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Food vouchers donated by Government in attempt to control inflation

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, March 10
GEL 30 food vouchers are being delivered to millions of families in Georgia from today. In the frames of the Government’s plan against global inflation, vouchers will “significantly assist the citizens amid the increased prices on food,” the Minister of Agriculture Bakur Kvezereli stated on Wednesday. The Social Service Agency will distribute the vouchers until the end of April and the owners of the allowances would either submit the vouchers at the Liberty Bank offices or pass them to others in more urgent need. While those, living in regions will receive the vouchers from the mobile service centers of Liberty Bank.

Liberty Bank is carrying out the social transactions after winning the tender. The recipients will have to submit their allowances by July 1. “The list of recipients has been checked: the list of the families receiving the food vouchers coincides with the list of those who have received the electricity allowances but in case of any problems referring to the vouchers they may call the hot lines of the Social Service Agency or the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs (MOH),” Minister Andrea Urushadze told the media.

Stressing that the distribution of vouchers has been another example of the “irresponsible activities” carried out by the Government, Nino Burjanadze leader of Democratic Movement – United Georgia worried that this process would worsen inflation in the country. “Activists of the ruling United National Movement (UNM) are distributing the vouchers for the benefit of the Government as the part of their imprudent policy,” Burjanadze stated.

Another issue that caused controversy between the Government and opposition referred to the increase of state pensions to GEL 100 per month initiated by the President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday. Although this initiative will come into force from September 2011 it has become among the most burning social issues for the wider political spectrum.

“Distribution of electricity and food vouchers and increase of pensions are definitely important decisions but is this enough?” The leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Nogaideli told the media doubting the purchasing power of GEL 100 by September. Analyzing the current economical processes in Georgia, Nogaideli worried that the food inflation has reached 50% since February 2010. “If the trend continues the GEL 80 pension people are getting nowadays will be equal to GEL 120 in September,” he said hoping that the Government would finally make the relevant steps against inflation in the country.

Asking the Government to “refrain from leading people into mistakes” Levan Vepkhvadze MP from Christian-Democratic Movement spoke of the 30% increase on the food market and advised them to refund the relevant shortfall. Calling it the “social inequality” Vepkhvadze disapproved the fact that the ordinary pensioners and those with disabilities will have the same pension. MP Jondi Bagaturia leader of Georgian Troupe couldn’t find connections between the increase on food prices in Georgia and the world economical crisis. Stressing the process has been caused by the “elite corruption” in the country Bagaturia claimed that 72% of the Georgian people face poverty nowadays.

“These are the complex reforms carried out by the Government. We hope that the increased pension wouldn’t generate inflation,” Leader of Parliamentary majority Petre Tsiskarishvili stated. Majoritarian MP Akaki Bobokhidze encouraged his colleagues to “stop searching for problems where they shouldn’t.” Talking of the importance of the abovementioned programs for the Georgian society Bobokhidze encouraged the opposition to “appreciate the steps made by the authorities.”

Economical analysts worry that distribution of allowances and vouchers would increase the level of inflation in Georgia but the political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze also considered the needs of people. “It’s definitely a kind gesture to assist people as much as possible but it would have been much better if the Government created new jobs for ordinary people,” the analyst told The Messenger. Suggesting distribution of pensions according to the merit of the recipients Sakvarelidze told us that the minimum pension should be enough for covering the average needs of people while particular pensioners should have some extra bonuses for their special merit.