By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government approved Thursday a nearly 20 percent increase in modest cash benefits paid to the country’s poorest families.
Government officials said each of some 129,000 low-income families eligible for state aid will receive an average of 15,000 drams ($34) a month starting from next year. They also announced similar rises in various one-off payments made to those families in case of child births and other urgent circumstances.
The measure stems from the government’s record-high budget for next year which calls for a 22 percent increase in overall public sector. Civil servants, school teachers and other public sector employees will have corresponding pay rises as a result.
“I think the presented figures are quite impressive,” Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Artsvi Minasian said, referring to the so-called “family benefits.”
However, they are hardly impressive when set against the rising cost of life in Armenia. The official poverty line, which many believe is set too low, is 12,500 drams per person, meaning that hardly any low-income family can live on poverty benefits alone.
Some of those families receive regular cash remittances from their relatives working abroad. Minasian admitted that the government has so far been unable to take account of those extra revenues.