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New role for Business Ombudsman

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 2
At yesterday’s government session the Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri announced that the authorities are planning to reorganise the Disputes Council which is currently part of the Ministry of Finance.

“The Disputes council will have an additional chamber, the head of which will be the business ombudsman. The chamber will consist of representatives of the private sector and other institutions together with members of the Finance Ministry. Any decision made in the chamber might go to a court appeal,” Gilauri stated. He also mentioned that the final decision on whether or not a company will be fined will be made by the business ombudsman, which will improve the trust of the private sector in the authorities. He commented, “This issue is very important for the private sector and investors. When tax inspectors were checking a company, if the company disagreed with a decision, the company leaders could lodge an appeal with the revenue service or the Ministry of Finance. Now however this duty will move to the chamber, chaired by the business ombudsman.”

Gilauri also stated that the funds given to Georgia by donor organisations are being spent appropriately and asked Minister of Finance, Kakha Baindurashvili to prepare a presentation to describe how that money is being used. “We are talking about the Brussels donor conference in 2008, where it was decided that Georgia would receive USD 4.5 billion. The authorities have worked with the donor organisations and some of this amount has already been used for infrastructure projects. It is important that the public are informed in detail of how the funds are being spent.”

The Prime Minister also announced that in January economic growth in Georgia was 9%, “which is the highest recently.”

Concerning the authorities’ statements on improvements to the economic field and the Government’s view of how to overcome the country’s current economic difficulties, nearly all of the opposition responses are the same. According to a statement made yesterday by the leader of Our Georgia - Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania, taking the current economic reality into consideration, his political party might be the initiator of some actions. He stated, “The authorities have no idea how to get the country out of the crisis, no strategy for the economy and or agricultural development and their social politics are as cynical as before.” He stressed that his political team has always been against using force to change those in power and it still has the same opinion; however protest actions take place in all civilised and developed countries and are a useful tool for changing the authorities’ policies. “That is why, we might be the initiators of protest actions, as we believe the current authorities have no political idea how to overcome the current harsh economic situation, and all their economic, agricultural and social steps are against the country interests.”

Analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze tried to explain the reason why it is unlikely that the authorities will give in to the opposition or any protest actions. He said, “If any side or any factor makes the authorities give in, they will always have to give in when a similar situation occurs, i.e. if the authorities give in to protests caused by the difficult economic reality in the country, it will have to give in whenever protests take place, which may be often. Thus any tool which causes to the authorities to back down will become a weapon for the opposition. That is why the Government is trying to make the public think that any kind of protest against the authorities is useless; the authorities hope people will be inert and they have partly achieved their aim.”