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Water tariff to increase for Tbilisi citizens

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, November 26
The meeting of the Georgian Energy and Water Regulatory Commission with the Prime Minister of Georgia Nika Gilauri and the Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava on November 24 culminated in an agreement to increase the water tariff for Tbilisi citizens. According to the information released by Nikoloz Mchedlishvili, the Spokesman of the PM, the consultations between the sides revealed the necessity of establishing GEL 3.15 monthly per family member to the households receiving water round-the-clock in Tbilisi and leaving GEL 2.4 per family member for those receiving water irregularly throughout the day. “This decision encourages Georgian Water and Power Company (GWP) to improve the infrastructure of such districts and further switch them to the 24-hour regime,” he stated.

The water tariff will also remain unchanged for organizations and enterprises paying GEL 4.4 per cubic meter of consumed water while half of the tariff for 105 000 socially unprotected people will still be covered by Tbilisi City Hall. “The next revision of the water tariff is not planned in the capital until at least 2014,” Gigi Ugulava said after the meeting. He explained that Tbilisi City Hall had opposed the increase of tariffs due to existing social conditions within the capital. Suggestions about exceptions to the scheme should be part of the stimulus for the GWP to ensure total provision of Tbilisi citizens with water round-the-clock till 2012.

Speaking on the legal right of GWP to increase the water tariff Guram Chalagashvili, Chairman of the Georgian Energy and Water Regulatory Commission said they had studied the assessments of the company and agreed with their decision. On the question of whether GWP can again use their “legal right” before 2015, Chalagashvili said the water supplying company can still make some increases in water tariff if the Commission confirms it is necessary.

Lasha Imedashvili, member of ruling party United National Movement Faction of Tbilisi City Council spoke of the necessity of the difficult decision but stressed the privileges it created for socially unprotected people. Hesitating to give particular examples proving such necessity, Imedashvili said it was up to the Commission to release thorough information to the public. An increase in municipal transport fees - another burning issue for Tbilisi citizens - will be discussed at the council sitting on November 29 according to Imedashvili. “No decision has been made yet about this issue but if the transport fees increase it will also have to be approved by the relevant authorities,” he added.

Member of Our Tbilisi Faction, Zurab Abashidze, spoke of the negative affect of the water tariff increase on citizens. Opposing the decision, Our Tbilisi stressed the necessity of revising the document. “Moreover there are talks about the possible increase of municipal transport fees which are absolutely inadmissible,” Abashidze said worrying.

Christian Democrats don’t doubt that the United National Movement members of City Council will accept the decision of increasing fees on municipal transport. Calling it an “uncivil step made by the Government” Zaza Gabunia member of the Christian Democrats Faction spoke of the difficult social conditions for citizens. “The Government of Georgia has made an illegal decision after adopting the State Budget for 2011. Gigi Ugulava tried to prove that no particular changes would have been made in communal fees just a week ago. An increase in the water tariff may be followed by an increase in fees on buses and the metro by 10 tetris, but will that be the final increase?” he wondered stressing that these steps once again prove how the Government is trying to “tighten citizens' belts”.

The current social changes have already caused public discontent and various oppositional parties claim they would oppose the possible changes through rallies. As a matter of a fact the decision of increasing the water tariff, according to the agreement among the sides will come into force from December 1, 2010 while the issue of a possible increase on municipal transport will become evident at the City Council session on November 29.