Saakashvili forcing people to starve01.06.2009 | 16:37
Georgian authorities lowered the subsistence minimum down to 114.9 lari. Thus the gap between the pension and the market basket got artificially smaller with the food prices and the unemployment rate going up.
In Tbilisi real expenses for food and community facilities are around 300 lari per capita per month excluding medical treatment, education, purchase of clothing and footwear. By way of comparison a pension in Georgia is now 80 lari and a teacher salary is 120-150 lari.
The authorities believe it possible to get by on 114.9 lari (approximately 76 dollars). 183.8 will be enough for a two-member family and 206.8 lari - for a three-member family.
This minimum is meant for 40 types of goods with 70% of food and 30% of consumer goods, Business Georgia writes.
The market basket composition was defined by the Ministry of Health in 2003. Energy value of a minimum food set per day is 2300 kcal. According to the norm, an able-bodied Georgian man must be content with 40 gr of beef, 10 gr of pork, half an egg, 40 gr of fish, 20 gr of cheese, 50 gr of sugar, 50 gr of tomatoes, 20 gr of lobio, 10 gr of rice, 15 gr of carrots. The largest share of the list above, i.e. 150 gr, is potatoes and wheat bread - 250 gr.
This set is beneath any criticism, Irakli Petriashvili, the head of United Trade Unions told Kommersant radio. "If Europeans believe their people need 5 kilos of meat every month our government thinks the meat is not a mandatory product, and these 5 kilos are replaced by potatoes, - the defender of working Georgians said.
"The market basket energy value is estimated in compliance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization - unique for all countries", - Georgia's Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili told Kommersant radio. "As for the components of the basket they were defined on the basis of our investigations and need reconsideration", - he emphasized promising to reconsider the consumer minimum by the end of the year.
Consumer non-food minimum with a certain part of it being medical expenses will be reconsidered too. Cheap insurance and other social programs will significantly reduce these expenses. This will consequently lead to a different allocation of amounts when a consumer minimum is determined", - Kvitashvili is sure.
Optimism of the minister - a member of Mikheil Saakashvili's government with their rose-colored glasses on - is rather logical. To say that the cheap insurance program can be available for half a million citizens (with hardly any money on that in most families) is Kvitashvili's official duty. As a representative of a well-off part of the society he sees decrease in prices. But it usually affects expensive goods beyond an average Georgian's market basket.
That is why Nino Tarkhnishvili , a PR-manager of Educators and Scientists Free Trade Union told Georgia Times that the cutback on the consumer minimum was not justified. According to her, to live on 114 lari per month means to eat no meat. Tarkhnishvili also told her trade union was now holding conferences in all regions of Georgia to urge teacher pay rise up to 900 lari, i.e. at least 6-fold.
As early as in March when according to the statistics department an able-bodied man could live on 132 lari (88 dollars) ex Economy Minister Lado Papava stated the figure was inadequate as any statistics in Georgia. He can't understand how a person must distribute this amount for food and transport expenses, to pay for gas, light, water and other commodity facilities. "A minimum living wage in Georgia is much higher than 132 lari", - the expert stated.
Now this minimum is even smaller with the food in shops getting more expensive all the time. That is why Irakli Petriashvili, the trade union leader calls the cut in market basket value artificial. The whole categories of citizens can be badly affected after the recalculation of benefits and allowances. As Petriashvili stated on May 1, there are 900 thousand people living below the poverty line with 400 thousand people being out of jobs and having no unemployment compensation.
Do the authorities think about the people's real well-being? In December at one of the last sessions Mikheil Saakashvili brought Finance Minister Nika Gilauri to shame for not knowing the minimum living wage in his country. Now apparently the minister knows this figure by heart. But does it make life easier?
In January the president acknowledged the people's very high level of poverty. "I understand what it is not to have textbooks, food, medicines, and even shoes - for some - to go to school. Our task is to overcome poverty and I'm ready to fight for that", - Georgian media were quoting Saakashvili's promises. Almost half a year has passed. The situation in all economy sectors has become extremely strained, unemployment rate has grown, and money transfers from abroad have stopped. Saakashvili hasn't given his head for it and is not even going to step down, as the opposition demands.