Opposition members of Yerevan’s municipal assembly denounced Mayor Hayk Marutian on Monday for planning to double his and his top aides’ salaries.
Under a bill drafted by his office, Marutian’s monthly salary is to rise from 575,000 drams to 1.2 million drams ($2,500). His deputies would earn 947,000 drams, a large sum in a country where the average wage stands at 177,000 drams.
The bill also calls for similarly sharp pay rises for other high-ranking members of the mayor’s office. Most of them have been appointed by Marutian.
A much larger number of other, lower and mid-ranking municipal workers would have their salaries raised by around 30 percent.
Citing this disparity, the two opposition groups represented in the city council, the Luys (Light) bloc and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), said they will vote against the bill when it is debated later this week.
“The heads of [Armenia’s] National Security Service, police, State Oversight Service or State Revenue Committee would get lower salaries than some municipality officials,” argued Davit Khazhakian, the Luys leader.
“Regional governors would earn less than deputy heads of Yerevan’s administrative districts,” he said. “We have 22 deputy district chiefs.”
The BHK’s Mikael Manrikian also criticized the proposed measures as unfair. Manrikian said Marutian should on the contrary double the wages of his rank-and-file staffers and opt for a more modest pay rise for himself and other senior officials.
The mayor’s spokesman, Hakob Karapetian, dismissed the criticism, saying that the uneven increases in salaries are mandated by Armenian law. Karapetian claimed that the mayor would have liked to keep his own salary unchanged but cannot do so because of those legal requirements.
Marutian has already been under opposition and media fire in recent months over a worsening situation with garbage collection in Yerevan. He has pledged to significantly improve it in the coming months.
A former TV comedian, Marutian, 42, is a senior member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance. He became mayor as a result of the September 2018 municipal elections in which My Step won 80 percent of the vote.
The governing bloc controls 57 seats in the 65-member city council, putting it in a position to easily enact the controversial bill.