By Shakeh Avoyan
The Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) cited on Wednesday the findings of new research to substantiate its assertion that most Armenians do not live off external cash remittances and are therefore not suffering from the dollar’s continuing dramatic depreciation.
Karine Karapetian, head of the bank’s statistics department, said a household survey commissioned by the CBA has found that only 37 percent of Armenian families regularly receive and rely on hard currency sent by their members working abroad. She said most of those families are part of the middle case, contrary to the widely held belief that the beneficiaries of remittances are mainly low-income people.
However, this claim seems to be in conflict with the survey’s finding that the incoming financial assistance is enough to meet only the basic consumption needs of 76 percent of its recipients. Only one percent of them can afford to save some of that cash.
CBA Chairman Tigran Sarkisian and other officials have consistently insisted that poor households have been largely unaffected by a more than 40 percent plunge in the dollar’s value against the Armenian dram that has been registered since January 2004. They say a strong dram has meant low inflation, which is far more important for the poor.
Government critics claim, however, that the Armenian authorities have been “artificially” bolstering the dram to siphon off a large part of the hard currency flowing into Armenia and benefit a small circle of government-connected importers. The CBA has repeatedly dismissed the claims, blaming the dram’s appreciation on recent years’ sizable increase in the volume of the remittances.
According to Karapetian, they totaled at least $940 million last year and are projected to rise by 17 percent this year. The dram has already gained 13 percent in value against the dollar since January, reaching a new high this week.