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And you thought your government told big lies…


June 27, 2012
Yerevan, Armenia

Despite being neighbors, there are no flights between Tbilisi, Georgia and Yerevan, Armenia. No reason to bother with air travel from one poor country to another, I suppose, the demand just isn’t there.

So I opted for the train. Specifically the overnight Armenian train. And everything about it is a throwback to the Soviet days… Metal seats. Bathrooms without running water. No food. And that’s the first class carriage.

The train creaks along like a rusty swing set, winding its way down the Caucasus Mountains for about ten hours through a nearly pitch-black evening devoid of any human civilization.

When we reached the border last night, we were ‘greeted’ by several gruff, slovenly Armenian customs officers sporting wrinkled GI Joe outfits and terrible body odor.

My fellow passengers consisted of several locals, some Japanese tourists, a few Europeans, and a handful of Iranian farmers.

I crossed the border with my US passport, and upon seeing this, one of the Iranians grabbed my arm and said to me in broken English:

In Iran, we like America. [Iranian president] Ahmaenijad is bad man. Very bad man.”

This has been a consistent theme from Iranians I’ve met all over the world. They’re an incredibly kind and warm people, not the evil terrorists often portrayed in Western media.

At the risk of getting all ‘We Are the World’ on you, I couldn’t help wondering whether these guys… just happy, simple farmers, would survive a US-led war with Iran, or perish in a drone strike gone bad. Perhaps they were wondering as well.

Anyhow, after a bureaucratic fiasco, we were all stamped in to the country and sent off to complete the rickety ride to Yerevan.

No doubt, while there are some nice parts of the city and a small handful of wealthy people, this is a very poor place.
When the train pulled in this morning, it was well past 8am… a time when most cities would be alive with buzz and bustle. Yet there was barely a vehicle on the street, hardly a soul in sight.

Within an hour or so, the city began to show signs of life; yet throughout the day, I was continually amazed at how empty all the shops and stores were, even in the nice parts of town.

The economy is here is quite ill– output is still well below 2008 levels, and the official unemployment rate is about 10%… though the propaganda department is excellent at conjuring statistic and inventing new mathematics.

For instance, everyone in Armenia who owns property is considered employed by the government, whether he realizes it or not.

The same government agency claimed that 620,000 foreign tourists visited Armenia in 2010. Private data from local hotels, however, showed only 65,000 visitors during the same period– a 90% difference. And you thought your government told big lies…

The actual rate of unemployment here is closer to 30%, and close to 50% for the youth. You can see it on the streets.

There are a few brightspots for the economy though. One is remittances–money sent back home from Armenians abroad.

Central bank data releases show that, after remittances soared by over 23% to $1.24 billion in 2011, the first quarter of 2012 is showing another 13.8% gain over last year.

Armenia counts so much on the inflow of payments from foreigners, relatives, and Armenians working abroad that regulators have made it easy for just about anyone to open a bank account here.

And just like neighboring Georgia, liquidity and capitalization ratios in Armenia are substantial. It’s not uncommon for Armenian banks to hold 35%+ of their deposits in cash or equivalents, compared to 5% or less in the developed West.

Mining activity is another bright spot. Sort of. The country has fairly generous deposits of industrial metals, gold, uranium, etc.

In typical form, though, many politicians use their positions for personal benefit. They award valuable mining concessions to holding companies that they control, then rake in millions of dollars selling the companies to foreign investors.

Everyone else has to figure out how to survive on $200/month.

Corruption is a major problem in Armenia. These Soviet-era kleptocratic practices hold the economy back and keep the people in a state of poverty.
Across the border, Georgia’s economy is growing because they’re working to stamp out corruption, incentivize investment, reduce red tape, cut taxes, increase transparency, and establish an environment where everyone has a fair shake.

There are two ways to become wealthy in this world– you can either create value, or you can steal it from someone else. One of these models is sustainable, the other is not.

This region represents a remarkable bifurcation in that decision tree… showing what happens when nations pursue a corrupt, rigged system stacked for the elite vs. following the path to economic freedom.

Our goal is simple: To help you achieve personal liberty and financial prosperity no matter what happens.

If you liked this post, please click the box below. You can watch a compelling video you’ll find very interesting.

