Turmoil Over Pension Reforms Continues

State bodies continued to make conflicting interpretations of a Constitutional Court decision on Armenia’s controversial pension reform on Friday, with the Central Bank defending its enforcement by tax authorities.

The Central Bank claimed that the court did not temporarily exempt Armenians aged 40 and younger from paying more social security taxes when it suspended the reform late last month pending hearings on an opposition appeal against the unpopular measure. It warned that employees refusing to pay up now will face “more severe consequences” if the court rejects opposition claims that the reform is unconstitutional.

The office of Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, insisted, meanwhile, that the reform was frozen in full on January 24. In a statement, it said that employees cannot be forced to pay the extra taxes for the following months if the court rejects the opposition appeal. It cited a constitutional provision that forbids retroactive enforcement of decisions made by the government and other state institutions.

“We hope that the court will address the issue in its verdict. We hope that the verdict will be in citizens’ favor,” Meri Khachatrian, an adviser to Andreasian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian stance (Azatutyun.am).

The Central Bank’s stance was condemned as illegal by opposition leaders. “The statement amounts to an expression of contempt for the decision made by the Constitutional Court,” said Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK).

Another opposition figure, Ruben Hakobian, claimed that tax bodies and employers already deducting 5-10 percent of workers’ monthly wages in line with the reform are committing a crime.

Constitutional Court hearings on the opposition appeal are scheduled to open on March 28.