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Mayor’s office appeals for budget confirmation

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 16
The Tbilisi Mayor’s Office sent a letter to Tbilisi City Council on January 14. The Mayor’s Office warns that the rejection of the 2014 Tbilisi budget will seriously disturb ongoing projects in Tbilisi and affect Tbilisi residents. The Mayor’s Office also presented a list of projects that, according to them are at risk. The Mayor’s office hopes that the Tbilisi City Council will consider their words and will confirm the budget in the near future.

A majority in Tbilisi City Council voted to reject the 2014 budget on December 29. The proposal received the support of only 18 council members, while 21 voted against. Three abstained.

During the preceding debate, a majority of council members criticized how expenditures are distributed and the priorities in the budget. Comments concerned transport infrastructure projects, a program for utility vouchers, free or advantageous transport services, social allowances in Tbilisi’s districts and problems with the water supply.

The revision commission explained that the passage about transport infrastructure is vague and superficial. It also has remarks about the utility vouchers project, which involves assisting the population over a five-month period with paying for electricity, water and street cleaning.

The council members who are against the budget draft think it would have been better to give vouchers to parts of the population according to who is most in need of assistance.

The size of Tbilisi’s 2014 budget is 730 million GEL (USD 420 million), and it is focused on social projects.

Tbilisi City Hall presented an additional 50 million GEL (USD 30 million), which it says is money left over from the 2013 budget. According to law, if the City Council does not approve the budget, the executive government will have to cover the costs with up to one twelfth of the size of the budget for the previous year.

Acting Mayor Sevdia Ugrekhelidze stated that Tbilisi infrastructure projects, transport and social assistance, utility vouchers, and the building of kindergartens are the major projects, which might fail due to the unconfirmed budget.

Deputy Mayor Irakli Abesadze states that according to the actions of the City Council members, they do not realize how serious problems are caused due to the budget.

“Through the letter, we are trying to explain the problems Tbilisi residents might face because of the council members’ inaction,” Abesadze stated.

Deputy Head of the City Council Jaba Samushia responded to the letter, stating that the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office has GEL 60 million for January 2014 and the money is enough to finance all the important projects. Samushia also stressed that the Mayor’s Office refrains from presenting the detailed expenses of the 2014 Tbilisi budget.

“I appeal to Mrs Sevdia Ugrekhelidze to present the detailed analyses of the 2014 Tbilisi budget. We will discuss each project and each GEL,” Samushia said, stressing that everything should be transparent and money should not be spent as vaguely as previously.