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Just think about this for a couple of minutes. What if the U.S. Dollar wasn’t the world’s reserve currency? Ponder that… what if…

Empires Rise, they peak, they decline, they collapse, this is the cycle of history.

This historical pattern has formed and is already underway in many parts of the world, including the United States.

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Click the button below to watch the video.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • JohnComeau

    Simon, for a free man you sure put up with a lot of abuse from those who don’t recognize your sovereignty. But I’m glad you choose to travel anyway because my chances of getting this kind of first-hand info would be very slim otherwise. Thank you. And yes, my (US) government does tell big lies; enormous ones; and when it’s something too unbelievable, they don’t bother telling it, they just invoke executive privilege.

  • boogyoogyoogy

    Reading this article made me laugh out loud. I remember one morning opening my browser or E-mail to be confronted with an advisory that your site was a scam and I had to verify that I really wanted to visit it, before it would let me do so.

    It disturbs me  that the only source of this type, including all the news available, is your site. I simply can’t fathom why but instinctively, I know why. Thanks for the info and the occasional laugh, even if it is a jaded and cynical one!

  • Jay

    I read on Bloomberg this morning that 75% of Armenian trucks and cars run on natural gas. That’s one area, at least, where Armenia leads the world.

  • Yaknow

    Great work on the site Simon! I’m still waiting on my Chilean citizenship. Should only be a few more months now.

  • John The Reasonable

     And corporations don’t lie do they, Simon? They don’t employ child labor, pollute the environment, put artificial hormones in the food supply or any of that good stuff? I actually quite enjoy your site but your views are so myopic it is really quite astounding. You would have us believe that the State is the sole source of evil in this world which is absurd…

    • BlueCollarCritic

      I believe you have mis-understood the story.  The Federal Government of the Unit States is a corprate entity whose parent company is the international banking houses.  Criticisms of the Feds is criticism of corproations.

  • anonymous

    As for your government telling big lies, you can’t get a bigger lie than a bunch of ‘Muslim’ terrorists brought down the WTC.

    Watch this video to learn that the WTC complex was destroyed in accordance with its approved demolition plan ….. using 3 underground thermonuclear devices that had been stored beneath the complex from the time it was built:

    And as for Building 7 which collapsed for no apparent reason, watch this:

  • http://www.facebook.com/gevorg.sargsyan Gevorg Sargsyan

    Well next time you are in Armenia, contact me, and then you will have chance to know and write about Armenian startups that do kick ass, and change the country to grow really fast. BTW: when i am visiting US i see so many shit-holes, homeless and poor people that it makes me sick (and i am always staying at downtowns). If you research stuff and events happened in Armenia during last 20 years, it would look like a success story to sustain a country on that level. What is not clear to me, how the most powerful country in the world can have so much poverty among its own people…?

    • Cramerus

      You should read more about what the author has to say about “the most powerful country in the world” before you assume he bashes every other country while praising his.  Far from the truth.

    • BlueCollarCritic

      ” What is not clear to  me, how the most powerful country in the world can have so much poverty among its own people…?”
      Thats easy, most of us Americans are well conditioned to believe anything the media says without question and since the majority of media is owned by 5 mega conglomerates its not hard for those at the top to work together to present a reality to the Americans that they want versus actual reality  Case in point is the “these guys are evil terrorists” perception of Iranians that Americans have.  Most Americans are dead set on the idea that all Iranians have IED’s and that their goal is to kill as many Americans as soon as they get teh chance.  Reality is of coursse just the oppossite.
      Why would elites want to project this false image of the world to Americans?  In order to et the public to back otehrwise aggregious acts oof violence by US Military forces against countires like Iran.  If the US Public knew the reality of how Iranians are then they would not go along with letting powerfuol corproate entities have the US Government send in the military to clean house or do whatever it is the corproate giants desire,  Basically the US military is the private army of the elite few like the international banking houses.

    • Maggie

       Yes, Gevorg, that is our question too; and the only answer is that the government does not hold the original values as our original founders. ” We, the People” are not important anymore.  God help us all.  I love Armenian music, food and the wonderful people. 

