Cuts Planned in Presidential Administration’s Budget, Staff

Funding for the President’s Administration will decrease by GEL 3.8 million (38.77%) in 2019 and the presidential reserve fund – a pot of money reserved for special projects – will apparently be abolished, according to the final draft of the 2019 draft state budget submitted by the Finance Ministry to the Parliament on November 30. According to the  budget, number of staff members of the President’s administration will also be reduced from 140 to 60.

This represents a significant cut compared to the initial budget draft, discussed by the Parliament on November 13-14, between the two rounds of the Presidential elections. In earlier version, the administration had 140 employees and its funding amounted to GEL 9.8 million. Funding of the President’s reserve fund was foreseen at GEL 5 million.

Commenting on the draft, Parliament’s Vice Speaker, Tamar Chugoshvili said the resources allocated are proportional to the planned workload of the President’s administration.

Commenting on the matter, MP Irakli Abesadze of the opposition European Georgia said that Ivanishvili, who spent significant resources to support Zurabishvili’s presidency, now wants “the new President to be a nominal figure in Georgian politics, without any independence and guarantees.”

“It seems that having in mind the example of [outgoing President] Margvelashvili’s ‘disobedience’, Ivanishvili decided to limit the President-elect’s independence and political activities as much as possible, that is first of all expressed in depriving her of financial independence,” he said.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s administration also commented on the issue with Giorgi Abashishvili, head of administration, slamming the decision as “absolutely unprofessional.” He said that a campaign aimed at weakening the presidency had been underway for years and “now, this initiative aims at weakening the Presidency further.”

“Nobody has consulted with us.” he added, arguing that decision-makers must have reached out to the Presidential administration, the agency that is both most competent to provide justification for staff and spending, and immediately affected by upcoming changes.

Commenting on the matter, President-elect Salome Zurabishvili noted that “it is a part of the budgetary process, which is currently underway. One draft has already been submitted and we are working on it. There are no problems about it,” she said.

The Parliament of Georgia discussed on November 13-14 the revised draft of the 2019 state budget, submitted by the government following the latter’s consideration of the legislature’s remarks drawn from the budget-related committee hearings. Following two-day discussions, the draft was returned to the government with remarks. The Parliament of Georgia will approve the final version of the state budget in December.

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