The Armenian Deputy Prime Minister proposes raising the salaries of civil servants to mitigate the problem
Armenian state officials in various posts gave themselves bonuses in the amount of almost $1 million in the run up to the New Year.
The topic has since been actively discussed by the public and government.
Regional heads kicked off the bonus bonanza
The bonus bonanza began with regional heads in Armenia: journalists discovered that the governors and leaders of the Kotayk, Lori, Vayots Dzor, Armavir, Syunik and Ararat regions had given themselves and their subordinates enormous bonuses.
The governor of the Ararat region, for example, gave himself a bonus equaling 104.5% of his salary.
Governors make about 660 thousand drams ($1,340).
The move was severely criticized by the parliamentary opposition.
Bright Armenia MP Ani Samsonian stated that such behavior is unacceptable:
“I think that after this [scandal], the governors will at least reconsider their approach, because such generous bonuses from the state budget – and for employees who have not even worked for a year for the state at that – are unacceptable.”
The ruling party, however, claims that the governors did not violate the law.
“The law does not forbid them from giving out bonuses. Strictly speaking, they did not violate the law,” said Lilit Makunts, head of the ruling My Step faction in parliament.
Yerevan Municipality gave out almost a million USD in bonuses
Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan gave bonuses to 1,628 employees equaling 974 thousand dollars.
First Deputy-Mayor Hrachya Sargsyan received 688 thousand drams (about $1,500), Deputy-Mayor Hayk Sargsyan and Chief Architect of Yerevan Artur Meschyan received 637 thousand drams (about $1,300) each.
“The practice of bonuses will continue. Decisions on awarding a bonus prize to one or another employee or the amount of remuneration will be determined based on an assessment of his or her work in the previous period,” said Hakob Karapetyan, press secretary of the mayor’s office.
Hayk Marutyan said that the previous authorities had deceived the public and wrote out bonuses not only once, but several times a year, while the new leadership has done away with this practice:
“It turned out that in 2017, in addition to New Year bonuses, cash bonuses were issued for a total amount of over 287 million drams [about $600,000 – JAMnews], which were not reported to the public … Completely different documents [not reflecting reality] were published on the site.”
The head of the State Revenue Committee in 2018 earned more in bonuses than his salary
The head of the State Revenue Committee of Armenia, David Ananyan, received 14 million drams (about $29,000) of bonuses for just eight months in office. It is worth noting that the salary of Ananyan for the same period amounted to eight million drams (approximately $16,500).
This has caused discontent in the ruling party, and a closed meeting was held between Ananyan and government representatives.
After the meeting, Ananyan told reporters that he answered 15-20 questions from MPs:
“There was a general discussion about bonuses and salaries, based on the information that is available for publication. Information that is personal, secret and protected by law was touched on only very lightly.”
Reaction of social networks
Social media users were surprised and largely irritated. Here are some typical remarks:
“The people have elected you to work, not to write out bonuses for yourselves!”
“Paradoxically, the bonuses were received by those who already have high salaries, not those who have a salary of 60-70 thousand drams [$120-140 -ed].”
Will raising salaries solve the problem?
Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan says that salaries must be raised in order to solve the issue. Avinyan says the system of writing out bonuses in the country will be revised:
“We have to make salaries in the civil service system competitive so that the best staff do not go to the private sector. There is a need to review the entire civil service system.”