Electricity vouchers to be distributed through March 31
By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, February 22An unexpectedly cold and snowy winter has caused serious problems for Georgians, prompting the government to provide families throughout the country with a 20-lari electricity voucher.
Having visited the first family to receive a voucher on Tuesday, Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava recognized the hardship people have experienced in recent months.
Similar programs were initiated by President Mikheil Saakashvili last year, with the government issuing 20 GEL electricity and 30 GEL grocery vouchers. The Social Service Agency (SSA) of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, which is responsible for the program this year, intends to provide 200 000 electricity users with the vouchers through a door-to-door campaign until March 31.
The 25 million GEL necessary for the program have been taken from the reserve funds of the state budget. As Head of the SSA, Irakli Nadareishvili said, the process will be carried out so that every family receives their vouchers in time. “For additional information, people can call the hotline at 251-00-33,” he said.
The electricity voucher does not include municipal cleaning charges. Minister of Health, Andria Urushadze, says the voucher is exclusively for electricity costs caused by cold weather. “Every citizen pays communal taxes thus they will pay 20 lari less,” he noted.
Residents of Tbilisi have been paying a combined municipal cleaning and electricity bill since July, 2011. Subscribers must pay 0.05 GEL per kilowatt hour for the cleaning service.
According to Labor Party member Soso Shatberashvili, President Saakashvili launched the voucher program because he feels that the end of his political career is nearing. “Saakashvili has foreseen his political end and began to distribute 20 GEL pre-election bribes as vouchers,” he asserted, advising the President to execute the ruling of the constitutional court of Georgia on the complaint of the Labor Party, and reduce the electricity tariff to 0.11 GEL in Tbilisi and 0.07 GEL in the regions – instead of what Shatberashvili calls Saakashvili's “tricks and lies".