By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government approved on Thursday a 13 percent increase in state pensions which will still remain among the lowest in the former Soviet Union.
Ministers raised the average amount of monthly retirement benefits from 5,400 to 6,100 drams ($11), in a move that will hardly alleviate the plight of half a million Armenian pensioners. The new figure is still far below the unofficial subsistence level estimated by economists at $40 a month per person.
Officials indicated that even this modest increase would have hardly been possible without a continuing major revision of pensioners' lists. The head of the state Social Security Fund, Frunze Musheghian, said the revision has found that many people included in the lists are either dead or absent from the country. He said their relatives will no longer be able to receive their pensions in violation of the law.
As a result, the number of pension recipients has been cut by 10 percent to approximately 500,000 over the past three years.
Armenia posted the lowest increase in state pensions in the former Soviet Union in the first six months of this year. The highest growth was registered in Russia where the monthly amount of pensions soared by 50 percent to $32.
The government says the situation will improve after Armenia's transition to a new pension system based on the so-called pay-as-you-can principle. According to it, the amount of pensions depends on workers' life-long social security contributions.