By Atom Markarian
Next year’s budget envisages increased allocations for social needs, yet pensions and welfare benefits, as figures suggested by government members suggest, will rise at a slower pace than wages of working people.
Nevertheless, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Aghvan Vardanian is satisfied with the growth of budget allocations for his sphere.
As compared to this year, these allocations in 2006 will increase by 8.5 billion drams, reaching 55.5 billion.
“We will have a noticeable growth in almost all of our main expenditure projects – for children, families, disabled and elderly people,” he said.
Allocations for welfare benefits for poor families will increase by about 4.5 billion drams, with the size of an average benefit reaching 15,300 drams, instead of this year’s 12,000. At the same time, the number of beneficiary families will be reduced by about 4,000.
According to budget forecasts, next year part of the families receiving benefits will receive paybacks for their savings lost in the Soviet bank.
“What we have is a database of beneficiaries containing information as to how many of them are above 70, how many are disabled, which group of disability they have, but it will take months of work to establish how many of them had deposits and in what amount. This is not part of our ministry’s responsibility. I think an interdepartmental group or a similar commission will be set up to deal with this issue,” Vardanian told RFE/RL.
He added that there are only 40,000 pensioners on the beneficiaries list of whom only one part actually had deposits in the Soviet Savings Bank. Besides, according to the minister, there is a problem of identification of people receiving compensation of their deposits.
“Deposits were made only by name and surname and date of birth with old passports. Until we have new passport data for these people, we cannot achieve full identification,” he said.
The minister also announced that 26 new social programs will be realized next year at the expenses of additional budget allocations.
Next year’s draft budget for the Social Insurance State Fund was also submitted to the National Assembly for consideration on Monday.
The Fund’s Executive Director Vazgen Khachikian said that the Fund’s expenses will grow by more than 10 percent next year, reaching 94 billion drams.
“This budget gives an opportunity to make qualitative changes. This is not just a stability budget, but I can say it is also a development budget,” he added.
According to the draft budget for the pension fund, it is expected to increase the average pension by about 20 percent. The basic pension will reach 4,250 drams instead of today’s 4,000, and the extra paid for each working year will increase by 20 drams – from 160 to 180 drams.
Since the start of this year compulsory social security payments have been levied by the state tax service, as a result of which the revenues of the fund increased by about 25 percent.
Health Minister Norayr Davidian is also satisfied with the increased allocations from the budget. Allocations for public health next year will increase by about 7 billion drams, or 22 percent, which will make it possible to make outpatient medical services in polyclinics totally free.
“Primary health will become free, which will enable people to use medical services more easily,” the minister said.