Armenia’s main North-South Highway blocked for two days during protest
Employees of nearly two dozen road-building companies involved in the construction of the North-South Highway blocked the Ashtarak-Talin road section yesterday and the day before.
Approximately 800 people have not received salaries for the fall of 2018. The government says that the contracting company is to blame for the situation, and they, in turn, blame the government.
This is the the second time builders have blocked the road demanding wage arrears. The route was closed for the first time in December 2018.
The Spanish company Corsan Corviam Construccion is responsible for the construction work under the North-South investment programme. The amount of wage arrears is more than two billion drams (more than four million dollars).
“For 10 months they’ve just kicked us around like a ball. The company says that they owed money to the government, but the government says that they have already been paid. We were not paid for work performed from August to November last year”, said worker and demonstrator Gurgen Hovhannisyan.
Builders organized the protest rally to make those responsible respond to the situation, be it the government or construction company.
Armenian government’s position
The Armenian government states that all of its financial obligations to the private company implementing construction work has been fulfilled and it itself has nothing to do with salary delays.
“We can assist them in some issues, but we cannot pay them instead of Korsan Korviam,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.
The protesters have been promised an audience on May 31. They then opened the highway, but with the condition that if their demand is not met, the protest will continue. The participants of the demonstration stated: they need the whole payment amount, they are tired of waiting.
What is the North-South Highway?
The North-South highway is the largest transport project of independent Armenia.
This road should connect the north of the country with the south. From the north it will connect Armenia with Georgia and through it, Armenia will gain better access to the Black Sea and European countries. From the south, the highway connects the country with Iran.
Thanks to this project, Armenia can become a transit country.
Construction work began in 2012, but so far only one of the five sites has been commissioned.
The authorities will have to find financing to complete the construction, and, most likely, this will be the money of international lenders.
The new authorities of Armenia stated that they intend to continue building the road. However, from December 2018 construction was suspended.
According to experts, the project is too costly. They offer to invest in other strategic programs which could have greater economic effect. Even by the most conservative estimates, the 490-kilometer trunk will cost more than two billion dollars.