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Social benefits halted: Ministry of Finance vs Tbilisi Mayor

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, November 5
One of the major questions asked lately is who will cover the various social benefits for thousands of Tbilisi residents? Tbilisi’s Mayor and the Ministry of Finance are still arguing over the issue. Meanwhile, thousands of Georgians who are dependent on these benefits are in trouble and are demanding an urgent solution to the problem.

For years, Tbilisi’s Mayor has carried the responsibility to fulfill various social programs. 78 million GEL was allocated to the Tbilisi municipality’s 2012 budget from the state budget to cover state-funded health insurance for 90,000 Tbilisi residents; as well as various social benefits for 40,000 socially vulnerable families and to ensure discounts for municipal transport fees for nearly 600,000 citizens.

However, several days before the new government of Georgia came to power, Vano Merabishvili had signed several decrees. Based on those decrees signed on October 19, the responsibility of funding such social programs was transferred to the Ministry of Healthcare. However, the relevant funds have not been sent to the ministry budget.

According to the statements made at that time, the step undertaken by Merabishvili would have ensured the protection of all of Georgia’s socially vulnerable population and the capital would not have been an exception in this regard.

The new Minister of Finance, Nodar Khaduri, emphasized that the Ministry of Healthcare lacks the funds to finance the social programs and underscored that the Mayor should continue funding such projects, especially when the money was given to the mayor for the aim at the beginning of the year, from the state budget.

The new minister called Merabishvili’s actions “irresponsible.”

“Merabishvili made these decision when he knew that no funds were allocated for the Ministry of Healthcare,” Khaduri said and explained that the only ones guilty in this situation is the previous government.

Khaduri also said that a meeting with Tbilisi City Hall should be held and changes should be carried out in the decisions made by Merabishvili.

“The funding responsibility for the social programs should be returned to Tbilisi’s Mayor” Khaduri said.

The new leadership of the Ministery of Finance also states that the funds that had been allocated for such programs from the state budget might have already been spent.

According to Tbilisi Mayor, Gigi Ugulava, Khaduri “misled” Ivanishvili and that is why the Prime Minister rejected the decision made by Merabishvili.

Ugulava stated that Ivanishvili is not familiarized with the issue and he signed the decision rashly.

“Thus, Khaduri is more responsible for the action than Ivanishvili,” Ugulava said.

The Mayor also emphasized that consultations and revision of the decision are required for “600, 000 Tbilisi residents not to be damaged through the decision.”

The head of Tbilisi’s Mayoral Legal Department, Irakli Abesadze, stated that currently Tbilisi’s Mayor has no legal right to finance the social programs.

“At the same time, that money which had been given to Tbilisi’s Mayor at the beginning of the year for the programs has already been used for some other significant issues, after we were informed that we will not be responsible for financing of the social programs,” Abesadze said.

Consultations will take place between Tbilisi’s Mayor and the Ministry of Finance in order to find a solution to the situation.