by David Stepanyan
The action of protest organized by I'm Against! public interest groups in front of the Finance Ministry of Armenia is spiraling into a clash with police.
ArmInfo's correspondent on the spot reports that the finance minister refused to meet with the picketers and give explanations regarding application of the mandatory accumulative pension system beyond the Constitutional Court's decision. Instead, the head of the financial ministry staff expressed desire to talk to the picketers, who refused to negotiate with the official. Picketers have blocked Nalbandian Street, which is one of the central streets in Yerevan, which resulted in the traffic jam. Police are trying to lead the picketers to the pavements to open the road for traffic. In fact, the picketers and the police officers started the so-called "wall-to-wall first fighting."
Earlier, on Thursday, Civilnet reported referring to a source at the Finance Ministry of Armenia that the Ministry is drafting amendments to the given law to bring it in line with the Constitution. Particularly, the amendments will turn the mandatory charges from the monthly salaries into a tax.
To recall, the voluntary accumulative pension system was introduced in Armenia on Jan 1 2011. The system became compulsory starting Jan 1 2014. According to the bill, the minimal pension in the country will be equal to the minimum wage, while the basic pension will total 150% of the minimum wage. The compulsory accumulative pension system will apply to the citizens born after Jan 1 1974 (the citizens below 40). Starting Jan 1 2014, 5% of their salaries will be transferred to their personal accumulative accounts. The government will transfer a similar amount (but no more than 25,000 drams). People are discontented not only at the mandatory component of the system but also at the absurd situation following the Constitutional Court's decision of January 24 that suspended some provisions of the Law on the Accumulative Pension until the Court considers its constitutionality on Mar 28 2014. The Court suspended Article 76 stipulating responsibility for refusing to make compulsory pension contributions or failing to do in time and Paragraph 3 of Article 86 saying that the employees covered by the system should choose a pension fund. Nevertheless, the Finance Ministry of Armenia urges employers to calculate and make accumulative pension payments and employees to choose a pension fund and a manager for it. The picketers call the given approach a robbery.