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Opposition: Proposed State Budget Neglects Social Issues

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, November 25
The 2012 state budget, one of the main areas of disagreement between the majority party and the opposition is on the agenda. The draft of the budget was discussed in parliament on November 24. As expected the opposition does not support the project and criticize it. Their criticism is unacceptable for the government which advices the opposition “to attend some seminars regarding budget planning,“ for their questions and remarks to be more adequate. Though both sides mention the importance of the issue, however, less than half of the MPs decided to be present at the discussion.

Under the draft budget, almost all ministries funding will be increased except for several ones. The Defense Ministry will receive an additional GEL 44.6 million. As a result, defense funding will amount to GEL 704.6 million, instead of the initially planned GEL 660 million this year. It will be the first upward change in defense funding since 2008. Funding of the Ministry of Economics and some other ministries will also increase. Funding was decreased for only two ministries this year – the Healthcare Ministry, whose funding will go down from GEL 1.692 billion to GEL 1.685 billion and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, down from GEL 879.1 million to GEL 818.6 million. However, the authorities think that this decrease does not mean a real 'meaningful' decrease.

As the Minister of Finance, Dimitri Gvindadze says “the 2012 state budget fully looks after Georgian state and society interests.“He also explained the reasons why certain ministries' financing increased compared to previous years. As for the Defence Ministry, Gvindadze underlined that it is necessary to provide security for the country. As he stated the funding of most ministries continually increases. He says that since 2009, funding for the Ministry of Finance decreased and made up 9,3% of overall outlays.

The majority government party also considers that the budget planning is absolutely adequate and reflects all important spheres for the state. At the same time, as majority representative, Zurab Melikishvili mentioned, ”the parliament will decrease its funding by GEL 5,5 million and that sum will be spent on employment and healthcare.

The opposition do not think that the priorities in the draft “are real ones for Georgian people.“ They think that more attention should be paid to a shift onto social, and healthcare issues, increase in pensions and social assistance. "Social issues are most important for Georgians currently. There is not a word said in the draft about what the government would do with those families whose relatives were repressed during the Soviet period, those ones who were affected due to hybrid corn, why the pension will not be increased from January 1 and not from September,” opposition MP, Gia Tsagareishvili, said. As he has stated, the government stopped allocating funds to those families who were affected by the Soviet authorities.

In response Gvindadze said that he had heard such information for the first time. As for pensions, Gvindadze mentioned that everything is foreseen and planned, thus an increase of pensions before the planned date, would have a negative impact on the Georgian economy. The opposition also claims that the budget project is not transparent and there is no detailed information on funding spending.

The opposition also protested financing decreases for the healthcare system and some projects in this field. In response, MP Giorgi Godabrelidze mentioned that program financing has not been decreased, donor financing simply slowed and the state took more responsibility regarding the issue.