Heated debates on 'food crisis' at opening Autumn Parliamentary Session
By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, September 15The first Plenary Session of the Parliament of Georgia opened with fervent debates on social issues on September 14. Opposition MPs blamed the ruling party for holding TV shows instead of presenting an action plan against poverty. “There is a terrible social situation in Georgia. We are ready to share our ideas with the Government. Let them make particular steps for dealing with the social crisis and take responsibility in the event of failure,” Levan Vepkhvadze Deputy Chairman of Parliament from the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) told the media.
Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of the CDM, spoke of the affects of increased prices in the world food market on Georgia. Claiming the Government has just been providing Georgians with a statistical database, Targamadze criticized the food safety policy in Georgia with 80% of products being imported. “I can’t understand how Prime Minister Gilauri can boast of the successful economy when the local agriculture has been destroyed in our country. Being the PM of a country with the population beyond the level of poverty, I wonder why he has never discussed the problem of increasing prices at the Government Session,” stressing Georgia has no policy at all, Targamadze is worried that the country was relying on countries which had never been prominent in their agricultural achievements.
Majority MPs called the opposition claims “political demagogy.” On their demand to meet the PM and other Ministers to debate over the hard social situation caused by increasing prices, Akaki Minashvili explained that the food crisis meant a lack of products in the country. He stressed that Georgia is not facing such a problem at all. “On the first day of the Autumn Session, the opposition decided to show how actively interested they had been in the peoples' fates during the summer. What they call “TV shows” have actually been the activities held by the Government of Georgia who had been really working hard for the whole season unlike our opposition colleagues who have been watching the news from on TV at different resorts,” MP Petre Tsiskarishvili stated.
The Parliament majority were opposed to the PM’s participation in the political debates, the reason for which was unknown. The First Deputy Chairman Mikheil Machavariani explained that the Parliament regulations did not consider such exceptions. But encouraging the opposition to invite the Government on the “Governmental Hours” Machavariani spoke of the difficulty of the situation on which the Government should act accordingly. “I have visited the regions affected by the drought this summer. The Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee Zurab Melikishvili has met the Minister of Finance Kakha Baindurashvili who promised to consider all these circumstances in the State Budget by all means,” Machavariani told the MPs.
Meanwhile Zurab Melikishvili initiated abolition of additional taxes on communal transactions within banks. “In order to encourage the banks we constantly try to consider their demands but it is unfair when the customers have to pay additional money each time they pay their communal taxes,” Melikishvili said, encouraging the President of National Bank of Georgia Giorgi Kadagidze to think about the issue. “We will try to learn and decide on the issue at the meeting with bank representatives. I’m sure that the wise solution to this very careful subject should by all means be found together,” Kadagidze stated, promising he would provide the Parliament with the relevant information on Friday.
MP Koba Khabazi asked his colleagues to promote Kobuleti’s touristic development where the investors will be free form taxes on particular sites for 15 years. “We should all use our influence to broadcast the President’s initiative because the idea of offering free sites for building touristic complexes in Kobuleti should be profitable for investors,” Khabazi stated.
Analyst Gia Khikhashvili explained to The Messenger that the social problems cannot be solved without ensuring the relevant economic development strategy. “Only systemic changes can ensure a healthy and competitive investing environment and deliverance from the political risk factors. In a country with a high rate of inflation, the Government can’t even calculate relevant indexes to ensure a balance between the income and expenditure of the people. We can hear the officials talking about the social problems but no particular steps are being made to deal with the situation in our country,” Khukhashvili told us.
Stressing that the Kobuleti project had been a trap ssfor potential investors, the analyst explained the legal side of the President’s initiative. “The tax code has its regulations which can’t be overcome by individuals. Goodwill alone is not enough to change the legislation even in cases where someone claims he is above the law. If we want a real privilege in prices we need to ask the authorities to reduce the inadequate communal taxes and decrease them until things improve. Because the initiative concerning the abolition of additional taxes on different transactions just tricks the customer into believing that the Government cares for them,” the analyst stated.