The Armenian government approved on Thursday major increases in modest pensions and other social benefits paid to hundreds of thousands of people.
The government said in particular that the average monthly pension in Armenia will rise from 28,700 drams to 31,300 drams ($82) starting from January 1. The minimum pension will be raised by about 24 percent to 13,000 drams.
More than 500,000 Armenians, or about 16 percent of the country’s population, currently receive retirement benefits.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet also announced a 9 percent rise in the average amount of poverty benefits paid to some 105,000 low-income families. It will stand at 29,350 drams a month in 2012.
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Artur Grigorian said the government also eased eligibility criteria for this assistance. “As a result, many more poor families can be included in the social security net in 2012,” he told journalists.
The government decision also envisages more than 20 percent rises in even more modest monthly benefits paid to people with disabilities and families of deceased army soldiers.
Opposition politicians are certain downplay the measure. They will argue that social security payments will still be below the per-capita poverty line set by the government and point to the increased cost of life in Armenia.
“I do realize that the amount of pensions is such that we still cannot declare that we pay pensioners enough to meet their needs,” said Grigorian.
Pensions and other social programs have accounted for the single largest share of Armenian government expenditures in recent years, and this will remain the case next year. The government’s total budgetary expenditures are projected to grow up by about 5 percent to 1.04 trillion drams ($2.74 billion).