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The News in Brief

Friday, April 6
Finance Minister gives overview of 2011 budget

Minister of Finance Dimitri Gvindadze summarized the implementation of the 2011 state budget yesterday. The Minister said analysis has shown that economic growth is being maintained and the budget deficit has been reduced, as has the level of debt to gross domestic product.

Gvindadze also spoke about increases in funding for social care, agriculture, education, and infrastructure projects.

"GDP has increased approximately $600 [per capita], [and] the tendency of fiscal consolidation continues; we finished fiscal year 2011 with a 3.6% deficit, which clearly represents a reduction of the budget deficit in comparison with previous years. Large investments were made in various infrastructure projects," he announced. (Rustavi 2)

New US program to continue fight against TB

US Ambassador to Georgia John Bass will join the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs Zurab Tchiaberashvili, First Lady Sandra Roelofs, and the Director of the National Centre of Disease Control and Public Health Nata Avaliani, to launch a new $4.4 million USD government program to improve tuberculosis (TB) prevention and treatment in Georgia.

The four-year program has been implemented by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the University Research Corporation. (IPN)

Prisoners to be pardoned for Easter

The Pardon Commission will assemble on April 8 to discuss the cases of 416 convicts for a possible Easter pardon. There 76 women and 9 minors on the list of convicts.

Chair of the Commission, Elene Tevdoradze, said that convicts charged with grave crimes will not have their cases discussed as their applications are usually rejected.

The recommendations prepared by the Commission will be sent to the President for final confirmation. Several prisoners are expected to be sent home for Easter. (Rustavi 2)

Russian tourism to Georgia increasing

The number of tourists from Russia has increased since the government of Georgia lifted the visa regime for Russian citizens.

Russian tour agents say the number of Russian citizens who want to travel to Georgia has significantly increased since the decision. Georgia's Ministry of Internal Affairs says this number has tripled.

Russian tourists are surprised with what they see in Georgia, saying their impressions exceeded their expectations.

"I had three reasons to come here. The first is a humane one. I was here 27 years ago and since then I love Georgia and its culture. The second reason is my relations - I have many friends, whom I have not seen for a long time. The third reason is a desire to see this wonderful country, its beautiful places. For a long time I have been thinking how to come here, but a while ago I heard that your President made the decision to lift the visa regime unilaterally and I was very glad to hear that," Eduard Shurkin from Novosibirsk told Rustavi2. (Rustavi 2)

Georgian robbers detained in Spain

A group of four Georgian robbers, two of whom are women, have been arrested by police in Pamplona, Spain.

Spanish police are reporting that the gang robbed houses across the country, and were very organized, travelling across Europe. It took police six months to plan and carry out a detention operation.

The police were able to detain two of the suspects in Trieste after an hour-long chase.

Police seized guns and other weapons, which were used for robberies and armed assaults.

The Spanish police have not given the names of the detained Georgian nationals.

In the past two weeks, Spanish and Italian police have arrested approximately 30 Georgians for armed assault and robbery. (Rustavi 2)

Saakashvili visits citizens injured in gas explosion

President Mikheil Saakashvili visited a hospital in Batumi to visit the four persons injured in a gas explosion that took place Wednesday.

The President spoke to doctors and family members about the conditions of the injured. He called on all Georgians to take caution when using gas.

Saakashvili also asked that companies installing gas pipes in Batumi meet all safety standards. He added that for security, gas heaters in apartments should be checked, a service which the Tbilisi Mayor's Office provides for free in the capital.

Saakashvili promised the injured families that the apartments damaged by the explosion would be rebuilt.

The powerful explosion occurred in an apartment building on Lermontov Street Wednesday morning. Reportedly, natural gas collected in the apartment of the Morchiladze family, which caused the blast. The apartment was completely destroyed, and neighbouring apartments, as well as several vehicles parked outside, were also damaged.

Four people were hospitalized, with one in critical condition.

The explosion was so strong it broke windows in a nearby neighborhood. (Rustavi 2)