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City transport fares rise by 20 percent

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, December 1
Fare increases on municipal transport to 50 tetris was the main subject of discussions at the Tbilisi City Council session on Monday. The initiative of increasing the municipal transport tariff by ten tetris presented by Akaki Jokhadze, Head of the Municipal Transport Department caused serious arguments among the Council members. Opposing the changes, member of Our Tbilisi, Zurab Abashidze encouraged the ruling United National Movement party to declare “the tax disobedience” for the artificial and unspecified decision which was disapproved by the Mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava.

Tina Khidasheli, a member of the Republican Party stressed that the City Hall hasn’t yet introduced a long-term development plan for municipal transport. “We have been demanding the strategic plan for transport development from City Hall which should have been the subject of public discussions,” Khidasheli said worrying that in October 2010 the City Council illegally passed its authority to City Hall, which prevented Republicans to even predict the situation in the capital in 1 or 2 years.

Overloaded transport, long waits and increased fees have all been caused by the so-called optimisation of the transport system in Tbilisi. According to information released by Republican Party, the Government of Georgia has failed to provide its citizens with the privileges and improvements of the transport infrastructure. Claiming they had offered the plan avoiding doubling transport fees, Republicans spoke of the world known practice of using one ticket for several buses in one particular direction.

Christian-Democrats also rejected the idea and Inga Grigolia, the Chairwoman of the faction encouraged the majority of the City Council to reject the initiative explaining that any increase would make citizens’ already difficult social conditions even tougher. Member of the faction, Zaza Gabunia called the Government’s decision a jump to causing social protest among the public. “Our colleagues used to claim that they would make compromises on behalf of the citizens, but the State Budget for 2011 with all the socially unacceptable experiments and increase of tariffs on communal welfare proves that the Government has expelled the word “people” from their dictionaries,” Gabunia said accusing the Government of having irregular social policy.

Levan Koplatadze. the Director of Tbilisi Transport Company provided the Council members with a detailed database of the social groups with relevant tariffs on transport and explained that 580 000 socially unprotected people won’t have to pay any increases on fares. According to member of the ruling party United National Movement, Koki Ionatamishvili all the people using special services on municipal transport will keep these privileges in the future. Talking about the safety and accessibility of public transport Ionatamishvili stressed that the transport related issue has been in need of appropriate regulation for quite a long time. “There are lots of serious activities planned for bringing Georgian transport in line with international standards thus the restoration of the train line would promote this process,” he said stressing that the increasing transport fees will be painless. He explained that someone using municipal transport several times a day keeps the privileged prices and hoped that people would understand and accept the decision.

According to the Government of Georgia, the main reason for increasing municipal transport fares is the increase in the cost of petrol. Passed by 30 votes to 9, ordinary citizens will have to pay 50 tetris from December 6. However all the other privileges for people using the special cards will remain the same. Comparing the technical and moral aspects of the issue analyst Gia Khukhashvili spoke of necessity of creating relevant social conditions for people so that they can afford the taxes. “The Government of Georgia should not try to keep increasing taxes but should ensure that citizens are able to pay,” he told The Messenger.