Widespread poverty in Armenia has declined slightly in the last two years thanks to renewed economic growth, according to the government.
Government data and estimates show that one in three Armenians still lives below the official poverty line despite the country’s improved macroeconomic performance.
In its latest household income report released on Tuesday, the National Statistical Service (NSS) said the poverty rate decreased from around 36 percent in 2010 to 35 percent last year.
Finance Minister Vache Gabrielian suggested earlier this month that the official figure has eased to 34 percent this year and will fall further in 2013 due to continued economic growth, which he said will translate into 10,000 new jobs.
The poverty rate gauged by the NSS stood at 24 percent in 2008, down from 54 percent in 2004. The Armenian economy expanded at double-digit rates in that period.
A more than 14 percent contraction of the country’s Gross Domestic Product during the 2009 global recession plunged many Armenians back into poverty. The economy began slowly recovering in 2010 and is on course to grow by 7 percent this year. The government has forecast a GDP growth rate of 6.2 percent for 2013.
Officials say a more than 10 percent rise in public spending envisaged by the government’s draft budget for next year will also boost living standards. Opposition lawmakers dismissed these assurances during parliament debates on the bill that began earlier this month. They said that the projected spending rise is too modest to make a difference.
Presenting the findings of the household survey to journalists, a senior NSS official, Diana Martirosova, likewise said that the government should spend more on social security and other poverty reduction programs. “Minimal resources needed for overcoming poverty need to be at least doubled,” she said.
Some opposition deputies also claimed during the parliament debates that poverty in Armenia is more widespread than is shown by official statistics. Gabrielian denied that.