The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Monday, January 4
New mountain laws come into effect

The Laws on Mountainous Regions, which grant a number of social benefits to citizens living in highland areas of Georgia, came into effect from January 1.

More specifically, the tax benefits of the law have been fully activated, which means that all types of manufacturing activity will be exempt from taxes (excluding VAT). In addition, in support of young families, a 100-GEL monthly aid allowance was introduced for the first and second children.

Other benefits will come into effect in September 2016. In particular, nurses will get a 180-GEL monthly supplement from September, while rural doctors will be provided with a further 360 GEL. Teachers in the mountainous regions will also get supplements and schools will receive vouchers to buy books and other supplies. Social benefits are also to be provided for pensioners; from September 2016 their pensions will be increased to 216 GEL, and benefits in the form of electricity and heating supplies are also to be provided.

The government needs renewal, says GD founder Ivanishvili

“There is a need for new people in the Georgian Dream government,” businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili said on Wednesday evening. These were his first public comments on the change of Prime Minister and other recent developments in the coalition he formed four years ago.

He praised Garibashvili, who resigned as PM on December 23, by saying that he is not familiar with any problem which hefailed to solve and said he believes he left at the peak of his success.

Ivanishvili, a billionaire and philanthropist who served as Prime Minister for the first year after the GD coalition came to power in October 2012, resigned after one year, honouring a pledge to leave politics. But although he has formally retired from politics, many people believe that he still has significant influence on the government and is involved in decision-making, a belief which has been reinforced by Garibashvili’s abrupt and unexplained resignation.

Appearing on the talk show ‘2030’, which is aired on his son’s TV channel GDS, Ivanishvili said that he has the right to offer recommendations to his ‘team’, and recently he held consultations about possible changes in the cabinet. But the coalition did not consult him about Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the new PM; selecting him was Garibashvili’s suggestion, he said.

Kvirikashvili was approved by parliament on Tuesday night. He decided to keep on all the current cabinet members, but did not rule out the possibility of changes in the future.

Ivanishvili believes that the government needs to be refreshed with new people.

“Giorgi Kvirikashvili will not be able to avoid staff changes,” he said.

He characterized Kvirikashvili as a ‘discovery’ for him and for the West, Europe and the United States.

“I knew Giorgi was a good economist, but I didn’t know what a great diplomat he was, and I have to say that I am excited.”

But the former PM criticized Kvirikashvili for his positive statements about the President.

“I [want to] remind Kvirikashvili and all others who attempts to justify the issue of the President’s residence: they will fail,” he said, indicating that he is still angry with Margvelashvili for moving into the palace built by Mikheil Saakashvili as the official Presidential residence.

He said that Margvelashvili wanted to have more power than Saakashvili used to have.

“He wanted to become leader of his own team and this was the reason for our confrontation,” he continued.

He also accused Margvelashvili of attempting to influence the courts.

“The President shamed and disgraced us.. He wanted to command,” he added.

“He gave the right to sign the association agreement [with the EU] to the Prime Minister, a right which never belonged to him in the first place. Then he wanted to go to the UN, but this was also a matter for the government to decide. This year, he went to the UN and embarrassed us.”

He also commented on the recent scandal surrounding the President’s pardoning commission. Its former head Alexandre Elisashvili said a few weeks ago that he was pressured by politicians who demanded the consideration of cases of specific prisoners.

“The topic raised by Aleko Elisashvili was provoked by the hands of Giorgi Margvelashvili, and the United National Movement party is behind it all,” Ivanishvili explained.

Commenting on the parliamentary election in 2016, he expressed confidence that the Georgian Dream coalition is going to retain its power.
(DF watch)

Kremlin Aide Visits Sokhumi, Discusses Abkhaz Turkish Ties

The Russian President’s aide Vladislav Surkov, who met with leaders of breakaway Abkhazia in Sokhumi on December 29, said that he discussed - among other issues - Abkhazia’s relations with Turkey and the need to coordinate policies in this regard.

The Abkhaz leadership and opposition parties condemned the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey near the Turkey-Syria border in November. Abkhaz commentators have been expressing fears over negative consequences of Turkey-Russia tensions on Abkhazia and its economy.

Trade with Turkey accounts for 18-20% of breakaway region’s foreign trade turnover; Turkey is the destination of about 10% of Abkhaz exports, according to Russian and Abkhaz sources. The breakaway region imports mostly building materials, fuel, food and textile from Turkey; it exports coal, fish and scrap metal.

Turkish fishing vessels have been actively involved in the fishery along the Abkhaz Black Sea coast. But in mid-December Russia’s federal fishing agency, Rosrybolovstvo, said that the Russian fishing vessels would launch fishery in the Abkhaz waters and would possibly also “replace” Turkish fishing vessels.

Such economic activities in Abkhazia violate Georgia’s legislation, including the law on occupied territories. At least four Turkish vessels were detained by the Georgian coast guard in 2013 for unauthorized entry to breakaway Abkhazia; no such cases were reported since then.