Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian met with representatives of the opposition minority in Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday to discuss the future of the controversial pension reform initiated by his predecessor.
Participants of the meeting told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that it focused on the implications on a recent Constitutional Court verdict on the measure which was handed down the day before former Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s resignation.
The court effectively overturned the Western-backed reform that requires Armenians born after 1973 to contribute sums equivalent to 5 percent of their gross wages to private pension funds in addition to social security taxes paid by their employers. However, its tricky verdict at the same time gave the authorities until September 30 to correct this and other provisions deemed unconstitutional.
The court chairman, Gagik Harutiunian, clarified afterwards that the pension reform can be enforced in the meantime. Tax authorities have since done just that, sparking fresh street protests in Yerevan by hundreds of mostly young workers covered by the reform.
According to Artsvik Minasian, who represented the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) at Tuesday’s meeting, Abrahamian expressed readiness to put forward legal amendments that would make the transition to the new pension system optional for the affected workers. Minasian said a relevant government bill will be submitted to the parliament later this week.
Minasian revealed that the recently appointed prime minister also asked Dashnaktsutyun and the three other opposition parties represented in the National Assembly not to table their own amendments purportedly stemming from the Constitutional Court verdict. “But we will discuss the issue only after we get the government bill,” he said.
Hakob Hakobian, a senior pro-government lawmaker who also took part in the meeting, did not confirm that Abrahamian pledged to scrap the key mandatory component of the reform. “The final decision will be made by the government,” he said.
A government statement on the meeting said Abrahamian only reaffirmed his pledge to ensure that private or state employers are not fined for refusing to withhold the extra sums from workers’ wages and channel them into one of the two pension funds.