By Astghik Bedevian
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian demanded on Tuesday that the Armenian government begin compensating the population for the dramatic depreciation of its Soviet-era bank deposits, a major theme of his socioeconomic discourse dismissed as populist by his foes.
Baghdasarian warned his coalition partners against scuttling the passage of a controversial bill that suggests a partial solution to the problem. He said agreement on enacting the bill was reached by his Orinats Yerkir Party, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) and the third coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) at a meeting with President Robert Kocharian last week.
“I hope that the political agreement will be honored by the Republican Party and other political forces that joined this initiative,” he told reporters, alluding to the HHK’s long-running opposition to the proposed compensation.
The bill in question, which was blocked by Markarian’s cabinet last year, was unexpectedly included on the Armenian parliament’s agenda on Monday. It calls for $83 million in public funds to be paid to the former deposit holders within the next ten years.
Leaders of the National Assembly’s largest faction controlled by the HHK continue to believe that the proposed sum is too modest to address the problem and would lead to a waste of scarce government resources. They indicated that they will block debate on the Orinats Yerkir bill, arguing that the government’s draft budget for next year does not earmark anything for the savings compensation.
“The budget must certainly include a relevant provision,” insisted Baghdasarian. “Armenia will have a $1 billion budget next year. This means the ongoing economic growth is allowing us to gradually address socioeconomic problems. If the fight against corruption becomes more effective, there will be even more funds at our disposal.”
Orinats Yerkir is represented in the government with three ministers. None of them is known to have opposed the draft budget approved by the executive last week.