"Georgian Dream" plays with trash?27.03.2013 | 15:02
Why the government of Georgia has separated payments for electricity and for waste collection, and what do the experts think about that? Political decision, made in mid-2011 by the "United National Movement", was canceled by the "Georgian Dream" in 2013. But will the people pay less, or they will again become victims of political games?
Indestructible union of electricity and garbage in Georgia destroyed. The country's Parliament has approved in final, third reading, the legislative changes separating payments for electricity and waste collection. The deputies probably also were not too happy from the system when you actually have to pay for the electricity twice - that is, 18 tetri for every kilowatt of electricity, and plus 6 tetri also for a kilowatt of electricity, but already for waste collection. So they have approved changes to the law "On Tbilisi" and "On the local taxation".
Previous system, when payments for electricity and waste collection were united, was approved by the Tbilisi legislative assembly on July 1, 2011. Virtually all economists violently opposed this and tried to explain that household waste has nothing to do with electricity. But what was the point to prove that? Amendments were made on the quiet, almost without discussing, and many residents of Tbilisi learned about them only when receiving receipt of payment.
Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava had such an argument: allegedly, in Tbilisi there are lots of private apartments, where no one lives, and their owners, who either have left abroad or are living with relatives, are in a difficult economic situation, and however they have to pay for waste collection. The argument, in general, is quite controversial. In Tbilisi there are really a lot of people in need, and many were forced to go abroad or move to live with wealthier relatives, but almost all of them are leasing their apartments, so one cannot say that the apartments are empty. And if someone's flat is closed, these people are not in need.
But what has the parliament adopted, and whether the people will now pay less, or it's just another gimmick? Especially considering that the separation of payments for electricity and for waste collection was one of the campaign promises of the Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. And the economic interests of citizens were pushed to the back burner. The amendment is adopted, but at what cost?
Under the new law, local authorities are mandated to set a flat fee for trash - not more than 3 GEL per person, and a total of not more than 12 lari per apartment. In other words, a family of 4 people has to pay for the waste collection the same sum as the family of 8 people. What a egalitarianism!
Economic experts consider the adoption of amendments insufficient. "Of course, the fee for the electricity and waste collection in no way should be connected to each other," economic expert Natia Turnava said in an interview with GeorgiaTimes. "But this is not enough to determine the size of payments now: whether it will be less than prior to the amendments. Now they must invent a specific mechanism to calculate the payment for waste collection and to take into account the social status of people. I think it is important to determine the costs of waste collection, to count all the components, as in the case of electricity and gas. If the amount is too high, it may be necessary to subsidize this sector. In this case, both economic and social interests will be taken into account. The old system was absurd, but if you do not specify some points of the new system, it is no less absurd," said Turnava.
At the same time, economic expert Alexander Tvalchrelidze says the matter is in the politics rather than in the economy. "Unification of payments for electricity and waste collection was idea of the "United National Movement" - thus they took away people's money and then used during the parliamentary election in 2012. They financed their activists who officially worked in the service of city maintenance," Tvalchrelidze said in an interview to GeorgiaTimes. "Of course, you cannot always set the same rates, let the local authorities set them. Now the specific local governments must set certain tariffs. But I still think that the tariff should be based on the area of housing, not on the number of people living there. In my opinion, this is not quite right," said Tvalchrelidze.
Thus, it appears that through abolishing the old system the "Georgian Dream" is reducing revenues to the service, staffed by supporters of the "United National Movement". So the trash and light are just an excuse, and this is about a political struggle.
Before coming to power Ivanishvili promised to halve the cost of electricity and gas. Being the Prime Minister and considering all the "pros" and "cons", he said that the 15-20 percent tariff reduction will occur due to "unexpected components". What are next "surprises" for the government when determining fee for waste collection? Soon it will become clear. And now the people of Georgia have pay the old rate for the light, gas and other utilities.