PM: We respect the Parliament and even though we have a lot of important work to do, we are standing here and we will answer these questions
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia has answered lawmakers’ questions in the Parliament within interpellation format.
At the beginning of his address, the prime minister called on the Parliament speaker to strictly adhere to the regulations envisaged by the Rules of Procedure.
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask you to strictly adhere to the Rules of Procedure, considering the fact that we stood here for 11 hours only one day ago, and I am standing here today as well. This will allow us to take better care of the people than to stand here and answer some demagogic questions,” Giorgi Gakharia stated.
The prime minister noted that today, on the 29th of May, all types of municipal transport have begun to operate in Georgia and he thanked each citizen for their wisdom as not a single case of travel by municipal transport without wearing a face mask was reported today.
“We have eight new cases of infection in the country today; six of them are from the quarantine zone and two people are truck drivers. First of all, I would like to call on the owners and leadership of shipping companies to work closely with the local authorities, the Ministry of Healthcare, and the Coordination Headquarters as it is clear that the drivers who fulfil a transit function are the carriers of the highest risk and their control – done simultaneously with their work, so that they do not have to stop – is of critical importance. For this reason, I think that this is of the utmost importance for our citizens. Also, I would like to remind you that all types of municipal transport have begun to operate in Georgia today. I would like to thank each and every one of our citizens for their wisdom and support as not a single case of travel by municipal transportation without wearing a face mask was reported so far today,” the prime minister stated.
The head of the government stated that according to the World Bank, extreme poverty has been halved in Georgia. Giorgi Gakharia stressed that pensions have increased by 20 GEL and despite the severe economic crisis, the growth of pensions will continue from July, though the prime minister also emphasized that these figures are significantly less than sufficient.
“Poverty in Georgia has decreased by 10.5 percentage points since 2012. This is a fact, and we need to be reminded of this least of all. I will elaborate: in recent years, more specifically – since 2012, poverty in Georgia has decreased by 10.5 percentage points. In 2012, the reported rate of poverty in Georgia stood at over 30 per cent. Today, the reported rate of poverty in Georgia stands at 19.5 per cent. According to the World Bank, extreme poverty has been halved in Georgia. In addition, let me tell you that the poverty of children under the age of 17 has decreased from 34.7 per cent to 25.5 per cent. I will say nothing of the fact that in recent years, especially this year, pensions have increased by 20 GEL. Despite the severe economic crisis, pension growth will continue from the 1st of July and furthermore, as you know, we have addressed the Parliament with an initiative that will ensure that pensions are constantly indexed for inflation, and for pensioners over the age of 70, an additional 80 per cent of the percentage rate of economic growth should be added to this. It is extremely difficult for me to talk about these issues for the following, simple reason: we all understand very well that this is significantly less than sufficient, especially today, when we are in crisis,” the prime minister stated.
Giorgi Gakharia noted that the daily, hard life of the citizens of Georgia is behind all these numbers.
“We must all understand that we have taken steps of the utmost importance in the last seven-eight years in order to ensure that the dynamics in terms of the reduction of poverty in the country were, at the very least, a source of hope for every citizen; so that we could at least create basic dynamics in the context of the fight against poverty, and make at least a certain amount of progress,” the head of the government stated.
As Giorgi Gakharia noted, the funding of the healthcare system in 2012 amounted to 332 million GEL, whereas today, it amounts to 1.076 billion GEL. According to him, since 2012 and given today’s facts, one-third of the Georgian budget is directed at social expenditures, which was not the case before.
Head of Government of Georgia focused on the projects implemented in support of the construction sector.
„MP Gotsiridze was suggesting to leave the construction companies and my citizens as they did after the crisis in 2008. They not only neglected the construction companies, but people too, who purchased apartments in construction sites. Dozens of thousands were left without homes even though they had paid money in developing spaces” noted the Prime Minister of Georgia.
According to the Head of Government of Georgia, incomplete constructions, which are plenty in Tbilisi, were intended as residential blocks and people made down payments prior to 2008.
“Today MP Gotsiridze has apparently diminished the value of a project aimed as the support of the construction sector. That is because 30 000 citizens of our country decided to improve their living standards with mortgage loans. Out of them 25 000 citizens signed agreements with construction companies, made the initial down payments and borrowed money from banks to start installment payments. Construction of residential blocks for these people is not completed and is still pending. It seems that MP Gotsiridze was suggesting to leave these construction companies and my citizens as they did after the crisis in 2008. They not only neglected the construction companies but people too, who purchased apartments in construction sites. Dozens of thousands were left without homes even though they had paid money in developing spaces. We have not fully solved the problem yet. Municipality of Tbilisi is taking certain decisions and incomplete constructions, which are plenty in the capital city, standing as skeletons are residential blocks and people have paid money for them prior to 2008, as we should all remember. These people had no houses 12 years ago and have none today. MP Gotsiridze was suggesting the same and wondering why the Government took a decision to help these 25 000 citizens. He wanted us to neglect them and let Tbilisi fill with more skeletons” added the Prime Minister of Georgia.
As the Head of Government of Georgia noted at the Parliament of Georgia, the concept of self-employed people was not of interest to anyone prior to 2012. Now lies are used to claim that the Government expects them to submit extra documents evidencing their status.
“I do not know how to label it when the entire country together with its citizens and society is in real terms fighting at two major fronts to save the human lives and ensure the basic income to feed their families. In these conditions, when MP Gotsiridze and his political power did not care who the self-employed were and did not keep records on them at all. Concept of self-employment was not interesting to anyone in the economy of Georgia prior to 2012 and now lies are used to claim that Government expects them to submit extra documents evidencing their status” added the Prime Minister of Georgia.
