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On 15 April 2015, at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, a representative of the Parliamentary Minority, Zurab Japaridze, emphasised the state’s social obligations in his speech. According to Mr Japaridze, these social obligations represent a heavy burden for the Government of Georgia: "There is a 3% rise in social expenditures envisaged in the budget for this year which does not constitute growth as such. Moreover, if we take into account the depreciation of GEL, it means that social expenditures are reduced. Beginning from April of this year, each child was supposed to receive an additional GEL 10 of assistance but the Government of Georgia failed to do this and postponed the activity until May. We still do not know whether or not children will receive this assistance in May," said Mr Japaridze.

FactCheck

took interest in Zurab Japaridze’s statement and verified the facts put forth by the MP.

Funding for social expenditures in 2014 was GEL 2.58 billion whilst it increased to GEL 2.69 billion in 2015. Therefore, the funding for social expenditures rose by 4% this year. The growth rate of social expenditures was much higher in the previous years. The amount of money allocated for social expenditures increased by 11% in 2012, by 22% in 2013 and by 24% in 2014. It must be noted that the expected inflation rate for 2015 equals 5% according to the National Bank of Georgia which means that the growth of social expenditures cannot even surpass the inflation rate.

At the end of the last year, the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia introduced a new methodology to assess the socio-economic conditions of the country’s socially vulnerable population. The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs started to elaborate the new methodology in September 2013 with the support of UNICEF. Each member of a socially vulnerable family whose ranking points are below 30,000 will receive GEL 60. Family members with ranking points in the margin of 30,000 to 57,000 will receive GEL 50. According to the new formula, families whose ranking points fluctuate from 57,000 to 60,000 will receive GEL 40 and families with ranking points in the range of 60,000 to 65,000 will receive GEL 30. Additionally, the methodology envisages an additional GEL 10 of assistance per family whose combined ranking points do not exceed 100,000 (FactCheck has worked on this topic before. See the article).

According to Decree N758 of the Government of Georgia issued on 31 December 2014, the new methodology for compiling the census of the socially vulnerable population was to have come into force by 1 April 2015. The socio-economic conditions of Georgia’s socially vulnerable families were to have been verified within a testing regime before the aforementioned date. According to Decree N145 of the Government of Georgia issued on 31 March 2015, the deadline was moved to 1 May.

FactCheck took interest in the reason for the postponing of the deadline for the introduction of the new methodology. The Deputy Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Gaioz Talakvadze, stated in his interview with FactCheck: "

Since 1 January 2015, the new methodology has been used in a testing regime to check socially vulnerable families. We have been observing this formula thus far. You are well aware that we are working with UNICEF. We have made the decision that more time and additional observation are required to further work on this formula. Therefore, the deadline to introduce the new formula was moved forward." He added that: "According to the plan, the verification of those families who receive social assistance will be finalised at the end of this year whilst the verification of every family registered in the database of socially vulnerable families will be finished by the start of the next year."

Financial assistance together with the additional GEL 10 of assistance will be given step-by-step once the aforementioned verification process has been completed. As clarified by the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, an additional two-to-three months are required for certain procedures (obtaining and processing of information) before financial assistance is actually delivered following the verification. Even if the new methodology had entered into force in April, the country’s socially vulnerable families still could not have received the additional GEL 10 of assistance per child. The one-month postponing of the date for the introduction of the new methodology means that eligible families will receive the additional GEL 10 of assistance per child relatively later.

Conclusion

Social expenditures in the budget for this year rose by 4% as compared to the previous year. The growth rate of social expenditures in the budgets of the last years (2012, 2013 and 2014) was much higher.

The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs with the support of UNICEF has elaborated a new methodology for assessing the socio-economic conditions of the country’s socially vulnerable families. After the aforementioned methodology is introduced, every socially vulnerable family whose combined ranking points do not exceed 100,000 are entitled to an additional GEL 10 of assistance per child.

According to the decree of the Government of Georgia, the new methodology for compiling the census of the socially vulnerable population was to have come into force by 1 April 2015. According to a later decree of the Government of Georgia issued on 31 March 2015, the deadline for introducing the new methodology was moved to 1 May. The Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs clarified that moving the deadline forward was necessitated by the need to conduct additional work on the calculation formula. Even if the new methodology had gone into force in April, socially vulnerable families still would not have been able to collect the additional GEL 10 of assistance per child because the period between the completion of a family’s verification and the start of the receipt of assistance is usually two-to-three months. However, as a result of the decision of the Government of Georgia to move the deadline for introducing the new methodology, eligible families will receive the social assistance together with the additional GEL 10 as envisaged by the new methodology later than initially planned.

FactCheck concludes that Zurab Japaridze’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.