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The News in Brief

Monday, July 4
Georgian mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze awarded Oscar of the Opera

Georgian mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze was awarded the Operatic Oscar, an award founded by Opera Magazine, an Italian publication.

A total of seven nominations were put forward for the “GB Oscar, Opera and Dance Excellence” award. Famous Georgian Opera Singer Nino Surguladze won the nomination of the Best Mezzo-Soprano.

The awards ceremony was held in Italy and attended by honorary guests, including legendary Italian ballerina Carla Fracci.

“I am happy to receive this award,” Surguladze said. “This is the first operatic Oscar for Georgian vocal school and I dedicate it to the people of my country as well as to my great and most favorite tutor, Guliko Kariauli, and of course my mother Nunuka.

“I also want to wish all the best to all the talented Georgians who live in Georgia or other countries,” Surguladze added.

FD Pledges Pension Hike, Minimum Wage

The Free Democrats (FD) opposition party, led by ex-Defence Minister Irakli Alasania, has vowed an increase of the minimum monthly age pension by more than 66% and to introduce a legally binding minimum wage system if the party wins the October 8 parliamentary elections.

“Our main slogan and message to voters is better a economy, a better life,” Alasania said on July 1, when his party unveiled part of its election program.

The FD have pledged to increase the minimum monthly pension from the current GEL 180 to GEL 300. The minimum pension was increased from GEL 160 to GEL 180 starting from July 1.

During the election campaign ahead of the 2012 parliamentary polls, when the FD was part of the Georgian Dream coalition, Irakli Alasania pledged to voters in one of his campaign meetings to increase monthly pensions to at least GEL 220 – at the time the figure stood at GEL 100; this pledge is frequently mentioned by the opponents when they remind GD of its “unfulfilled pre-election promises”.

The Free Democrats, which was in the GD governing coalition before quitting it in November 2014, also pledges to introduce a minimum salary of GEL 3 per hour, or up to GEL 500 per month (about USD 216.5 as of July 2). An average monthly nominal wage was GEL 913 in the first quarter of 2016, according to the Georgian state statistics office.

According to the FD’s economic program, which the party unveiled a year ago, Georgia’s annual economic growth will accelerate from current 3% to 5% next year and further to 6%, 8% and 9% in 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively, as a result of policies the party plans to carry out if it comes into government. The party says this growth will result in an additional GEL 4 billion in the state coffers that will the channel of more funds into social programs.

One of the components of the program is applying 15% corporate income tax only to distributed profit. Parliament adopted a similar reform in May, which will go into effect starting from 2017; the rule will apply to banks, insurance companies, microfinance institutions and pawnbroking businesses starting from 2019.

In its economic program, the FD party also pledges to more than double the threshold of annual turnover for businesses to be qualified as “micro businesses” to become eligible for certain tax exempts – something similar was proposed by the UNM opposition party in its economic part of the election program this week; the UNM has also pledged to increase the minimum monthly age pension by GEL 50 starting from November 2016

FD MP Davit Onoprishvili, who chaired the parliamentary committee for finances before the party quit the ruling coalition, said that cutting of expenses on bureaucracy will also make it possible to redirect funds to social programs.

The FD party also says that the current official minimum monthly subsistence level does not reflect the reality of the situation, and the party want to revise it upward to GEL 250. According to the state statistics office, the minimum subsistence level for a working-age male was GEL 160.6 as of May, 2016.

Road connecting Russia and Georgia will be closed for another two weeks

The road through the Dariali Valley in northern Georgia will be open to traffic in about two weeks, Infrastructure Minister Nodar Javakhishvili said on Thursday.

For the moment, the road connecting Russia and Georgia is cut off due to a landslide on June 23.

The mudslide destroyed about 800 meters of the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi road, which leads to the border with Russia, and it had to be closed between the 134km and 135km mark, near Gveleti.

The debris caused the river Tergi to change its course, but the Road Department said the river has now been moved back to where it ran before. Work is now concentrated on restoring the road, and about 40 pieces of machinery are involved.

The road through Dariali Valley is also important for supplying Armenia with Russian produce, and Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said Thursday that an alternative route, by ferry, is now being used to bring fruit to that country.

“As far as I know there is a ferry available for transportation,” he said. “Not only for Armenia, but our exporting companies also use the ferry, and this issue has been solved temporarily.”
(DF watch)