By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government voiced on Tuesday its opposition to a legislative initiative envisaging a modest rise in the measly benefits paid to pensioners. Government officials urged the parliament to reject a bill that would raise state pensions currently averaging $10 a month by up to 30 percent.
The bill, drafted by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) which, has been endorsed by two parliament committees. The head of the Dashnaktsutyun faction in the National Assembly, Aghvan Vartanian, said that despite severe financial constraints the state can find additional resources to underwrite the proposed increase.
However, the head of the State Social Security Fund, Frunze Musheghian, warned that the government would be unable to raise 13 billion drams ($23.6 million) in extra revenues to finance the pension increase. “Given the existing financial situation, we believe that this measure is not realistic,” Musheghian said.
But Vartanian and several other lawmakers countered that far less money would be required to raise the pensions.
They also suggested a sweeping overhaul of the pension system, alleging that the official number of pensioners is inflated. In the words of Hranush Hakobian, a former social security minister, said during debates that there are now 400,000 retirees in Armenia, and not 516,000 as is claimed by the authorities.
Voting on the bill is expected on Wednesday.