Life in Armenia becoming increasingly poorer and expensive

Life in Armenia becoming increasingly poorer and expensive

For several weeks, the issue of the higher growth of consumer goods has been vigorously discussed in Armenia. It is especially acute due to a number of objective reasons, first of all, the poverty level in the republic of 29.4% and low salaries. Preparations for the upcoming New Year are also making things worse: on the eve of the holiday, everything is becoming more expensive, but this time the prices have started to grow much earlier.

The National Statistical Service of Armenia interviewed over five thousand Armenians in the framework of the 'Poverty and Social Panorama of Armenia' survey to find out how much money they need for survival, good and very good life. According to the results of the poll, on average, one person needs 347,234 drams ($723) per month for good living, 655,060 drams ($1,363) - for very good living, 120,523 drams ($251) - to make ends meet, whereas the minimum wage in the country, according to the latest official statistics, is 55,000 drams, and a nominal average monthly wage in the last year was 188,851 drams ($393). At the same time, there is little optimism in the prospects: 31.5% believe that the new generation would be worse off, 19.7% - the situation will remain unchanged, and only 23.2% of respondents believe that life will improve. At the same time, the poverty level in Armenia in 2016 amounted to 29.4% of the permanent population.

The situation with prices is even more difficult. The same National Statistical Service published consumer price indices for January-November 2017, presenting the Top-10 products, which prices grew the most during the year - from November 2016 to November 2017. Butter holds a 'place of honor' in this rating, which price increased by 40.7%. Its price has increased by 5,5% with just one month. Pork, the price of which increased by 40.3%, ranked second. It is followed by potato (29%), fresh and frozen fish (28.2%), mutton and lamb (26.9%), beef and veal 12.9%, cheese and cottage cheese (8.5%),  fresh and frozen seafood (8.5%), olive oil (6.5%), as well as baby food (3.2%). On average, meat prices increased by 9.6%, fish and seafood prices - by 25.1%, oils and fats prices - by 14.5%, and dairy, cheese and eggs prices - by 4.3%. In general, according to the National Statistical Service, in November consumer prices rose by 1.1% and for foodstuffs - by 1.8%.

However, that's not all: in addition to the rise in price, the assortment and quality of products are expected to decline in Armenia, according to the economist, member of the Board of the Armenian National Congress Vahagn Khachatryan, Zhamanak newspaper writes. "Our opportunity to choose will decline sharply. We had the bitter experience of the USSR - there was a washing powder 'Aina', which was produced in Yerevan, and there was Iran's 'Bars', which was produced by French technologies. It was more expensive, but it was of high quality, so it was extremely difficult to buy it. We have the same problem now. The goods that are imported to Armenia are lagging behind those that are imported to Georgia in terms of their quality. We will face the inherent psychology of the USSR once again: of asking someone to bring us something from abroad," the newspaper writes.

But this is not the worst thing. The worst is the indifference of the authorities, which the impoverished population is facing: "The poor spend a little, hence, the price hike makes the poor to spontaneously avoid more expensive goods. But the state policy should protect the unsecured strata from price hikes if the price increase hits them. Now, there is no need for the state to do it. The poor people have a habit - they avoid buying expensive goods," the chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Health Care and Social Affairs, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia MP Hakob Hakobyan said recently, the Zhoghovurd newspaper writes. "In other words, according to Hakobyan, the price hike does not harm the poor, because they do not have any money anyway and they do not buy things: what difference would it make to them if meat and butter prices increased?" the newspaper says.

However, it seems that it's only the press which reacts to the antidemocratic statements of 'people's' representatives. The editor-in-chief of Aravot speculates on how to react to Hakobyan's statement: "Deprive him of mandate? It generates more reservations. Even if there are appropriate legal mechanisms, is it right to deprive the deputy of the mandate for any opinion expressed by him, whether democratic or not, clever or stupid. Yes, the chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Social Affairs should understand that butter or meat are not luxury goods, but are part of any modern person's menu, and that the increase in prices for these products is a painful blow to the poor. But depriving him of mandate would set a bad precedent.  The best way to punish a deputy would be to deprive him of the opportunity to be reelected, and in a normal society, Hakob Hakobyan would never  be a deputy again. But the election time will come, the voters will be reminded of Hakobyan's charity, and the deputy mandate will be in his pocket one more time," the editor concludes sadly.

(1000 drams = $2.07)