The Armenian government increased on Thursday modest poverty benefits paid to more than 100,000 families in an effort to compensate them for a 10 percent rise in electricity prices.
The decision was recommended by President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday immediately after the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PRSC) formally approved the higher energy tariff, citing losses incurred by Armenia’s national power distribution company. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian was quick to instruct the ministries of finance and social affairs to propose a financial compensation.
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Artem Asatrian said the poverty benefits currently averaging about 30,000 drams ($74) per month will grow by 1,000 drams. He said this will be enough to cover the additional electricity expenses of some 105,000 low-income families receiving such benefits.
According to government estimates cited by Asatrian, an Armenian family consumes an average of 200 kilowatt/hours of electricity each month. The daytime electricity price will rise by 3.85 drams to almost 42 drams per kilowatt/hour from August 1.
Opposition leaders and other government critics are certain to dismiss the government measure as insufficient. They will likely argue that many Armenians living below the official poverty line are not eligible for poverty benefits. The official poverty rate in the country of some 3 million residents currently stands at around 33 percent.
The Armenian opposition claims that the price hike will push up the cost of other essential goods and thus increase poverty. Government officials deny this.