One option is to increase transport fares, but that could lead to mass civil unrest " />

Route taxi drivers go on strike demanding lower compressed natural gas prices

One option is to increase transport fares, but that could lead to mass civil unrest

The drivers of a number of public transport routes in Yerevan have gone on strike today in protest against the recent hike in compressed natural gas prices.

The drivers noted that their expenses have increased considerably; they have to spend AMD 45 000 (almost USD 93) more when filling up their vehicles compared with the previous month.

The drivers termed the price hike as illegal, saying they refuse to work without profit as they spend their entire earnings on fueling their vehicles.

“We struggle for our means of subsistence, for our families. Gas prices have increased, as well as on motor oil and other transport-related stuff.  In addition, the available gas is of poor quality. There was a time when we made 5 trips a day on AMD 6 000 (USD 12), whereas now we need AMD 8 000 (USD 18). We want to work. So they’d better drop the prices,” said a driver.

The Hike in the gas price is due to a new tax law that recently came into effect. Under the new legislation, the excise duty rate has been raised, resulting in a 10-15% increase in gasoline prices.

Henrik Navasardyan, the head of Transport Administration at the Yerevan Mayor’s Office promised that things would improve. In his words, fixed-route taxis are still operating so the situation can’t be regarded as a mass strike.

“Those who complain are just a couple of drivers rather than the entrepreneurs operating the route. It could possibly be ‘’masterminded’ by some internal forces. Minivans run their routes as usual and none of the routes have been suspended. Only 2-3 drivers have gone on strike. We can’t deny that there has been a hike in prices, but that’s not the best way to solve the problem,” said the official.

The drivers say they don’t believe the officials’ pledges. Their primary concern is that they are working hard but they still can’t make a living.

We don’t want empty promises and fairytales, we need solutions and the way out of the problem,” said one of the drivers.

Edmond Marukyan, an MP from the opposition faction Yelk believes that the recent hike in fuel prices will lead to an increase in prices on other goods. Consequently, the citizens will have to pay more for essentials. According to him, prices are expected to go up by 20-30%.

The MP said that the government couldn’t raise the transport fares to meet the drivers’ demands as that would trigger mass protests in the capital.

The opposition is going to organize a protest march to prevent further hikes in prices on other goods and to demand an amendment to the tax legislation. It’s still unclear whether the government is going to make certain concessions or not. The only thing known so far is that the Parliament will address this issue.

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