    • pmiller683


      Here in America; one of the positive outcomes of a Two Party
      System – is that citizens get choices. I have traveled the US since the early
      1990’s for business. Visiting all of the major US cities; and in total well
      over 200 cities from nearly every state in the nation. There is a consistent
      common thread that is found in those towns and cities where poverty is at its highest.
      High taxes, volumes of regulation that are administered be inefficient local
      agencies and combinations of both that do not provide businesses the incentive
      to stay local or an incentive to come in from elsewhere. When there are no good
      jobs had for an area; the skilled labor force leaves and moves elsewhere (they
      go where the jobs are). Those that remain become a community of lower skilled
      and lower paid workers – the employers of high skill and labor have moved on.
      You will find that in 95% or greater of these local communities – The Democrats
      hold the seats in city council, county commissions, school boards, etc. The sad
      thing is – that many Republicans have actually admitted that they do not try to
      campaign in these cities and towns because they believe too much time and money
      will be spent for very little votes. So… The end result becomes a citizenry that
      only has one party fighting for and representing them. This provides no
      competition or incentive for the party in power to face real problems and
      improve their positions and efforts.

      This is not that hard to track – it has been a matter of
      public records since the mid/late 1960’s. Sad but true.

      The upside to America is the opportunity for a stronger;
      more vibrate middle class with a good quality of life. This has diminished for
      us in the last decade – but it is not too late to turn back the tide.

  • Scone

    What is going on with the new format on sovereign man {dot} com? There are just articles and not the usual writing from Simon ? Do we have to subscribe to the SMC CLUB to get the usual blog he writeds? sorely missed!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J7SEW7NDCLZEJJCS7CY74Q34FA yellowstone1

    Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Armenia has made great strides in improving its economy.  The nations of the West did not become democratic and espouse capitalistic values overnight.  Sure there are many obstacles (both within and external) that prevent Armenia from making a rapid transition; thus, to portray Armenia in such negative way without identifying the root cause of these obstacles, is misleading and inappropriate.  A landlocked country, Armenia’s borders are blockaded on two fronts, Turkey to the west and Azerbaijan to the east.      

  • BlueCollarCritic

  • NewThought

    Very interesting, all of you.  I’ve known for a long time that Iran is getting a bad rap.  I was married to an Iranian man and lived there from 1976 to 1979.  And to this day, in my experience, I feel that Iranian men are more civilized than are American men.  Sorry guys, perhaps I shouldn’t compare.   However, it has been my observation that the Iranian people have always liked Americans.  Frankly, I’m surprised that they still do, but I shouldn’t be.  If only we got the real story instead of the lies and propaganda the mainstream media puts out, of course we would know they are just like we are:  human kind.  I was there when the Shah left and Ayatolla Khomeini came back after being exiled in France. I remember being amazed at the idiocy of Iranians at that time.  You see, while the Shah was in power, all business establishments hung the Shah’s picture, and what did they do immediately afterwards?  They took down the Shah’s picture and hung Khomeini’s!  I couldn’t understand why they would do such a thing.  Didn’t they just get rid of a despot? 

    I remember when it was a privilege to be an American.  In those days, we still had freedoms and didn’t get shaken down every time we got on a plane.  My God, even Iran Air didn’t treat me like I was cattle to be probed and prodded.  I detest war, but I now see why our men enlisted in World War I and WWII (notice I didn’t mention those other events they like to call war but are not actual declarations of war).  I’d rather die fighting for my freedom than just roll over and let Them take them away from me.  I’m not advocating violence.  I’m just saying we must take individual personal responsibility for what is happening in the world, instead of taking the victim role. There’s a  major hoax being perpetrated upon us that is hard to miss.  There is one magic show after another being presented for viewing while global manipulations continue to restructure national and continental lines of demarcation.   The structure of the world as we know it is being dissolved at its very foundations.   What can we do?   We can shed the victim consciousness and regain the empowerment mode.  This can and should be done by each and every one of us on an individual basis by perceiving the world as we would like it to be, rather than the way it is.  Of course, this is up to each individual.  It is called free will.   We all have it.  It is our God-given right.  Then why do we allow these “people” to control us so.  What right do They have?  The answer is, None.  We let them. 
     So, it’s not only governments that are at fault. 
     Until enough of us understand this and transcend this way of  thinking, nothing will change. 

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