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President Saakashvili proposes three new bills

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, January 21
President Saakashvili plans to propose three new bills to the Parliament. The new drafts will be initiated on tax amnesty and the decriminalization of economic offenses; tightening privacy protection laws; social benefits and the doubling of pensions for military.

Saakashvili calls on the new government to decriminalize economic offences and not to apply prison terms, he also encourages them to follow the policy of tax amnesty his government started after the Rose Revolution. “In the view of the existing economic situation, I offer the government to declare complete amnesty for all the tax arrears,” he said.

The president believes that similar changes will help to rectify the current situation that is causing the slowdown in economic growth and decline in foreign direct investment. Speaking at a press conference on January 17 where he announced his initiative, Saakashvili said that the country is in need of an extraordinary decision to fix the financial situation.

David Onoprishvili chairman of Parliamentary Committee for Budget and Finances commented on the initiative of the President and said that it is impossible to write off penalties for economic crimes and complete amnesty economic entities. These steps “will cause a budgetary crisis because enough funds will not be mobilized in the budget”

Tightening privacy protection laws is another initiative the president proposed. The new draft will completely ban the gathering of information about an individual's private life. In the case that law enforcement agencies somehow obtain this information, they will be obliged to immediately destroy it. “There are some laws, which regulate this issue to a certain extent, but I want to make it tighter now.”

The president spoke about the scandalous footage aired recently and showing “publicly well-known” men having sex reportedly to blackmail them. Saakashvili criticized the prosecutor’s office for airing the videos and said that there has never been a single similar fact when his government was in power.

With his third bill Saakashvili wants to provide social benefits and guarantees for military staff members and their families.

The president proposes the doubling of pensions for servicemen and also ensuring that the minimal pension for retired military servants is twice as much as the minimal pension for non-military retired citizens. Also, for the pensions of families with a fallen soldier, an additional one-time compensation will be envisaged. “The country can now afford such guarantees” Saakashvili said, making his statements controversial, as he had spoken about the possible budgetary crisis earlier, during the same press conference.

Reportedly, the Georgian Dream Coalition will support the third bill on social benefits and the doubling of pensions for the military. Vako Avaliani, the Defence Ministry advisor, commented on the bill and said that the president is just repeating the part of the Defence Ministry initiative on providing better social benefits for military personnel. “He’s about 8 years late. During all this time, the previous government has not done anything for the veterans,” Avaliani said.

The initiatives were welcomed by many independent experts. However, they find it to be irritating that Saakashvili speaks about the protection of private life.

Gia Khukhashili, who chairs Georgian Development Research Institute, thinks it is cynical that the drafts were initiated by the president. He told the newspaper Rezonansi that numerous facts exist proving that Saakashvili and his government illegally created and released private video footage.