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YEREVAN, JANUARY 12, ARMENPRESS: Armenian labor and social affairs minister Aghvan Vardanian told reporters today, after meeting with president Robert Kocharian, that some 1.6 million Armenians have already received social security cards out of 2,2 million people who have applied.

He said more people are lining up at regional labor and social affairs centers to apply for cards, after the ministry warned that wages, social benefits, pensions and other allowances will be paid only to card holders.

He said introduction of the system has not and will not create problems neither for people nor the ministry and other government agencies, but added that there are people who are trying still to impede the full operation of the system.

The government first suggested to introduce the system of social security cards last year and the first bill appeared as “identity cards”. According to the reform, each Armenian citizen must have the lifetime card with a 10-digit number of a citizen’s personal data, which will be used for opening a bank account, paying taxes, applying for state benefits and identification at healthcare facilities.

The government said the cards would increase the efficiency of state-run agencies and help it reduce the volume of corruption, however, the idea was opposed strongly by the Armenian Church, whose main counter-argument was that the name “identity card’ must be replaced by another one, as the word “identity card” contradicts Biblical precepts, found in the New Testament Book of Revelation. The government met halfway this demand and changed the name of the “identity cards” into “social security cards.”

According to the law, the use of the cards is mandatory for all financial transactions including receiving pensions and family benefits, paying taxes and social insurance.

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