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The new Budget of Georgia causes Opposition outcry

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 14
Minister of Finance Dimitri Gvindadze introduced the revised version of the State Budget for 2012, which as expected was criticized by opposition representatives, as being “far from real needs of Georgian society,” saying that they will not support the budget project at the end of December. This has been called "demagogy" by the ruling Government.

The draft state budget envisages a GEL 15 million increase (instead of initially proposed GEL 30 million) for Ministry of Defense spending, with a total defense budget of GEL 675 million in 2012, up from GEL 660 million in 2011 but less than the GEL 728 million in 2010.

Other proposed amendments include funding for the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources that will receive GEL 290.3 million, the Ministry of Agriculture GEL 100.2 million, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development GEL 129.3 million, the Ministry of Education and Science GEL 580 million and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure GEL 920.3 million. Several of these had been revised upwards.

Instead of the initially envisaged GEL 599.7 million, GEL 493.7 million will be allocated for road infrastructure, of which GEL 212.4 million comes from State funding and the rest as credit. The share of credit is also larger for the rehabilitation of regional and municipal infrastructures and water supply infrastructures. According to the revised draft, Georgia's Autonomous Republics and local governments will receive GEL 818.9 million from the central budget, instead of an initially planned GEL 888.9 million.

The Finance Minister also presented the “main news" of the year, as he called it, referring to the new pension for the elderly, for which GEL 70 million will be allocated from the state budget so that pensioners 67 and over will receive GEL 25 more and a GEL 15 insurance voucher .

The issue elicited ironic remarks from the opposition, which declared that giving the increased pension only to those over 67 is unfair (since retirement is 65 for men and 60 for women) and is a sign of discrimination. They said that suddenly introducing the increase in September “is related to elections". The opposition considers that the “budget project is not transparent". According to one opposition MP, Guram Chakhvadze, "It includes scanty information on expenses. For example, the health program, which has increased funding, is less transparent than the former one. We do not know what the funds will be spent for, how many patients will get services, etc. This is also a problem in the Agricultural field, Defense and some other sectors, as well.”

“Inadequate and obscure “were the epithets of one Parliamentary minority, the Christian Democrats. They stressed that the project does not fulfill the social needs of Georgian society. According to opposition MP, Dimitri Lortkipanidze "having many children in Georgia is a punishment," since a family with five children is not taken as "large one", to be assisted by the State. The Government will only consider families with seven children as "large" and even they receive only GEL 5 for each child as additional monthly assistance.

“Naked populism", said the majority representative, Petre Tsiskarishvili, responding to opposition accusations. "The opposition demands that the Government give money to all--pensioners, large families and veterans and does not foresee the challenges for the State," said fellow MP, Pavle Kublashvili, adding that the state pays great attention to pensioners and to the socially unprotected and has taken public needs into account while constructing the state budget. He also stated, “Linking the increase of pensions to upcoming elections is illogical.”