TBILISI, DFWatch–A majority in Tbilisi City Council voted to reject the 2014 budget. The proposal received the support of only 18 council members, while 21 voted against. Three abstained.
During the preceding debate, a majority of council members criticized how expenditures are distributed and the priorities in the budget.
Comments concerned transport infrastructure projects, a program for utility vouchers, free or advantageous transport services, social allowances in Tbilisi’s districts and problems with the water supply.
The revision commission explained that the passage about transport infrastructure is vague and superficial.
“It is interesting whether there are specific projects. How much will be allocated for street lights, electric tables, also it is being planned to purchase new buses – how much will this cost?” the commission’s statement reads.
It also has remarks about the utility vouchers project, which involves assisting the population during five months with paying for electricity, water and street cleaning.
The council members who are against the budget draft think it would have been better to give vouchers to parts of the population according to who is most in need of assistance.
Mikheil Kavtaradze, head of the revision commission, called on council members not to support the budget proposal.
Head of the City Council, Irakli Shikhiashvili, proposed to postpone the vote for one month.
Minister of Regional Development Davit Narmania, who is also the Georgian Dream coalition’s candidate for Tbilisi mayor, on Sunday said that the council members had serious questions about the proposed budget, which in their opinion is not transparent. He said the council had a right not to approve it.
Narmania said even though the city doesn’t have a 2014 budget yet, this doesn’t mean that things won’t be financed in the city; the budget code defines rules for how to act in such cases. He continued saying that if the proposed budget is improved and made transparent, the City Council will approve it.
Deputy Mayor Papuna Petriashvili said the City Council has created problems for Tbilisi by turning down the budget. He said City Hall was ready to take heed of the City Council’s remarks.
Acting Mayor Sevdia Ugrekhelidze says she thinks it had been planned beforehand to turn down the proposed 2014 budget and that the debate before the ballot was just for show.
“We were ready to heed the remarks of the City Council, and they should have sent those remarks before the vote, but didn’t do so,” she said.
Shikhiashvili says the City Council’s decision will not create problems for Tbilisians; everyday activities won’t be interrupted.
“Tbilisi City Hall wasn’t able to get the budget bill approved, which they wanted to use for party interests. Parties shouldn’t be given the opportunity to finance their election campaign through the budget,” he added.
The size of Tbilisi’s 2014 budget is 730 million lari (USD 420 million), and it is focused on social projects.
Tbilisi City Hall presented an additional 50 million lari (USD 30 million), which it says is money left over from the 2013 budget. According to law, if the City Council doesn’t approve the budget, the executive government will have to cover the costs with up to one twelfth of the size of the budget for the previous year.
In the 2010 local election, the National Movement won both the Tbilisi mayor and a majority in City Council, and City Hall is staffed by UNM members. In July 2013, however, the party lost its majority of seats in the city assembly as it experienced an erosion of support around the country after Georgian Dream’s success in the parliamentary election the year before.