Members of the Orange County Armenian community gathered on Friday, March 11, for a public lecture delivered by Dr. Ara Khanjian on the topic of unfair government policies and economic inequalities in Armenia.
The event was organized by the Orange County Ashod Yergat AYF as part of an ongoing educational series on Armenian history and current affairs.
Surprisingly little is actually known about the volatile economic practices of the current regime in Yerevan, said Sebouh Meguerditchian, Chair of the Orange County AYF, pointing out the detrimental effects such policies are having on the poorest segment of Armenian society. We hope that by holding such events, more people can become educated about these realities and be more proactive in seeking solutions.
Khanjian, who is Professor of Economics at Ventura College and a specialist on Armenias economic policies, began his presentation by giving background on the extreme, free-market approach of successive governments in Armenia since independence.
He then focused his attention on the recent pension and tax reforms of the Sargsyan administration, arguing that the recent law on privatization of the pension system passed in parliament effectively diverts peoples retirement to the volatile whims of capital markets. In a society where the financial system is not developed and most people do not have a working knowledge of how to manage such investments, he predicted this shift will be beneficial for financial institutions and the wealthy elite, but harmful to the majority of citizens.
Armenia has also introduced a uniform tax code (virtually a flat tax) which is very unfair to the poor, Khanjian explained. The new law requires those at or below the poverty line to pay almost the same as those at the top. In Armenia, if you earn 110 a month, you will get taxed 25 dollars, he said, giving a practical example. For families that only earn this much, the new tax rate will result in drastically less money for food and basic necessities.
As to why this is taking place, he contended, Instead of making the oligarchs and super-rich pay taxes, the government is forcing the lower classes to pay because they have no power.
What is needed in Armenia, in Khanjians view, is a strong movement to protect workers rights and pass proper legislation in parliament. Only by coming together to protect their collective interests can citizens hope to reverse the erosion of their rights and improve their standard of living, he maintained.
The lecture was well-received by the audience and sparked a lively question and answer period.
For more information about future events as part of the Orange County AYFs educational series, contact ashod.yergat@AYFwest.org.