Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Yesterday in Martuni I attended the quarterly meeting where our elected Member of Parliament (MP) has to report what he is doing for the people who put him in power. It started out with him informing us of the new laws that have been adopted, complaints that he has addressed on behalf of the people and then on to questions and answers. The hot topic was pensions. The biggest complaint was that there are many people who receive a pension of 6,000 dram (about $11), and on the other end of the pension scale, a few who receive 46,000 dram (about $83). The official government figure for cost of minimal food per month to provide a balanced diet is between 25,000 dram and 30,000 dram (about $55). So how do these people with the less than 25,000 dram pensions survive? According to some of the people in the hall, they really don't. Many become a burden on their families. Those who don't have families, in some cases live on bread and water only. So what is going to be done about this? According to the MP, he is going to bring up the subject in Parliament for discussion. However, he did add that today's government is very poor and may not have the resources to pay more. The other hot topic was the lack of jobs, especially for young people. As a result, many people are looking to seasonal work in Russia, which in the end could result in permanent relocation. The MP was really unable to give any answer to this question and said that he would have to refer it to the Minister of Economy. So that night I was pondering these questions, to see what we, the Armenians of the Diaspora could do to help. As for the pension question, what is needed for these people is money. For a self-sustaining nation, there needs to be a tax base to provide financial resources. With the present lack of jobs, there is little tax revenue. This situation is really a losing combination where everyone is affected, young and old. I would say that we should start a pension fund in the Diaspora to temporarily address this problem, but from my past experiences with trying to raise funds in America for educational projects here and the lack of interest, we would get no place and it would just be a waste of time. The real answer is stimulating the economy. A friend of mine is bringing a group of serious business people to Armenia and Artsakh in October/November to investigate investing in the economy. Perhaps we can get some electronics' assembly factory or some other business going here in Martuni to employ some people. For those who are in business and interested in investing in the economy in Armenia and/or Artsakh or know someone who is, I encourage you to e-mail my friend Harout Bronozian at: hbenviro@ix.netcom.com to get involved. For those interested in donating to a supplemental pension fund for the city of Martuni, you can contact me. Yes, those residing in America can even deduct it from their taxes, as it would go through a California 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, which is also registered here in Artsakh for just such things.

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