YEREVAN, March 7. / ARKA /. Armenian police have detained several young people today protesting outside the finance ministry building in downtown Yerevan against a new pension scheme that would slash their net wages by up to 10 percent.
The protest was organized by activists of an initiative group called "Dem em " ( I'm against ). Protesters demanded that minister of finance, David Sargsyan, come out to them and denounce all his previous statements on the pension reform.
The minister did not come out of the building, but ministry officials told the protesters that several activists could enter the building for negotiations, but the activists rejected this proposal.
A 67-year old man who joined more than a hundred of young protesters attempted self-immolation, however, the attempt was foiled by police officers who took him to the nearest police station.
Armenia’s Constitutional Court suspended last month Article 76 of the new pension law, which provides for penalties for failed or delayed pension tax payments, and the third paragraph of Article 86, which obligates employed citizens to choose a pension fund, among other parts of the law. The Court says it will conclude the inquiry on March 28, 2014.
The constitutionality of the law was challenged by three opposition parties in the National Assembly — the Armenian National Congress, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and the Heritage Party — along with the usually pro-government Prosperous Armenia Party.
The new pension system that formally came into force from January 1 requires that all Armenian citizens born after 1973 pay social security taxes equivalent to 5 percent of their monthly wages, which will be matched and doubled by the government. That money has to be deposited with private pension funds licensed by the government late last December.
One of them is a joint venture between Austria’s C-QUADRAT Investment and Germany’s Talanx Asset Management. The other, Amundi-ACBA, is a subsidiary of the French banks Credit Agricole and Societe Generale. Armenian officials expect the two asset managers to attract between $100 million and $150 million in pension contributions this year alone. -0-