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What will the government’s proposed social programs cost?

By M. Alkhazashvili

(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, December 17
Opposition and ruling party figures are wrangling over the expected cost of the string of social projects recently announced by the government.

Last week, New Rights leader Davit Gamkrelidze claimed independent economists calculate the government’s recent social initiatives—which include pensions hikes, salary rises for schoolteachers, and a state-funded apprenticeship program—will cost around GEL 11 billion, far exceeding the draft 2008 state budget of GEL 4.6 billion. On the other hand, newly-appointed Prime Minister Lado Gurgenizde says just GEL 350 million will cover all the projects, according to the newspaper Rezonansi.

State Minister for Reforms Coordination Kakha Bendukidze mocked the opposition for being arithmetically incompetent.

“The opposition does not know to count. This makes it clear yet again that they have no chance of being elected,” Bendukide said, according to the newspaper Alia.

Giorgi Gugava of the Labor Party hit back, stating, “Bendukidze can count only his own property and accounts but does not pay as much attention when counting state resources.”

Independent economists take a view in between these two extremes: GEL 11 billion is probably an exaggeration, they say, but Gurgenidze’s prediction is not realistic either.