Tag Archives: earning a living in Yerevan

Yerevan Vendors Unite to Protest Ban

market2Yesterday 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.

The Troubles of Making a Living in Yerevan

The Armenian Weekly recently published an article that I wrote about a gasoline vendor who is based in the Aresh district of Erebuni, Yerevan. Here’s an excerpt:

A truck filled a tank in his garage that held one metric ton of gasoline at least once a week. The gasoline was then poured into 5 or 10-gallon water jugs to be transported to the front of the house and filled into vehicles.

Now, because of the latest in a string of lawsuits filed jointly by his immediate neighbors, Habajian loads the jugs in the trunk of an old Latvian hatchback that barely runs. He tells his customers who pull up in front of his garage to follow him 100 meters down the street, stopping in front of a tiny auto parts store where he fills as much gasoline as his clients need.

The issues with his neighbors began in February. When the authorities arrived to inform him of the complaints, he removed his gas tank. Subsequently, the media televised that the tank had been removed.

The government is required to inspect his premises for safety violations; yet despite protests from his neighbors, nothing dangerous was ever determined to have been transpiring while running his business.

Although owning an independent gasoline station in Armenia is indeed possible, the related operational costs and tax payments offset the advantages of running one. The overwhelming majority of cars are fueled by natural gas, which makes the volume of gasoline sales low by comparison.

You can read the entire article on the Weekly’s web site.