Yerevan’s Mayor Hayk Marutian shelved on Wednesday his controversial plans to sharply raise his and his top subordinates’ salaries.
Under a bill drafted by his office, Marutian’s monthly salary would rise from 575,000 drams to 1.2 million drams ($2,500). It calls for similarly drastic pay rises for his deputies and other high-ranking members of the mayor’s staff. A much larger number of other, lower and mid-ranking municipal workers would have their salaries raised by only around 30 percent.
Citing this disparity, the two opposition groups represented in the city council were quick to reject the bill after it was made public last week. Some of the council members representing the ruling My Step alliance also strongly objected to it at a meeting with Marutian held on Monday.
Marutian defended his plans, saying that they are primarily aimed at benefiting 1,700 or so people working for the municipal administration. He said that he would have liked to keep his own salary unchanged but is legally not allowed to do that. He insisted that the uneven wage increases are also mandated by Armenian law.
Nevertheless, the well-to-do former TV comedian decided to remove the controversial bill from the agenda of a council session which was due to debate and vote on it.
“I want everyone to be convinced that this is the kind of document which we want to have … We will widely discuss it, inform our population and then come back to this auditorium,” he told the council controlled by My Step.
Davit Khazhakian, a leader of the opposition Luys bloc, again accused Marutian of mismanagement and said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian is also responsible for it. Khazhakian singled out a worsening situation with garbage collection in Yerevan.
The 42-year-old mayor rejected the “populist” claims, saying that he needs more time to address “a problem that hadn’t been solved for 20 years.”
Marutian further claimed that the Yerevan municipality was “Armenia’s most corrupt agency” when he took over it in October as a result of My Step’s victory in snap municipal elections. “I can tell you for sure that systemic corruption in the mayor’s office does not exist anymore,” he declared.