The Armenian government unveiled on Thursday a first-ever package of socioeconomic benefits for tens of thousands of civil servants and members of their families.
The government said that starting from next year it will pay for their medical insurance, education and recreation as well as subsidize mortgage loans borrowed from commercial banks.
According to Finance Minister Vache Gabrielian, the government’s draft budget for 2012 sets aside 18 billion drams ($47.6 million) for that purpose.
“Nobody in a particular ministry or government department will be in a position to decide whether or not it’s worth making such payments. Everything will be standardized,” Gabrielian said during a weekly meeting of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet.
In particular, he said, the Ministry of Economy will approve a list of resorts in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh where the 100,000 or so state officials and their families will be able to spend their vacations at the government’s expense.
“This will spur the development of tourism in the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” Sarkisian told ministers.
It was not clear if the state will pay for all types of healthcare expenditures incurred by the civil servants. The scale of governing funding for their housing loans was also not immediately clarified.
Some government employees interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) were skeptical about the unprecedented benefits package. “This is such a small sum that it will not be enough to cover even 1 percent of what they are talking about,” said one of them.
“I don’t think that will happen. Even if it does, it won’t be a big deal,” claimed the middle-aged man.
Another civil servant said the government should instead spend the 18 billion drams on raising public sector salaries.
According to the National Statistical Service, the average monthly salary in the Armenian civil service stood at almost 141,000 drams ($376) as of last July, up by about 6 percent from the same period in 2010.