By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian legislators will debate and most probably approve later this year a special pension bill that would enable them to receive almost twenty times as much as ordinary citizens do after retirement.
Authors of the bill representing various parliament factions indicated on Tuesday that the Armenian government does not object to the proposed measure, suggesting that it stands a good chance of being passed by the National Assembly at its session next autumn.
The draft law stipulates that members of the 131-strong assembly will be entitled to privileged pensions worth 75 percent of their parliamentary salary, which currently stands at 300,000 drams ($720) a month, after serving a full term in office and reaching the official retirement age of 65. The average monthly pension in Armenia is only 11,000 drams.
Mekhak Mkhitarian, one of the bill’s pro-government sponsors, argued that Armenian judges are already entitled to retirement benefits comparable to their wages which are also high by Armenian standards. He admitted that many Armenians will resent the huge disparity but said the proposed pension hike is necessary for boosting lawmakers’ “sense of responsibility.”
“You are right, the public may not understand it,” Mkhitarian told RFE/RL. “But such a measure has to be put in place sooner or later.”
There are presently only four elderly ex-parliamentarians that would be eligible for the proposed pension hike. The bill’s sponsors estimate that the number of such individuals will remain rather small in the immediate future. Incidentally, two of them, Rafik Petrosian of the governing Republican Party and Edmond Tsaturian of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice), alliance have already reached the retirement age.
Mkhitarian, 55, acknowledged that most members of the current Armenian parliament are well-to-do persons who will hardly live off pensions after retirement. “Many deputies probably don’t need that. But we are not proposing this for concrete individuals or the current parliament,” he said.
In Mkhitarian’s words, the proposed measure is designed for “the kind of parliament which is desired by the people.” “Unfortunately, this is not the case today,” he said.