict regulations were in place.

Another factor also commands our attention: when talking about Yerevan, many of us visualize a pink city. And generally, a lot has been said about Yerevan being a pink city. However the situation is somewhat different today. The situation is different because today we almost forgot about the cleaning works.”

Afterwards, the Mayor of the city, Ervand Zakharian presented the report on the activities of the City Hall in the social and economic areas for the first six months of 2008. Speaking about the development of Yerevan, he mentioned in particular programs related to the decongestion of the center and the neighborhoods, and the construction of underground parking lots.

The Director General of Renco Corporation and Armenia PPP Company, Giovanni Rubin and the Director of the Architectural Bureau of Haynakhagits firm, Rouben Hasratian, who were invited to take part at the meeting, presented the blue print of the five underground parking spaces to be constructed in Yerevan.

The President assessed the proposal regarding the underground parking as important and attractive. He noted that “If we start this project it must be exemplary. Eventually we should have regular, modern structures and parking spaces, additional green areas; we should set the example of doing construction business. Strict standards must be set and followed.”

The President of Armenia also said that in Yerevan any process immediately gets attention of the society. Therefore it is necessary to conduct persistent educational work so that the people get the right idea of what is going on.

Serzh Sargsyan spoke also about the culture of conducting construction works and other construction related issues and noted that enormous constructions damage the green areas, distort Yerevan’s look. The developers avoid spending additional money and don’t erect protective walls around their construction sites. They also disregard the necessity of removing the construction garbage outside the city. “We must stop damaging the green areas, or cutting down the trees. Moreover, after the completion of the construction works the green areas must be augmented,” the President of Armenia stressed.

Speaking about the construction rubbles and damage caused by construction works, Serzh Sargsyan once again turned to the problem of waste management and noted that it is not about sanitation only. It’s a larger problem. It is about the waste management and recycling in general. These problems must be resolved expeditiously through the combined efforts of the City Hall and community administrations.

Concluding the meeting, President Sargsyan said that his confidence in the city authorities would be conditioned by their ability to solve these problems. “If there is no confidence, all great initiatives and good work would meet with difficulties. We should do everything so that people realize that the City Hall is conducting its activities to make Yerevan a better place for its residents to live in, and there is no intention to conduct experiments or create artificial discomfort.”

According to Serzh Sargsyan, such an atmosphere could be created if there is confidence. For gaining that confidence the President of Armenia pointed out three necessary conditions: “First, promises must be kept, second, words and work must not run apart, decisions must be implemented, and no new decision should be made on the same issue every day or every week or every month. The people should know that if there is a decision it means it has been adopted after due deliberations and is aimed at reaching a long-time solution.”

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