Post-storm assistance is underway. But will it be enough?
By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, July 24
Over 150 million GEL from state budget will be issued for rehabilitating the storm-affected regions. Changes in the state budget were the main subject of discussion at the government session this past Monday. Minister of Finance, Dimitri Gvindadze, said that 50 million GEL will be used for financial compensation and emergency measures.
20 million GEL assigned to the long-term Kakheti rehabilitation program will be used for post-storm rehabilitation activities. President Mikheil Saakashvili recently said that 2012 was considered “the year of Kakheti” while this region was the main epicenter of July 19th natural disaster leaving tens of thousands of families without shelter, land and food. That’s why an additional 2 million GEL will be added to the municipal budgets of several regions in Kakheti.
17 million GEL will stay in the government reserve fund as additional financial recourse for the people of Kakheti, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Mtskheta-Mtianeti, while GEL 6 million will be assigned to the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs for creating the database for job seekers.
At Monday’s session, Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili said the government should fulfill the promises given to the families affected by the rainstorm. “Now we need rapid budget changes to finance these activities,” he said, asking the parliament to discuss the budget changes as soon as possible because a lot of families are waiting for the state support.
The draft amendments to the state budget entered the parliament on July 23. MPs will discuss the changes today and tomorrow at the committee sessions, while on Wednesday the document is supposed to be adopted at the first hearing.
Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze said the damage was so severe that at the initial stage, families need to have their elementary living needs addressed. This includes roofs over their houses, gas, electricity and food. During the second stage long-term rehabilitation is necessary. “The entire crop was lost in several regions and it is the obligation of the state to assist the people,” he said, approving of the budget changes.
Guram Chakhvadze from the National Democratic Party believes that the GEL 50 million offered by the government will not be enough to fully eradicate the problems the regions are facing nowadays. Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) member Giorgi Akhvlediani also doubted that GEL 1,500 in compensation would be an adequate amount for people who have suffered100% of damage– especially when it costs them around GEL 2, 000 just to cultivate 1 hectare of land.
PM Merabishvili said a couple of days ago that 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.
It is not yet known whether or not the budget changes will reduce other state programs but Parliamentary Secretary Gia Khuroshvili said the government will fully eradicate the problems caused by the natural disaster.
The distribution of food began and rehabilitation activities continue in regions. But Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili said if the government fails in satisfying the needs of the storm-affected people in two-months, the Georgian Dream would assist them. Maia Panjikidze, the Georgian Dream spokeswoman, said on Monday that Bidzina Ivanishvili would pay “illegal” fines imposed by the state to legally add finances to the state budget. To assist the storm-affected population, the Georgian Dream leader has already transferred GEL 10 million within the framework of the fine imposed by the court as otherwise direct assistance would be taken as voter bribing.