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Patarkatsishvili Pledges GEL 1.5 bln of Own Money on Assistance

Business tycoon and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili has promised, if elected on January 5, to spend GEL 1.5 billion of his own money on social assistance programs.

In a statement issued by Patarkatsishvili’s press office, the presidential candidate says that the first 18 months of his presidency would be “the period of assistance,” involving:

• paying for 100 kilowatts of electricity, worth GEL 16, for every family every month;

• paying every family’s monthly gas bill, to a maximum of GEL 16;

 fully covering every family’s monthly water charges – GEL 2.4;

• purchasing the entire grape and citrus harvest; he said “it is not the farmers’ fault that [the Russian] market has been closed to them;”

• Giving GEL 600 a year to every unemployed person in the country until an employment program is started;

He has also pledged to introduce a GEL 300 minimum monthly wage starting from September 2008 and an increase in pensions of up to GEL 120 and for WWII veterans up to GEL 150, starting from May 2008. To boost the birth rate, he said every first newborn would receive GEL 3,000; GEL 4,000 – for a second and GEL 5,000 – for every subsequent child.

The next stage of his presidency, after 18 months, Patarkatsishvili said would be “the period of breakthrough.”

This period, lasting 24 months, Patarkatsishvili said would see companies enjoying profit tax-exemptions, which would mean a 20% increase in employment.

“I will reopen the Russian market for Georgian products, but it won’t happen at the expense of Georgia’s national interests,” Patarkatsishvili said. “I will also finalize a plan, developed along with [late Prime Minister] Zurab Zhvania on setting up a free economic zone in Poti.”

Presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili, on the campaign trail in Samegrelo region on December 17, said an agreement on the establishment of a free economic zone in Poti would be signed no later than February.

Patarkatsishvili has also promised to have a fully contract-based, professional army by March 2009.

“Whatever this ruling gang [referring to the authorities] promises you; whatever money it may offer you from the state budget, I’ll double it. So multiply their every promise by two,” Patarkatsishvili said.

Before issuing the statement, Patarkatsishvili outlined his promises on December 17 in an interview with Tbilisi-based Imedi radio station, which he co-owns. The following day, dozens of people rushed to the Patarkatsishvili election campaign headquarters, expecting to be given GEL 300 each. Patarkatsishvili’s campaign staff, however, said it was a rumor deliberately spread by the authorities.

“When Mr. Patarkatsishvili said that he planned to distribute GEL 600 [per year] for unemployed people in the event of being elected as President, it seems that these people thought the money would be distributed immediately,” MP Gocha Jojua, a Patarkatsishvili campaign spokesman, said.

Meanwhile, ruling party lawmakers said that Patarkatsishvili’s promises were an attempt to bribe voters.

“It can only be seen as voter bribery and it should be considered by the Central Election Commission,” Levan Bezhashvili, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for legal issues, said on December 18.

Alexander Lomaia, the secretary of the National Security Council, downplayed Patarkatsishvili’s election program, saying: “People understand pre-election stunts very well and they’re capable of making up their own minds.”


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