YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s national gas distribution company announced on Wednesday a 24.2 percent price discount for tens of thousands of socially vulnerable families which will take effect later this week.
The ArmRosGazprom (ARG) operator said that the measure was proposed by President Serzh Sarkisian and approved by its management. ARG is mostly owned by the Russian Gazprom monopoly.
Sarkisian promised such a discount following his February 25 meeting in Saint Petersburg with Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev. It reportedly focused on the Gazprom’s plans to further raise the price of its gas delivered to Armenia.
Sarkisian’s press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, said after the talks that the gas price for Armenian consumers will not change this year. But it is still not clear whether that means Armenia will not pay more for Russian gas.
The wholesale cost of the gas rose by 14 percent in 2009 and by another 17 percent, to $180 per thousand cubic meters, in April 2010. That led Armenian state regulators to approve a 37.5 percent surge in the gas tariff for households requested by ARG. It now stands at 132 drams (36 U.S. cents) per square meter.
In a statement posted on the company Web site, the ARG chief executive, Vartan Harutiunian, said that some 49,500 low-income families will receive special coupons entitling them to pay 100 drams per cubic meter starting from April 1.
Harutiunian said a family will have to pay the regular price if it use more than 300 cubic meters of gas. He did not specify whether that consumption threshold is set for one month or year.
Harutiunian also said that the discount was made possible by the increased efficiency of power generation in Armenia. He singled out the reconstruction of a thermal-power plant in Yerevan which was completed last ear.
Natural gas is used for producing approximately one third of Armenia’s electricity.