Prime Minister Abrahamian announced on Wednesday a “de facto suspension” of the ongoing reform of Armenia’s national pension system that has met with fierce resistance from many workers covered by it.
Opponents of the reform dismissed the statement, however, saying that a corresponding government bill submitted to the Armenian parliament later in the day does not provide for a complete freeze on the unpopular measure.
Abrahamian said that the bill would effectively suspend “the mandatory component” of the reform, notably significant deductions from the monthly wages of some 270,000 workers born after 1973. He said the government is thus complying with a Constitutional Court ruling handed down earlier this month.
The proposed legislation stipulates only that public or private employers that have refused to withhold those sums from their wage bills since January will not be fined by tax authorities.
Leaders of the Dem Em (I’m Against) pressure group were quick to point out this fact. “There is no such thing. This is the only thing we can we can conclude,” one of them, Gevorg Gorgisian, said, commenting on Abrahamian’s declaration.
Gorgisian said it is still not clear whether the workers will still be required to transfer an equivalent of 5 percent of their gross wages to private pension funds. Dem Em will therefore continue its vocal campaign, he said.
Armenian opposition leaders also brushed aside the premier’s statement. “I’m afraid the proposed constitutional solution is incomplete,” said Artsvik Minasian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
“The prime minister’s statement corresponds, in spirit, to the wishes of the public and the Dem Em movement,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “However, the bill is substantially far from reflecting that statement.”
Ruben Hakobian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, also said that the government bill is not far-reaching enough. He said Zharangutyun, Dashnaktsutyun and two other opposition parties should therefore press ahead with their plans to draft legal amendments that would explicitly halt the reform.