YEREVAN -- The estimated number of people in Armenia living in poverty in 2010 was higher than in 2008 when the country was largely unaffected by the global economic recession, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Earlier this week, the National Statistical Service published a report suggesting that in 2010 some 1.2 million people (about 36 percent of the population) lived off a monthly income of 33,500 drams (less than $90), which constitutes the poverty line.
This means that an additional 270,000 have fallen below the poverty line since 2008, when the country reported a robust 6.9 percent GDP growth before plunging into a recession the year after due to a steep fall in world prices for base metals and remittances from Armenians working abroad.
The Armenian economy began to pick up in 2010, expanding by 2.6 percent, and is expected to grow by more than 4 percent this year.
Armen Martirosian, a lawmaker with the opposition Heritage party, blames the situation on the government and the entire state system. He claims flawed socioeconomic policies are the reason why more people have become impoverished.
"I wouldn't pick on the government alone," he said. "This is the result of the joint work of both the legislature and the executive body, as well as other structures together. Wealth in the country has been divided among only a few people, and only a few families have been growing richer while the majority of people have found themselves in such a [lamentable] situation."
Martirosian also challenged the poverty-income benchmark, making the point that people who earn a little more than 33,500 drams and who are classed as "nonpoor" are not, in fact, any better off, given that the minimum consumer basket costs 65,000 drams (about $170).
Meanwhile, Gagik Minasian, a lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party who chairs the National Assembly's standing committee on finance and budget affairs, attributes falling living standards to the serious impact on Armenia of the global economic downturn.