TBILISI, DFWatch–As barely a month remains until the parliamentary election, political parties in Georgia are falling over each other to promise increased pensions and social allowances.
“Today, social allowances are distributed to 500,000 people and we promise to give it to one million people.”
This is a quote from one of the election promises made by Paata Burchuladze, an opera singer who recently formed the party State for People.
He hasn’t specified exactly how he is going to fund the increased expenditure, but Zurab Japaridze, founder of Girchi, one of the other parties that have joined State for People as Burchuladze built momentum, wrote on his Facebook page that they are planning to ‘correct the system of social allowance’, which means that the expenses will be distributed from rich to poor.
“Finally, the socially vulnerable will receive more allowance than they’ve ever received,” Japaridze writes.
Other criticized Japaridze for this statement. Vice Prime Minister Kakhi Kaladze thinks the promise is not serious.
Economic analyst Levan Kalandadze thinks Burchuladze’s statement is misleading the voters. He thinks that it is an example of being ‘uneducated’, ‘politically immature’ and ‘fake populism.’
Burchuladze also promises to increase pensions, which also most other parties do before every election. The opera singer sets his target at 250 laris.
The former ruling party National Movement promises that if they come to power, pensions will increase by 30 laris to 230 laris. The Free Democrats promise that they will increase pensions to 300 laris. The Centrists, a party recently created by the ex-prison guard Lado Bedukadze, is the most generous of them all, promising 400 laris pension.
The government has not announced its plans for pensions and social programs yet, but Dimitri Khundadze from Georgian Dream thinks the promises made by the other parties are unrealistic. He thinks the solution could be to establish a system of retirement savings, and the government wants to introduce such a system from the second quarter of 2017.
Economic analyst Tariel Zivzivadze says there isn’t room in the state budget for a sharp increase in pensions in the next two years. He told Moambe, the evening news show on the Public Broadcaster’s Channel 1, that none of the party programs actually describe how to fund an increase in pensions to more than 250 laris.
There are 716 287 people receiving pensions today. 1,570 billion laris was allocated from the state budget, which had a total size of 10 billion this year.
From June, pensions were increased to 180 laris. Before the 2012 election, Georgian Dream promised to increase pensions to 220-230 laris.