Head of Government of Georgia noted that what MP Gotsiridze said from the parliamentary rostrum that is basically a lie and Prime Minister of Georgia elaborated in detail about the support, which has been received by the citizens in the referred period of time.
“What MP Gotsiridze said from the parliamentary rostrum today is basically a lie. I did promise from this stage that State Budget will start paying out the social allowances by the end of the week and of course, we started paying them out. Since May 25 as of today, 72 175 citizens of the country have received the social allowance from 1200 GEL basket in relation to the crisis. I once again wish to repeat that as of today 72 175 citizens have already started receiving the social allowances from 1200 GEL basket. Also, 52 151 self-employed people have received a social allowance from the 300 GEL basket, while 194 796 people with a rating score in the range of 75 000 – 100 000 have received the first part of their social allowances. Also, 22 644 citizens from large families have already received the first part of social allowances from the State as of today. In addition, 40 440 persons with disabilities, including the minors, have already received social allowances as of today. Besides, 18 000 farmers have already purchased agro-diesel for a concessional price and 27 000 farmers have accumulated agro-scores, which they started to use. These are 427 206 people, whose accounts have been credited with social allowances from the State” added the Prime Minister of Georgia.
Head of Government of Georgia elaborated on the utility payments and deterrence of loans. According to him, the prime goal of the Government was to provide maximum support to people.
“Uncertainty was the greatest challenge of all during this crisis and it was not only applicable to Georgia. Uncertainties existed globally and covered epidemiological, healthcare and economic dimensions. That is exactly why the Government of Georgia initially acted as an emergency rescue for people, who were hit like lightening with this crisis and in the immediately following days, one or two weeks had to pay their utility bills for the consumed power energy and natural gas, had to pay loan instalments and had to take children to school. In the initial phase, for the first month, we took a decision to carry out measures to greatly reduce their household expenses. It was what we managed. We did not take a decision on targeting our assistance. It was not our prime goal. We were focused on providing maximum support. That is exactly why we took a decision to help them with utility payments. It was our first decision and it did cover the maximum number of people. There may have been those, who did not need such support, however at that time as the topic was hot and urgent, there was no time to distinguish who deserved it most. That is why we did it” concluded the Prime Minister of Georgia.
According to the Head of Government, the next stage involved a suspension of loan interest payments for three months,
“Next, we sat down with banks and told them to be kind enough to suspend loan interest payments in the course of three months for citizens who may have experienced cuts in their incomes. 600,000 citizens have enjoyed the interest payment suspension for individuals,” the Prime Minister said.
According to Giorgi Gakharia, vehicle customs clearance fees have been suspended for 38,000 citizens to prevent them from having to pay from their pockets amid the unexpected crisis.
“No one remembers it, and I have never mentioned it. But, as you know, this crisis was quite unexpected. 38,000 of our citizens had imported vehicles from abroad, ready for customs clearance. Imagine what it means for a person to have to pay a customs clearance fee amid this crisis! And we extended the customs fee period for them so that people would not end up having to pay from their pockets all of a sudden. What I am telling you now is known by all, and everyone knows how this process is monitored. There are the Finance Ministry, the Treasury, and the budget, and these measures have been taken, and the rest is demagogy,” Giorgi Gakharia stated.
Everyone can check these facts, and the rest is demagogy, the Prime Minister emphasized and added that sometimes it seems that some people erroneously believe that what they left in 2012 was a German-standard economy.
“As for the demagogic questions about what we have done to combat the pandemic. Friends, here is once again a simple description of our model. When the country and the world as a whole find themselves facing an unexpected and unforeseen crisis, when it is impossible to predict how things will unfold, our primary goal is of course to help our citizens. As I set forth these programs, sometimes it seems that some people make a mistake of believing that what we received from them was a Germany-level economy,” the Prime Minister of Georgia underlined.
In 2012, an average teacher’s salary was 330 GEL, but now it is 1,028 GEL, Gakharia added.
“Only 300 million GEL was spent on Georgia’s healthcare from the state budget in the past, and people were forced to sell their homes to cover medical expenses. Let me cite a few simple figures, and I will repeat that, in 2012, the healthcare budget in Georgia was 332 million GEL, while today it is 1,076 million GEL. Social assistance to persons with limited abilities was 115 million GEL, but now it is 240 million. Pensions and compensations in 2012 were 905 million GEL, but today they make up 2,267 million—and that is our budget, Mr. Gotsiridze. As for financing for education, the 2012 budget allocated 757 million GEL for that field, while today it is 1,800 million. In 2012, an average teacher’s salary was 330 GEL, while today it is 1,028 GEL. And these numbers speak for themselves,” Giorgi Gakharia said.
According to Giorgi Gakharia, this country deserves a better, more competent opposition.
“Every program presented today by the Georgian Government stands for caring for our farmers, teachers, police officers, and ultimately all our citizens. Unfortunately, our opposition does not seem to be competent enough, and I believe that this country deserves a better, more competent opposition,” the Prime Minister said.
According to him, the problem is that, as the Government, amid a most demanding crisis, is fighting for lives, for helping people continue providing for their families, some politicians engage in speculations in an attempt to gain political scores and dividends.
“Sadly, the problem is that, amid a most demanding crisis, as we have fought for the lives of our citizens, to keep alive their incomes to provide for their families, they speculate and collect political scores and dividends at the expense of people’s hardship and poverty. I understand that what we are doing today to help our citizens with our limited resources is not enough, but we all must remember what has been done in recent years, all just to serve the interests of our citizens, though caring for them. And it is our sad reality that you, instead of thinking what can be done to solve the actual problems of pensioners and children and to uproot poverty once and for all, all you do is think about why Kvirikashvili was replaced. You are living in the past where you belong,” Giorgi Gakharia said.