Yesterday while driving past Yerevan City Hall my wife and I couldn’t help but notice a couple hundred or more people in front of the main entrance. Some were holding placards reading slogans like “Mayor Keep Away.” We didn’t know what was going on at first until we went online later in the afternoon
Turns out according to a News.am article that it was in response to a recent ban imposed on independent fruit and vegetable vendors operating on the sidewalks of Yerevan. In other words, anyone selling things from lemons to mixed greens to apples and persimmons in small neighborhoods — even in courtyards — are no longer allowed to do business. These vendors from what I’ve seen are mostly middle aged and they’re doing what they can to make a buck. Some come to Yerevan from far away places, like Gavar on Lake Sevan, to sell produce, while others are from around the block. Not everyone can afford to sell in the open marketplaces, probably because they can’t afford the rent, so they set up shop on the sidewalk, but never allowing their merchandise to impede foot traffic.
Throughout the year City Hall cracks down once in a while on these people, who are what you might call assiduously modest entrepreneurs. They mark up their stock by 50 dram, and on a good day they’re lucky to make 4,000 or 5,000 dram, or around $11-13. I know this because I’ve spoken to them. They are just trying to get by the only way they can while being in business for themselves. It’s true, they pay no rent, and I don’t know how many are actually paying taxes. But they’re not the ones City Hall or the Armenian government for that matter should be going after.
The vendors themselves are for the most part decent people, and they pick up after themselves after they’re done for the day, at least from what I’ve seen, so I don’t understand the arguement that their trading is “dangerous” as the municipality claims.
This ban actually applies to anyone selling anything on the sidewalk. Near the Komidas market for instance you could find people selling cellophane bags, combs, or incense just to make a buck.
Based on the recent actions of the new Yerevan mayor Karen Karapetian, it is obvious that he has no idea how the other half lives or even wants to know. Karapetian, the former head of ArmRosGazprom who was hand-picked for the job by President Serge Sarkisian, seems to be mired in the ways of the elite. If he had any comprehension of how ordinary people are trying to make an honest living, he would never have imposed such a heartless, ill-conceived ban just after taking office.
You can read more about the situation on RFE/RL.