By Shakeh Avoyan
The number of Armenians living in poverty fell last year to a record-low post-independence level due to robust economic growth and more targeted social policies, according to a government survey conducted last year.
The year-long survey of more than 4,000 Armenian households, whose findings were publicized on Friday by a senior government official, claims that almost 51 percent of them live below the official poverty line. Previous government data put the figure at 55 percent.
“We had a four percent decrease in poverty last year,” Hrach Petrosian, a member of the Armenian National Statistical Council, told RFE/RL, adding that the main criterion of the research was the level of household consumption.
Petrosian said the improvement primarily resulted from the continuing growth of Gross Domestic Product which hit 9.6 percent in 2001. The government’s revamped social programs also played a role, he added.
The official per capita poverty threshold is currently set at 15,600 drams ($28) a month. Government data put the average monthly salary in the country at 25,200 drams. However, economists treat the figure with skepticism, arguing that large-scale hidden unemployment and employment, coupled with tax evasion, make it extremely difficult to determine the real amount of people’s incomes.