Uzbekistan abolishes allowances for poor teenagers
In line with a government resolution on measures to further improve the payment of social allowances, adopted on 12 December 2012, only poor families with children under 14 can now count on government support.
Until now, allowances were paid for children until they turned 16 and until coming of age at 18 if a child was a college or lyceum student.
Those who learnt about this in early days of the New Year became discouraged. Parents who lost government support believe that the measure has hit the poorest the most.
"How could they abolish allowances for us, mothers with teenagers? As if at 14 a child could find a job and support themselves independently," Zinaida Mashkova from Tashkent complained.
It is impossible to find out how many families were left without allowances as Uzbekistan keeps statistics reflecting the level of poverty in the country secret.
However, the State Statistics Committee's website provides data for children born in 1997 and 1998, i.e. teenagers aged over 14.
In these two years alone 1,156,439 children were born in the country. The State Statistics Committee is reticent about the share of families who need government support.
Allowances cut by 20%
Parents with younger children also received a surprise. The same government resolution cut allowances for families with many children from 1 January.
Families with two children will receive only 80% of the minimum monthly wage (79,590 sums or $30 at the black market rate) instead of the previous full rate. Families with three and more children will receive 120% of the minimum monthly wage instead of 140% from 1 January.
Government support for families with the only underage child remained the same - 50% of the minimum monthly wage.
"Allowances were already very small and it was impossible not only to buy clothing for children or prepare them for school but even to feed them! What can you buy for 80,000 sums?" asked Nargiza Ahmerova, a mother of two.
According to the new rules, her family will receive 80% of the minimum monthly wage or 63,672 sums ($24). This money will not even be enough to pay for nursery - 56,509 sums ($21) for each of her two children.
The reduction in the age of children entitled to allowances and the decrease in the allowances immediately gave rise to rumours that only families living below the poverty line would be entitled to government support.
The administration of the Jurabek neighbourhood in Tashkent's Hamza district denied these rumours and said that criteria for defining the tatus of poor family remained untouched - income that does not exceed 1.5 minimum monthly wage per each family member.
How could they abolish allowances for us, mothers with teenagers? As if at 14 a child could find a job and support themselves independently"
In other words, the total income of a poor family should not exceed 119,385 sums ($44) in order to qualify for government support for their children. This is less than the minimum wage set by the law - 197,065 sums ($73).
This is not the end of surprises offered by the government resolution on measures to further improve the payment of social allowances.
From the New Year, allowances that are calculated based on the minimum monthly wage will not be adjusted to inflation during the year along with the growing minimum wage and price increases.