Spouses, children of civil servants in Armenia get gym perks, public riled
New perks for gov’t officials rile Armenian public
Wives and children of civil servants will visit gyms and swimming pools free of charge, or rather, at the expense of the state in Armenia.
The government justifies the initiative by the fact that it will contribute to the ‘formation of a healthy lifestyle and physical fitness’ of the families of officials and civil servants.
Social media users jumped on the news, maybe noting that government employees are already provided with hefty social packages, which include free medical services, repayment of mortgage payments, tuition fees and recreation in the territory of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Many were outraged that the government intends to approve new benefits for the families of civil servants in the face of an obvious economic crisis.
As a result, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs had to comment that no additional funds from the state budget will be allocated for these changes.
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The government’s clarification
Head of Labor and Employment Department Zhora Sargsyan commented on the changes approved by the government at a press conference, noting that about 147,000 people are among the beneficiaries of this project, and they are not high-ranking officials:
“The beneficiaries of the social package are mainly officials holding public positions of the middle and low level, as well as employees of the social, scientific, cultural spheres, for example, secondary schools, museums, libraries, theaters.”
The ministry official also explained that the changes relate to the social package, which has been in effect for eight years. And most importantly, no additional funds are expected to be allocated for these changes:
“The amount will remain the same: six thousand drams [about $11] per month. The maximum amount of funds will also remain the same: 72,000 drams per year [about $135]. The budgetary expenditures will not increase, since this change does not provide any additional benefits. It simply gives the opportunity to more flexibly spend the funds that have been transferred to the beneficiaries of social packages for eight years already”.
Social media reaction
Here are some comments from outraged users of the Armenian Facebook segment:
“No need to say that the state will pay for this. We, the taxpayers, pay for this. Many would not be against these changes if they were adopted at another time. Not now, when the country is in such a crisis: the country is fragmented, the state is deprived of its sovereignty, the army is defeated, there are daily threats from the adversary, thousands of missing persons, hundreds of prisoners, a social crisis, rising prices for basic necessities. And what amendments do our brave men accept? I have the right to know and be against what my taxes are spent on!”
“The reality is that now we – several people – will condemn this decision, we will be outraged by this cynical decision, and in a few days everything will be forgotten, like the previous decisions. Somehow we have become too tolerant – they sat on our heads and do not want to crawl off.”
“There is no question of new costs. If earlier you could spend this money ($11 a month) on recreation or medical services, now you can also pay for gym services with them.
In any case, there is an option to give up everything and cash out this money at the end of the year. The fact that now officials will go to the gym and the pool at our expense, to put it mildly, does not particularly change the situation. They could have done it before.”
“This is a fair decision. After all, there are civil servants who receive a salary of only 80,000 dram [about $150] or 100,000 [about $187] per month. And there are a lot of people like that.”