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Budget threatens to topple Government

Monday, October 20
Parliament returned the 2009 draft budget to the Government during its session of October 17.

This is the first time this has happened since the Rose Revolution.

Usually the Rose Revolution Parliament, working hand in hand with the Government, would adopt the Rose Budget with Rosy optimism. Now, however, there is some speculation in Parliament circles that the budget rejection will be a prelude for a serious reshuffle of the Government.

There is one big peculiarity in the submitted budget draft. It was prepared under the pressure of the postwar situation in the country. The 2009 budget income is projected as GEL 5,725 billion, less than that of the 2008 budget. Minister of Finance, Nika Gilauri, has however stated that budget revenues will be finalized only after the donors’ conference to be held on October 21-22, as certain parameters of the budget are to be further adjusted.

During the debates the head of the Finance and Budget Committee of Parliament, Zurab Melikishvili, suggested that further attention should be given in the budget to four major issues: pensions, employment, education financing and decreasing the financing of state organizations. Melikishvili said that the draft budget does not address the needs of the most vulnerable layers of the population, doesn’t fulfil pre-election promises and it doesn’t demonstrate that state officials discuss and understand budgetary problems. Furthermore the Christian Democrats, the Parliamentary minority, insisted that public financing of the Patriarchate should be increased.

The deadline for submitting a new version of the budget is November 1. If Parliament sends the budget back again, the President will have to either sack the Government or dissolve Parliament to obtain the supply he needs to run the country. There are precedents elsewhere for Heads of Government themselves being forced to resign if they cannot obtain the supply of funds the Government needs to run.

The Georgian media very often digs for the facts before there are any to find. Now it is speculating about the possible resignation of the Government. The budgetary issue will show whether this speculation has any basis in fact.