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IDPs, electricity distribution discussed at cabinet meeting

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, November 20
PM Bidzina Ivanishvili called another cabinet meeting on November 19th. The cabinet discussed 22 issues including the provision of shelter for IDPs and socially vulnerable families in Tbilisi who have illegally occupied various buildings, possible changes in gas and electricity pricing and restoring social benefits for Tbilisi residents.

Davit Darakhveldize, the Minister for Refugees and Resettlement, told journalists the government will not pay compensations or provide living space to IDPs and socially vulnerable families in Tbilisi who have illegally occupied places. The minister announced that the families have to move out of the buildings immediately, otherwise they will be forced to do so by law enforcement. IDPs had been given ten days advance notice, informing them that they had to leave the properties occupied.

The government’s position is totally unacceptable for the IDPs who have no shelter in the country. They refuse to leave the buildings until they are provided with an alternative space. In case their query is not fulfilled, the IDPs say many will be forced to revoke their Georgian citizenship and instead seek shelter with the Swiss embassy. They also request to have a meeting with President Saakshvili. IDPs have also tried to go on hunger strike requesting a living space; however, their problem still was not addressed.

The talks about reviewing gas and electricity prices will start in the near future, the Energy Minister Kakhi Kaladze told journalists after the cabinet meeting. The minister said the meetings will be held with the representatives from Energo Pro, the company which owns TELASI and monitors electricity distribution in Tbilisi and Inter RaoEs, who monitors electricity distribution throughout about 70% of the country. A working group from Inter RaoEs will visit Georgia on Tuesday and the ministry will begin negotiations on possibly reviewing electricity pricing, which was last examined back in 2005-2006.

Kaladze explained that the contract will also be reviewed with the company representatives. According the agreement, Inter RaoEs has to invest around 370 million and also build several energy power stations. The investment should have been reflected in the final electricity pricing.

Gas pricing shall also be examined. However, the process will start only after the chair of the Gas and Oil Corporation is changed. Kaladze has not specified when the new chair of the corporation will be appointed.

The cabinet has also discussed several possible ways of restoring financial assistance for socially vulnerable families in Tbilisi. “We will do everything possible to make sure the residents of Tbilisi receive their benefits,” minister of Finance Nodar Khaduri told journalists on a press conference held after the cabinet meeting. He still requests from the Mayor’s office to have the status quo restored and social benefits financed from the city budget, as it was done previously before former PM Vano Merabishvili assigned the duty of funding social projects to the Ministry of Finance. The Minister of Finance is confident that sufficient funds are still available in Tbilisi's budget and should be redirected to social projects as it was originally arranged according the budget plan of 2012.

Khaduri also explained that his ministry and the new government will continue working on new social projects that will be presented in a new state budget plan for 2013.