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The News in Brief

Monday, December 14
We have a detailed picture on how to develop any region - Irakli Gharibashvili

We have a detailed picture and a plan on how to develop any given region or district, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said at a conference dubbed 'Local Governance - Best Practices 2015' at the Courtyard Marriott hotel.

The conference is being attended by members of the government and the diplomatic corps.

According to the Prime Minister, the Produce in Georgia programme - which was launched last year - is aimed at strengthening the various regions of the country.

The Prime Minister noted that about 130 projects were financed within the program in one year.

"The main objectives of this programme were employment, the creation of new businesses and the recovery of regional economies,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that the employment of regional populations was of paramount importance to the government; many people without work resettle in Tbilisi, which is depopulating regional Georgia and causing overcrowding in the capital.

The Prime Minister thanked one of the chief organizers of the conference, the National Association of Local Authorities, which is working on regional development issues. Irakli Gharibashvili also thanked the Head of the EU Delegation to Georgia Janos Herman, who is attending the meeting.

The Prime Minister said that the EU delegation actively supports and assists both central and local authorities in carrying out their duties.

US grants Georgia two helicopters

Georgia will receive two helicopters from the United States (US).

Under a $50 million USD grant, the US Government will offer Georgia two Huey II helicopters worth $18,608,036 USD.

A relevant draft decree was approved at yesterday’s meeting of the Georgian Government.

The Georgian side said the military helicopters could also serve as rescue aircraft.

The helicopters will be handed over to Georgia in 2018, along with a supply of spare parts, relevant literature and training services.

Georgian gov’t is a real leader in terms of public administration reforms - Janos Herman

During a press conference at the 'Local Governance – Best Practice 2015' summit, the EU Ambassador to Georgia, Janos Herman, said that the Georgian government is really a leader and a leading actor in terms of carrying out reforms in public administration.

He said that the European Union continues to fulfil its obligations by providing financial assistance.

"We will provide 43 million Euros, which will focus on giving more power and influence to the municipalities so that they are allowed to make more active decisions.

“I want to stress that the Georgian government is a real leader and a leading actor in terms of carrying out reforms in public administration. We praise decentralization as well as the co-operation with the Georgian government in the field of administrative framework of Georgia.

I am confident that this cooperation will continue to be on the agendas of both the EU and the Georgian government,” said Janos Herman.

Parliament Approves 2016 State Budget

With 83 votes to 11, Parliament approved the 2016 state budget on Friday, setting revenues at GEL 8.55 billion, up from 2015’s GEL 8.048 billion, and budgetary expenditures at GEL 8.54 billion, up from this year’s GEL 8.11 billion.

The state budget projects a 3% economic growth next year.

Targeted tax revenues for 2016 are set at GEL 7.98 billion, accounting for 23.3% of projected GDP. The target is by GEL 580 million more than in 2015.

Revenues from value added tax are set at GEL 3.8 billion in 2016, up from targeted GEL 3.5 billion this year; personal income tax target is set at GEL 2 billion in 2016, up from 2015’s GEL 1.95 billion; revenues from corporate profit tax – GEL 980 million, up from 2015 target of GEL 951 million, and revenues from excise tax are expected at slightly over GEL 1 billion, up from this year’s GEL 900 million.

The government plans to raise GEL 1.27 billion in loans next year of which GEL 1.075 billion is expected to come from international financial institutions in a form of long-term soft loans, and GEL 200 from domestic market in a form of issuing treasury bills.

Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri told a parliamentary session on December 11, that the proposed budget reflects government’s “socially-oriented” policies and at the same time it is “oriented towards development with almost one billion lari planned to be spent on infrastructure projects.”

The 2016 state budget allocates GEL 3.16 billion for the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Protection, up from GEL 2.78 billion in 2015.

GEL 570 million is allocated for “universal healthcare program” in 2016, which is by about GEL 100 million more than in 2015.

GEL 1.57 billion is allocated for covering pension expenses in 2016, up from 1.39 billion in 2015. It accounts for about 18.4% of total budgetary expenditures of 2016.

Initial draft did not envisage increase of minimal monthly age pension.

The revised draft, approved by the Parliament, envisages increase of minimal pension from current GEL 160 to GEL 180 starting from July 1, 2016.

UNM opposition party has been campaigning since October for increase of minimal monthly pension by GEL 50 starting from January, 2016.

UNM has been calling for cutting “bureaucratic expenses” by about GEL 420 million and to redirect it to fund increase of minimal pensions from January. UNM lawmakers have also been calling for cutting taxes.

“More money should remain in economy and for that reason taxes should be cut. The proposed budget provides neither development of the business nor relief for socially vulnerable citizens,” UNM MP Sergo Ratiani said.

MP Zurab Japaridze, former UNM lawmaker who now leads newly launched New Political Center-Girchi (pine cone), also called for drastic cut of government administrative expenses and taxes.

“Too much money is wasted on social programs; it should instead be distributed in a targeted manner specifically for the most socially vulnerable,” MP Japaridze said.

MP Davit Onoprishvili of the opposition Free Democrats criticized the proposed budget as “inefficient”. “Resources available in this budget can be used much more efficiently,” he said.