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I AM ALONE WITH MY PROBLEMS

Anushik Avetyan

How I can pay, if I use electricity. I do not have gas. During winter water is getting frozen. My neighbor gave me cardboard for heating my house during the winter time. But it does not help”, - says pensioner Gohar Harutyunyan.

For Gohar Harutyunyan, who is 64 years old is real challenge to overcome cold winters for almost 10 years. She is living alone in town Artashat, which is located 30km southeast of Yerevan. Her only income is her pension. “I am alone with my problems, nobody helps me. Daughters have their families, my son has his life. They hardly take care of their children” , - says Harutyunyan.

It is already 10 year, that Harutyunyan has the third class of disability. (  The competence of establishing disability status is attached to the agency of RA medical-social examination, which is separate subdivision of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia. According to the above mentioned resolution the basis of the definition of disability is the degree of restriction of one's vital activity). She has problem with heart and bones, thereby with walking. On January she passed a  regional state commission for disability at  local hospital in Artashat,  which gave her lifelong status of disability. Now Harutyunyan gets age and disability pension from the state together, which 26500 drams/ 64$ /.  “My twenty years working experience and the third class of disability for the government is equal to 26500 AMD'',- mentioned Harutyunyan.  

In Republic of Armenia pension problem continues to be crucial. In case if the citizen has from one to ten years  working experience, for one year experience he will get 700AMD/1.7USD. Starting from eleven year the sum is reduced to 450 AMD/ 1.08USD. Deputy Artsvik Minasyan,  who is attentively follows all the developments connected with this issue, says: “This is one of the elements of non-productive pension-system in Armenia, as its activity doesn't stimulate one to stay in the labor market for a long period of time, moreover, it forms  social injustice”. Minasyan thinks, that this approach worth reconsidering, in order the payable amounts were if not higher, at least equivalent to the years of length of service. There was an attempt to solve the problem by investing pensioner’s personal coefficient, but it didn’t guarantee the functioning of the whole social justice system  ether. Though, based on the budget 2014 pension increased from 3% to 42 %,   but it is still not comparable with the minimum consumer basket.

The average social pension in Armenia is about 32.000 AMD/77USD. While the price of the minimum consumer basket is 56.215 AMD/135USD (2013). ˝I think everything is already said by this: that the average pension is not enough even for the fulfillment of the elementary vital needs˝,- stated Hayk Gevorgyan, the head of economic department at Armenian Times newspaper.  

Minasyan is also concerned about incomparability of average pension and minimum consumer basket. ˝The solution to this problem should be increasing  the amount of credits to the pension system and the establishment of precise legislative liabilities, which will guarantee the amount of pension ratio-not less than the above  mentioned index˝,- says Minasyan adding,-in general,  according to the international experience the amount of labour pension should comprise at least the 40 percent of his/her remuneration  received during the years.  While in Armenia it doesn't even exceed to 25 percent.

Life becomes real challenge for Gohar Harutyunyan to live one month relying only this little amount of money. “I could hardly pay for water, electricity and other related expanses.  Every day I am taking medicine for insomnia, for blood pressure,- annoyingly says Harutyunyan,-also, once a week I need to take medicine for bones: four pillscosts 12000 AMD/29USD. I need to live for that money during one month:  I can’t borrow money, how can I return it.

According to the National Statistical Service  there are 512.505 pensioners in Armenia, from which 13%(68.000) gets minimal pension 14.000AMD/33USD. Hayk Gevorgyan  is sure that the average pension can be doubled, if the government shows willingness. Pension  problem is not unsolvable, but its solution is  on quite another layer. As Gevorgyan accliams, according to some scientists about the half of the economic subjects  of Armenia are in shade/it means some businessmen bribe officials fornot to pay the whole taxes/Due to the routine reduction of shady business it is possible to essentially increase the sum of the Social Security Fund, without additional taxation of employees’ wages. According to the experts’  calculations only about 1 milliard unpaid taxes are hidden in the mine industry, which flow into the offshore zones. Recently an information was published that during the last 3-4 years more than one milliard USD flowed out from Armenia. This one milliard was quite enough for doubling the financial ability of the Social Security Fund and the payable pensions as well. (Based on Global Financial Integrity Research Center’s publication “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2002-2011” 6.2 billion dollar illegally flowed from Armenia)

It is worth to say, that we have quite another picture when we look through the pension for “special people” : The previous presidents, judges, attorneys, ombudsman, prime minister and etc . If the maximum pension for ordinary citizens is 93.700AMD/225USD(if he has 83 years (working experience), the minimum pension for “special citizens” is 300.000AMD/722USD. Their maximum pension is 1.000.000AMD/2409USD.

The problem becomes more vulnerable especially now.  According to National Statistical Service, the number of people who can work and get salary has decreased by 116.0009. The number of entrepreneurs, that is the number of people who get income from their own business, has decreased by 11.000(within 4 years:2008-2012),- says Gevorgyan,-These are of course the results of the official statistics and are obviously edited”.

“Even with these figures the tendency becomes obvious: the number of  working people decreases, while the number of pensioners increases. This means, that the burden on the wages of the working population is growing, -comments Hayk Gevorgyan,- That is, the employed should pay more and more taxes for covering the necessary amount for paying” .

Gohar Harutyunyan is one from 512.505 pensioners, who confesses that the government will do nothing in future, but still relies on the only income she get from the state.

 When I asked what kind of food you are byeing during a month, she stopped speaking, hide the glance  and started to cry. Then told only macaroons, potatoes, bread and  oil. She couldn’t even remember when she bought meat last time.  “I don't want to speak about it, I am proud person. We will overcome everything, but I don' know how and when”, - says Harutyunyan. .

According to demographic predictions already in 2050 the number of people of retirement age may comprise over 25 percent of the population, conditioned with the decrease of birthrate tempo,  emigration as well as lengthening of the living age.