The government on Thursday spoke out against an almost 67 percent increase in the national minimum wage which is sought by Armenia’s second most important parliamentary party.
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a member of the ruling coalition until June 2012, proposed the measure with a bill that could be debated by the National Assembly soon. It says the minimum monthly wage must be raised from 45,000 to 75,000 drams ($183) to boost living standards in the country.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet made a negative evaluation of the bill, essentially predetermining its rejection by the pro-government majority in the parliament. It said the BHK measure would require 177 billion drams ($430 million) in additional annual expenditures by the public and especially private sectors. This would place a huge financial burden on them, it said.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Artem Asatrian said a more modest and gradual rise in the wage is far more realistic given the state of Armenia’s economy. He said the government plans to raise it to 50,000 drams next year and on to 70,000 drams by 2017.
“If we opt for drastic changes we will risk having a higher unemployment rate,” Asatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after the meeting.
Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, dismissed these arguments and said the measure is needed because of “terrible inflation” in Armenia. She said the government can finance higher salaries in the public sector if it stops “wasting budgetary funds.”
Zohrabian also claimed that the government’s stance is politically motivated. She said all BHK bills drafted over the past years have been rejected by the executive.
The party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian has harshly criticized Tigran Sarkisian’s economic record since pulling out of the government in June 2012.
According to official statistics, the average monthly wage in Armenia stood at over 144,000 drams ($350) as of June, a year-on-year increase of 2.3 percent.