Pension Law Row: Government-drafted amendments approved, controversy continues

Pension Law Row: Government-drafted amendments approved, controversy continues

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The government-drafted amendments to the controversial law on funded pensions were adopted by the National Assembly (by a vote of 67 to 18, with 29 abstentions) in the second and final reading on Thursday, but those opposed to the reform in its current form still feel unsatisfied and vow to continue their struggle.

According to the changes initiated by the government, those employees who are already in the compulsory pension contribution system can submit applications to their employers about withdrawing by September 30. This would relieve the employer from the obligation to make pension contributions on behalf of these employees.

Besides, those obliged to make payments are considered not liable for failure to make payments or delay in doing so during the period before the amendments came into force.

Meanwhile, during the debate representatives of the minority factions in parliament voiced their concerns that this latest government initiative could also prove unconstitutional because the April 2 decision of the Constitutional Court states that the government cannot dispose of the property of citizens, in this case their salaries, while the new amendments imply it.

Eventually, Orinats Yerkir, Heritage and the Armenian National Congress (ANC) voted against the bill. (ANC faction member Hrant Bagratyan abstained). The Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation also abstained (two PAP members voted against the bill, while PAP member Vartan Oskanian opted out of the vote despite being present in the chamber).

Nikol Pashinyan, who is affiliated with the ANC faction, said that by this measure the government “is trying with half-measures to put everyone in a situation in which we’ll face a fact and won’t be able to do anything.”

According to Pashinyan, the government allowed citizens and employers not to make their share of contributions, but at the same time the government will continue to pay its share.

“The bad news is that the cumulative system wheel will be spinning and gaining momentum. And in September the government will say that this system works and it is impossible to stop the work,” the oppositionist told media on Thursday, adding that more than 10 billion drams (about $24 million) will have been paid to the pension funds before September 30.

The changes made to the law on funded pensions do not satisfy also the Dem.am civil initiative that opposes it.

Activist Hayk Avetisyan told ArmeniaNow that they will continue their struggle, because they are convinced that after the suspension of the compulsory element of the law in many places attempts will be made to unreasonably force people to make the payments. So, according to him, it is important that people continue to stand up for their rights.

“Our demands are very clear: first of all, don’t make deductions from people’s salaries, don’t worsen people’s social situation, which means that no deductions from salaries can be acceptable to us,” said Avetisyan, adding that thus the government is trying to take care of its own expenses at the expense of people’s salaries.