From left to right: Dali Khomeriki, new minister in charge of IDPs; Paata Trapaidze, state minister for employment; Khatia Dekanoidze, education minister; PM Vano Merabishvili and Bacho Akhalaia, defense minister. Photo: InterPressNews
Parliament, dominated by ruling United National Movement party, confirmed on July 4 with 102 votes to 7 reshuffled cabinet and its new four-year program with Vano Merabishvili as new Prime Minister.
Bacho Akhalaia, who was defense minister since 2009, became new Interior Minister – the post held for over seven years by Merabishvili. Education Minister Dimitri Shashkin replaced Akhalaia on the post of Defense Minister. Khatia Dekanoidze, former rector of the police academy, who took over education ministry’s center in charge of nationwide university exams a month ago after a controversial dismissal of the center’s former head, replaced Shashkin as Education Minister. Dali Khomeriki, who has served in the Tbilisi-based exiled Abkhaz government as an education minister, replaced Koba Subeliani on the post of minister in charge of IDPs.
The reshuffle also saw introduction of a new post – Minister for Employment, which is held by Paata Trapaidze, who was a chief executive of construction firm Caucasus Road Project Ltd.
- Reshaped Cabinet
- Merabishvili Named as New PM
- Saakashvili: Police are Depoliticized
- Saakashvili Praises New Defense Minister Shashkin
- GEL 950,000 for New Employment Ministry
- Incoming PM Merabishvili Outlines Key Points of Govt's Program
Speaking before the lawmakers on July 4, new PM Vano Merabishvili reiterated that he was sure new Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia was a right nomination for the post.
“I am sure Bacho will prove that the reforms carried out in the police are firm enough and change of a minister will not change anything,” Merabishvili said. “I am sure that the police will remain one of the foundations for carrying out further reforms in Georgia and for stability and development of the country.”
One change so far within the Interior Ministry’s top brass has already occurred with Merabishvili’s right-hand man Shota Utiashvili, who headed the Interior Ministry’s information and analytical department, quitting his post. Utiashvili declined at this stage to discuss his future tenure, but he is most likely to continue working with PM Merabishvili although his new post has yet to be announced.
Parliament also confirmed reshuffled cabinet’s new four-year program – “More Benefit to the People”.
Speaking before lawmakers on July 4 before the confidence vote, Merabishvili presented key points of the four-year, GEL 20 billion program, which involves a pledge to allocate GEL 6 billion for funding increased monthly pensions for next four years; GEL 3 billion for health insurance for next four years; GEL 3 billion for social aid programs; GEL 4 billion for agriculture and GEL 4 billion for education sector for next four years.
This year slightly over GEL 1 billion is allocated for pensions, plus GEL 168.5 million for state-funded health insurance.
The government’s pledge means that annual funding for pensions should be increased starting from next year to GEL 1.5 billion and annual funding for health insurance should go up to GEL 750 million.
Merabishvili said on July 3 that his government was going to allocate additional funds from increased budgetary revenues. He said that he was expecting Georgia’s four-year state budget to reach total of at least GEL 37-38 billion – that is an average of at least GEL 9.25 billion annually. This year’s budgetary expenditures stand at GEL 6.782 billion.
Reshuffled government’s one of the pledges includes handing out “to every family” in the country GEL 1,000, four-year vouchers starting from next year.
This February government allocated GEL 20 vouchers to households to pay their electricity bills. At the time the government said that vouchers were distributed to total of 1,2 million households across the country.
This figure of households means that if government’s promise about GEL 1,000 voucher stands, the state budget will have to allocate about GEL 1.2 billion (about USD 729.5 million) in next four years for that purpose. The government’s new program, approved by the Parliament on July 4, does not provide a detailed scheme under which PM Merabishvili’s cabinet plans to allocate this fund to households.
MP Giorgi Targamadze, leader of Christian-Democratic Movement and of a small parliamentary minority group, criticized the reshuffled cabinet and its new program, saying that “populism prevails” as elections loom. He also said that the reshuffled cabinet actually represented the ruling United National Movement’s “election headquarters” and “not a responsible government.” He also criticized new PM for “not mentioning even once the most painful issue for the country – the territorial integrity of Georgia.”
PM Merabishvili also said during the confirmation hearing that he would evaluate a work of a ministry or of an official not based on data from statistics agency, but based on public attitudes towards a specific ministry and official.
“I promise that not a single minister will be evaluated based on statistics date; our government members will only be evaluated based on how much people like them and based on whether they do their job in benefit for the people and based on how much benefit they can bring to the families of our country. I am not going to spar with opposition with figures, because it does not matter what is written in statistical data; what matter the most is what public stance is and how the people feel themselves.”
Other ministers remain unaffected by the cabinet reshuffle:
- State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Vice Prime Minister – Giorgi Baramidze;
- State Minister for Reintegration, Vice Prime Minister – Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili;
- Minister of Justice – Zurab Adeishvili;
- Minister of Foreign Affairs – Grigol Vashadze;
- Minister of Finance – Dimitri Gvindadze;
- Minister of Energy and Natural Resources - Aleksandre Khetaguri;
- Minister of Economic and Sustainable Development – Vera Kobalia;
- Minister of Environmental Protection – Goga Khachidze;
- Minister of Agriculture – Zaza Gorozia;
- Minister in charge of penitentiary system - Khatuna Kalmakhelidze;
- Minister of Culture and Monument Protection – Nikoloz Rurua;
- Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure – Ramaz Nikolaishvili;
- Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs – Lado Vardzelashvili;
- State Minister on the Diaspora Issues – Mirza Davitaia.