On November 13, the committee discussed situation in Kodori gorge.
Head of General Staff John Pirtskhalaishvili reported to the committee that the units of the Defense Ministry are dispatched in the gorge and maintain security of the territory together with the local population. However, he mentioned that the gorge is not protected against air bombing due to absence of air defense systems. Pirtskhalaishvili stated that 350 troops of the ministry are fully supplied with food and other goods. “There is no threat in the gorge at the moment. But, of course everything depends on which threat or foe we have” – said Pirtskhalaishvili.
Head of General Staff underlined hard social conditions of the local population. He said, that with order of the President, the Ministry transported to the gorge 200 thousand tons of flour.
Governor of Upper Svaneti and Kodori Gorge Emzar Kvitsiani says that the gorge does not pose any threat and is fully protected. The only problem that the population has is lack of products. This caused approximately 600 women and children to become temporarily refugees. Kvitsiani requested their provision with temporary leaving place.
Kvitsiani made a scandalous statement, saying that employees of Georgian intelligence service were providing the Russian side with sensitive information. He pledged that Russians used information, given by local population to the Georgian intelligence in the bombing.
Chairman of the committee Gia Baramidze instructed the staff to send a letter to the State Chancellery with request to organize a special investigation team for this case. Baramidze did not exclude the possibility of discussion of the issue on trust group level as well.
Committee for Legal Issues, Rule of Law and Administrative Reforms
On November 14 President’s Parliamentary Secretary Valeri Khaburdzania presented to the committee the draft law on “Structural Changes in the Executive Government”.
The law, which is initiated by the President, considers merger of the three ministries: Economy, Industry and Trade; State Property Management; Construction and Urbanization into one new Ministry of Economy. The Ministry of Tax Revenues would be divided into three departments: Taxes, Customs and the Special Legion. All three departments would be subordinated directly to the State Minister.
Valeri Khaburdzania explained that President considers these changes as a first stage of complete structural changes.
Member of “Socialist” faction Zaqaria Kutsnashvili criticized the draft law. He suggested Khaburdzania own version of the structural changes – “The ministry, function of which is only to issue the permissions, e.g. the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, should join the Ministry of Construction and Urbanization, because otherwise it is useless. The social issues should be taken off from the Health Care ministry and added to the Ministry of Refugees and Settlement”.
Vakhtang Gvaramia from “Revival” faction considers that if transformed into the departments, Taxes and Customs affairs would not be under the control of the Parliament anymore. The draft project lists 35 departments in total.
Majority of the committee members did not support the draft.
The Committees Start Discussing the Budget for 2002
Committees for Human Rights, Citizen Petitions and Civil Society Building; Education, Science, Culture and Sport; Legal Issues, Rule of Law and Administrative Reforms and Procedural Issues and Rules discussed the draft budget for 2002.
The draft was presented by the deputy ministers of Finance. The draft is to be agreed with the International Monetary Fund.
In the new budget incomes of the central budget and incomes of the budget organizations are divided. Investment projects of the World Bank are reduced to 10 million Laris. Incomes from the privatization processes are estimated at 22 million Laris, which does not include incomes from privatization of “Telecomm” and “Electrokavshiri”. Growth of non-taxation incomes bases on profits of the National Bank.
Share of foreign debt service is increased in the budget’s expenses, while total expenses are reduced. The reduction does not concern the social spending, defense and internal affairs. Debts to teachers would be a priority.
Inflation rate is determined as 1 USD = 2,1 GEL.
The Finance Ministry would not intervene in budgeting of other ministries anymore. The ministries would spend their funds independently.
Committee for Education, Science and Sport expressed dissatisfaction with the draft, assuming that funding of these spheres is very low in the budget and endangers their existence.
Committee for Taxes and Incomes
The committee discussed suggested structural changes in the executive government. Valeri Khaburdzania presented at the committee already adjusted draft law.
The revised version of the draft considers merger of Finance and Tax Revenues ministries. Forestry department will join the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
Formal candidate for the post of Tax Revenues Minister and acting Minister of Finances Zurab Soselia considers appropriate progression if Taxation and Customs reforms within one fiscal-budget area under the ‘umbrella’ of the finance Ministry.
First Deputy Minister of Tax Revenues David Mumladze considers implementation of the reforms premature. “The Ministry is created when the budget is not fulfilled and the ministry is dismissed when the budget is fulfilled,” he said. He informed the committee members about negative assessment of the changes by US Development Agency. Mumladze believes that while taxation reforms are implemented for 1/3 only and customs reforms have not started at all, merger of the two departments with the Finance Ministry would have negative impact on the Tax Revenues Ministry.
First Deputy Minister of Economy said that it is incorrect to talk about worthiness of the structural changes, since they are suggested by President.
Majority of the committee members confirmed negative attitude towards the draft law.
Economic Policy Committee
Protest action of population of Tskneti village on illegal cut of the forest has become a main reason for the committee hearings on November 16.
Chairman of the Chamber of Control Sulkhan Molashvili stated his conclusion regarding the accident. “This is a classic example of the distance, which actually exists between the government and the population” – he said. Sulkhan Molashvili reported that massive of unique forests have been destroyed. The Chamber has discovered many facts of violation and submitted these facts to the relevant structures for investigation, “however none of them attracted attention of the law enforcing bodies” – stated Molashvili.
Molashvili alleged particular persons and structures in illegal activities: Shota Meparidze, Head of Tbilisi Forestry Service, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Gamgeoba of Gardabani District etc. He stated that the Chamber will appeal with request of resignation of all concerned authorities. The Chamber is going to submit all the cases, including violations by the employees of the Interion Ministry, to Prosecutor-General’s office within the two months period.
The hall welcomed with loud applause the fact of dismissal of Shota Meparishvili from the post of Chairman of the Forestry Service, reported by Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili announced that this is only the beginning of the combat against disorder in this field. Meparidze knew about his dismissal right during the session.