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The News in Brief

Wednesday, May 2
Additional 800 000 covered by government insurance

The government has created a new insurance system, ratified on Monday.

Starting September 1, all female pensioners over the age of 60, male pensioners over the age of 65 ,and children under the age of 5 will have state-funded insurance coverage. This will increase the total number of government-insured citizens by approximately 800 000.

Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs Zurab Tchiaberashvili has hailed the new package in Rustavi yesterday, where he unveiled the program to local residents.

It is estimated that every second person in Georgia will be insured as a result of the new system. (Rustavi 2)

Ukraine is in the epicenter of international scandal

Ukraine is the epicenter of an emerging international scandal – five European leaders have cancelled their visit to that country amid growing concern over alleged mistreatment of jailed opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

The Presidents of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia will not attend the Yalta summit of Central and East European leaders from May 11-12.

The daughter of the ex-Prime Minister told media recently that the health of her mother has seriously deteriorated in prison. On Friday, images were released that show bruises on her body, which she says were inflicted by prison guards. She is being held in Kharkov, eastern Ukraine.

After viewing the photos, Sweden's Foreign Ministry summoned the Ukrainian ambassador and demanded an explanation.

European Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso joined the boycott today. He cancelled his visit to the Euro2012 Championship, which is due to begin in six weeks. Despite the scandal, the UEFA does not intend to change the host country of the European tournament.

Ukrainian authorities have yet to make an official comment regarding the scandal. (Rustavi 2)

School Boxes project rolls out

The Ministry of Education and Science has implemented a new project in which public schools are equipped with "School Boxes" – special communications technology for education. Minister Dimitri Shashkin observed the use of a box at Tbilisi public school 84; School Boxes will be distributed to 1500 schools in the first stage of the program.

The box will enable stable and safe internet communication and assist schools with execution of additional electronic services.

For the first time this year, high school exams will be conducted via the new system. In the new academic year, learning and assessment process will be carried out electronically, with the help of School Boxes. Schools, teachers and students will receive information online. The new system will also facilitate an online relationship amongst schools.

The introduction of School Boxes is especially important for schools in the regions, as it offers the same level of high-tech education as urban schools enjoy. (Rustavi 2)

Georgian Dream leading in three new polls

The Georgian Dream coalition came out on top in three informal surveys conducted by InterpressNews, and PalitraTV. In answer to the question, Who would you vote for if there were parliamentary elections tomorrow?, the coalition garnered more than 50% of the vote.

The surveys were conducted on April 30. Over 2400 individuals voted in the InterpressNews poll, where Georgian Dream took 51.6% support, followed by the United National Movement (UNM) at 13.6% and the Christian Democrats (CDM) with 7.9%.

The poll had 1250 respondents, who overwhelmingly chose Georgian Dream with 65.4%, followed by the UNM with 18.4% and the CDM with 1.8%.

PalitraTV only polled 180 people, and Georgian Dream was supported by 70% of them, followed by the UNM at a distant 12.2% and the choice "Nobody" at 5%. (IPN)

Reconstruction of Rustavi Park begins

Large-scale reconstruction works have begun today in Rustavi's central park, with President Mikheil Saakashvili attending the groundbreaking.

The initial phase will include cleaning of the Rustavi Lake and construction of a swimming pool and picnic zones around it. A two kilometre-long bicycle path will also be built and the park will have several fountains and an open theatre.

The park will be decorated with exotic plants, cactuses, and flowers from the Netherlands, and include a modern system of lighting. (Rustavi 2)

Strategic Development Agency formed

The government of Georgia has formed a new office – the Strategic Development Agency, announced by Minister of Sustainable Development and Economics, Vera Kobalia.

The agency was formed at the initiative of the President, and will be authorized to coordinate tourism infrastructure projects across the country, including rehabilitation projects in Kakheti and Imereti and the construction of Lazika, a new resort city in western Georgia. (Rustavi 2)

Israeli investors to observe construction of RIXOS Hotel

Israeli investors will observe the construction of the RIXOS Hotel, to be built on Gudiashvili Street in Tbilisi.

As InterPressNews was informed by the Georgian-Israeli Business Chamber, an investment fund was established for such projects, and the founders of the fund are in the delegation. The Georgian Ambassador to Israel, the Israeli Ambassador to Georgia and journalists will visit the construction project before delegation members mark Israel’s Independence Day.

The Israeli Investment Fund intends to begin another construction project in Abanotubani this summer. (IPN)