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On air on Rustavi 2, the former mayoral candidate of Tbilisi, Nika Melia, talked about the problems at Tbilisi City Hall. He said: "Narmania is just a nominal figure. It is pointless to talk about what he did or did not do. He will not be able to do anything in such a situation. During his pre-election campaign, he promised to allocate GEL 100 million for small and medium-size businesses but not even GEL 1 has been allocated for them. He also promised to double utility vouchers but these vouchers were decreased for 250,000 people."

FactCheck

took interest in Nika Melia’s statement and verified its accuracy.

On 10 July 2014 at the Radisson Blu Iveria hotel, the mayoral candidate of the Georgian Dream coalition, Davit Narmania, presented the social and economic aspects of his election programme to the media. He pointed out that in the case of his being elected Mayor of Tbilisi, utility vouchers for socially vulnerable people would be doubled and amount to GEL 500. Supporting small and medium-size businesses comprised another significant part of Mr Narmania’s pre-election campaign. According to his statement, he would spend a total of GEL 100 million in four years for this purpose should he be elected Mayor of Tbilisi.

We took interest in the amounts of money allocated for utility vouchers in the 2015 Tbilisi city budget as well as for supporting small and medium-size businesses (enterprises).

Based upon the 2015 Tbilisi city budget, we present herewith the amounts of money allocated for financing utility vouchers and supporting enterprises as follows:

Table 1:

 Amounts of Money Allocated in the Tbilisi City Budget for Utility Vouchers and Supporting Small and Medium-size Businesses (2013-2015)

2013 2014 2015
Utility Vouchers GEL 44,217,000 GEL 45,100,000 GEL 37,195,000
Support for Enterprises GEL 780,000 GEL 3,907,000 GEL 2,627,000

As Table 1 shows, a total of GEL 2,627,000 has been allocated for the support for enterprises in 2015. One of Davit Narmania’s pre-election promises comprised spending a total of GEL 100 million for enterprises over a period of four years should he be elected Mayor of Tbilisi. Given the funding allocated in 2015, it is difficult to imagine how, in fact, he would fulfil this promise as an additional GEL 97 million would have to be assigned in the next three years.

An Entrepreneurship Development Centre was established at Tbilisi City Hall on 9 March 2015 with the former Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi, Aleksandre Margishvili, appointed as its head.  We took interest in whether or not the creation of this Centre was funded from the money allocated for the support for enterprises (GEL 2,627,000). We contacted the Head of the Economic Department of Tbilisi City Hall, Irakli Berekashvili. According to Mr Berekashvili, the Centre is being financed from the transitional amount of the city budget with no funds being deducted from any of the projects included in the annual budget. He also clarified that the Centre is not being funded under the support for enterprises programme.

As for the funding of utility vouchers, the 2015 Tbilisi city budget programme about utility subsidisation indicates that families registered in the common database of socially vulnerable people with 70,000 rating points and less will receive utility vouchers in the amount of GEL 500 whilst the amount and procedures for the distribution of the vouchers for the rest of the families registered in Tbilisi would be determined according to the directives of the government of Tbilisi’s municipalities. The utility vouchers for this category of people were indeed doubled and amounted to GEL 500. It should also be noted that the 2015 Tbilisi city budget allocated a total of GEL 37 million for utility subsidisation which is about GEL 8 million less than it was in 2014.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of utility subsidisation for socially vulnerable families in Tbilisi, we contacted the Chairman of the United National Movement faction of the Tbilisi City Council, Irakli Abesadze. According to his information, utility vouchers increased in 2015 only for those socially vulnerable families with rating points below 70,000. For the others, socially vulnerable or not, the vouchers were actually decreased. According to the previous rules, the amount of monthly utility vouchers was GEL 20 (GEL 8.45 for electricity, GEL 8.40 for cleaning services and GEL 3.15 for water).

"By the decision of Davit Narmania, utility vouchers were differentiated by the number of members of a family. Hence, one-member families will receive GEL 14.1 from 2015 and GEL 16.6 will be allocated for two-member families whilst three-member families will receive GEL 19.1. It should be noted that of the 385,000 families registered in Tbilisi, about 238,000 consist of three or less members. Hence, the utility vouchers have been decreased for about 60% of the population of Tbilisi," said Mr Abesadze in his interview with FactCheck.

We asked the member of the Georgian Dream coalition faction of the Tbilisi City Council, Jaba Samushia, to comment upon the same issue. According to his information, utility vouchers have been doubled for all of the socially vulnerable families which have rating points below 70,000. As for the rest of the population of Tbilisi, utility vouchers were indeed differentiated by the number of members of the family (which means that families with three or less members will not receive a GEL 20 utility voucher from 2015). According to him, the social vouchers will be reviewed next year and only those families which actually need these vouchers will receive them.

In order to determine the number of families who will receive doubled utility vouchers, we requested the statistics of socially vulnerable people from the Social Service Agency. According to the information of the Agency, a total of 97,749 socially vulnerable families were registered in the common database as of 15 April 2015. From this amount, 39,916 families have rating points below 70,000. This is the category which will receive doubled utility vouchers (GEL 500 instead of GEL 250). We also looked into the number of socially vulnerable families with less than four family members. It turned out that a total of 35,106 families fall under this category. This, then, is the exact number of families which will receive GEL 19.1 utility vouchers in the case of three members, GEL 16.6 in the case of two members and GEL 14.1 in the case of one member.

Conclusion

In his pre-election campaign, Tbilisi mayoral candidate, Davit Narmania, did indeed speak about support for small and medium-size businesses and doubling utility vouchers for the socially vulnerable. According to Mr Narmania’s promises, a total of GEL 100 million would be allocated for the support for businesses. The 2015 Tbilisi city budget allocated just GEL 2,670,000 for this purpose. Nika Melia is wrong to say that not even GEL 1 has been allocated for this purpose but the context of the statement is correct as the allocated amount of money is much smaller than initially promised.

As for doubling the utility vouchers for the socially vulnerable, these vouchers have indeed been doubled for those socially vulnerable families with rating points of less than 70,000 (this is the category which Mr Narmania had in mind in his pre-election promise). A total of 39,916 families fall under this category. As for socially vulnerable families with rating points above 70,000, utility vouchers have been decreased for them. The number of such families is 35,916 (about 107,748 people) and not 250,000 as pointed out by Mr Melia.

FactCheck concludes that Nika Melia’s statement is HALF TRUE.

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