Poverty in Armenia decreased in 2014 for the fourth consecutive year, the National Statistical Service (NSS) said on Monday, presenting the findings of its latest nationwide household income survey.
The survey conducted last year found that 30 percent of Armenians lived below the official poverty line set at just over 42,600 drams ($84) per person. The NSS registered a poverty rate of 32 percent in 2013.
“Three in ten residents of the country did not surpass the monthly income level of 40,264 drams,” Diana Martirosova, a senior NSS official in charge of the survey, told a news conference. She attributed the decreased rate to the fact that the Armenian economy grew by 3.5 percent in 2014.
Poverty in Armenia fell more rapidly during an almost a decade of double-digit economic growth that came to an end with the onset of a global financial crisis in late 2008. The Armenian poverty rate stood at 27.6 percent at that time. It soared to almost 36 percent in 2010, one year after the country’s Gross Domestic Product shrunk by over 14 percent.
The Armenian economy is still reeling from that severe recession, growing much more slowly than before 2009. Economic growth is expected to remain sluggish this year and in 2016 due to knock-on effects of an ongoing recession in Russia.
This is why the Armenian government’s draft 2016 budget envisages virtually no rises in public sector salaries, pensions and poverty benefits. Opposition politicians and other critics of the government say that with inflation averaging roughly 4 percent annually, this means that many Armenians will be worse off in real terms next year.
The critics are bound to question the latest poverty figures by saying that the official poverty line is set too low given the cost of living in the country.
Stepan Mnatsakanian, the NSS head also present at the news conference, insisted that his agency used objective criteria for measuring the scale of poverty. He admitted, though, that his family spends each month over 50,000 drams on utility fees alone.
According to the NSS, the official monthly wage in Armenia stood at almost 185,000 drams ($385) as of September, up by 7 percent from the same period in 2014.