By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government approved on Thursday a modest increase in the tiny monthly benefits paid to hundreds of thousands of pensioners. The decision means that the average pension in Armenia, worth approximately $10 million, will grow by 15 percent starting next year.
Earlier this year the government opposed a similar measure proposed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, citing lack of budgetary funds. It was defeated by the parliament majority after intense lobbying by ministers.
The pension increase, the first since 1999, was welcomed by Dashnaktsutyun leaders attending the cabinet session. “We know that this is a very small sum. But still, it’s better than nothing,” said one of them, Armen Rustamian. “To tell the truth, this is not an increase in pensions, this is just their adjustment [to inflation], a partial adjustment,” he added.
The meager sums paid to retirees are nowhere near enough for their survival. Most Armenian pensioners live with and rely on their children. The government hopes to remedy the situation through the introduction of the so-called pay-as-you-can system whereby the size of a pension depends on the amount of social security contributions made by a person throughout their lifetime work. Minister of Social Security Razmik Martirosian said the new pension system will be phased in next year.