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Government addresses needs of storm-affected region

By Salome Modebadze and Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 23
People affected by Thursday’s rainstorm in Kakheti, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti will receive state compensation of between 300 to 1,500 GEL. Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili announced on July 20 that affected families will be separated into three categories according to the damage: the families which have lost 100% of their crop will receive GEL 1,300-1,500; those with 70-80% loss will get GEL 800-1,000, while those with 50% damage will receive GEL 300-500 compensation from the state.

Most farmers have taken loans from banks to harvest their lands, so President Mikheil Saakashvili said the state would cover their bank payments for a year and storm-affected families will also receive flour, sugar, oil and other food from the state.

“The situation is more dramatic than we could have ever imagined,” the President said, worrying that the people’s investment has been taken by the wind leaving them with bank loans to pay. The president also said he will postpone studying fees for students from the families which were affected by the rainstorm and asked the Minister of Education and Science Khatia Dekanoidze to negotiate with the relevant universities.

It was on July 19 when a heavy rainstorm and hail destroyed thousands of houses in three Georgian regions Kakheti, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti leaving tens of thousands of families with no land, harvest and domestic animals. The damage was especially alarming in Telavi, but Saakashvili said no one would remain in the open air.

Saakashvili said he has never seen such a disaster before and worried of the great stress people have received after the rainstorm. “People should feel that the government and state are protecting their interests in this country,” he said, encouraging his team to work hard to assist the affected people.

Visiting different villages, the president promised to fulfil the promises given to the people in this situation. He said the country’s agriculture on its way to industrialization and the rehabilitation of the regions will continue so that not only new seeds, plants and technologies but insurance service will also be introduced to the villages to avoid losing the harvest in future.

A group of volunteers from Tbilisi, Imereti, Samegrelo, Achara and other regions joined the brigades of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) to help clean the streets and mend the roofs; opposition leaders also arrived to the affected villages and helped the local population.

Opposition MP Levan Vepkhvadze, from Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), found it shameful that the government promised only one-time GEL 1,500 assistance when for three- years those families will have no harvest and suggested that each family should received at least GEL 10, 000 from the state.

Ivanishvili’s counter step

Georgian billionaire and opposition leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili contributed GEL 10 million to assist the families affected by storm. According to the statement made by Ivanishvili on July 20, initially he transferred GEL 10 million in the frame of the fine the Appellate Court had imposed on him as, otherwise direct assistance would be taken as voters’ bribing. Based on the decision made by the court, Ivanishvili was fined with GEL 74, 325, 065.65 for violation of the law on Political Unions which Ivanishvili refused to pay.

Touched by the post-storm disaster in Georgian regions Ivanishvili said it is everyone’s responsibility to express solidarity towards the affected families. He said it is the obligation of the state to fully restore the damage especially now when he has transferred money in state budget for his “vague fine.” He said his team would monitor how effectively this money will be spent on people.

“I have chosen such a way as there was no other outcome to help people and transferred the money to the state budget in the frame of the fine,” Ivanishvili stated, adding that the current Government has “senselessly wasted” GEL 100 million reserve fund created for such occasions and supposed that GEL 1500 for affected families by the Government would have been insignificant relief.

Visiting storm-affected people in Telavi Georgian Dream leader said his team would fully cover the expenses of each and every family. “The government not focus only on [mending] roofs,” he said, promising to find indirect but legal ways how to further finance restoration activities in the damaged regions.

Ivanishvili’s decision caused controversies from the ruling United National Movement (UNM) and opposition parties. “Speculating on the fine issue is not a clean political game,” UNM MP Davit Darchiashvili said, advising Ivanishvili to address a special governmental staff coping with post-storm affects.

The Labour Party believes that “criminal Saakashvili and the criminal oligarch Ivanishvili belong to one and the same political group and are oriented on cheating people.”

For political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze Ivanishvili has made an interesting step. “The government faces a choice. In case of the authorities agreeing on Ivanishvili’s suggestion, they would oppose their own statements and previous decisions. If they refuse, they would oppose people,” Sakvarelidze said meaning that people need assistance and the families affected by the rainstorm and hail need such assistance.