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The Minister of Energy of Georgia, Kakha Kaladze, stated: "The statement made by the Tabula

journalist that our elections campaign programme envisaged freeing IDPs from paying for utilities is a blatant lie and demagoguery. This type of promise has never been made in any of our elections campaign programmes."

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of Kakha Kaladze’s statement.

Some IDP families currently residing in Tserovani have been left without natural gas for several months already because they are unable to pay their bills for consumption. According to the IDPs, during the elections campaign in 2012, members of the Georgian Dream promised to abolish their utility bills. One of the families presented a photo of a campaign leaflet where the fifth point states that the coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili – Georgian Dream will free IDPs from paying for utilities.

Because of this promise, IDPs stopped paying for their natural gas consumption and, consequently, a large amount of debt accumulated. In the winter of 2015, IDPs received warning notices that gas supplies would be cut within two weeks if the amounts owing were not paid.

The Government of Georgia and the SOCAR company implemented a new system for paying the utility debts. According to the system, Tserovani residents were required to pay an additional GEL 15 together with their monthly bills, which is subtracted from their outstanding debts. As stated by one of the IDP families, they were required to prepay a certain amount of money beforehand and were told that the debt repayment system could only be launched after they paid this money. This family was unable to make the prepayment and, therefore, was not included in the debt repayment system.

FactCheck

addressed the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia on this issue. Our question concerned the Ministry’s directly subsidising the utilities for IDPs. We received the following reply:

  • The state fully covered the debts for electricity consumed by 1 November 2013 and by 1 September 2014 together with debts for natural gas consumed by 1 March 2013 (Decree N307 of the Government of Georgia issued on 4 April 2013, Decree N2180 of the Government of Georgia issued on 26 December 2013 and Decree N1896 of the Government of Georgia issued on 23 October 2014).
  • Socially vulnerable IDPs whose ranking points were below 70,000 received GEL 200 in assistance to procure heating for the winter season (Decree N1972 of the Government of Georgia issued on 30 November 2012, Decree N1502 of the Government of Georgia issued on 30 October 2013 and Decree N1846 of the Government of Georgia issued on 9 October 2014).
  • From November 2014 until March 2015, 1,965 IDP families received GEL 50 in monthly assistance to cover electricity and natural gas expenses (Decree N2149 of the Government of Georgia issued on 2 December 2014).
According to the statement of the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mariam Valishvili, the state abolished subsidies for IDPs after increasing the IDP allowance. Before 1 March 2014, the amount of the monthly allowance for an IDP was GEL 28 and then increased

to GEL 45 as of 1 March 2014 after amending the Law of Georgia on IDPs.

Conclusion

According to the information received from the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, the state did provide assistance to IDPs for paying their utilities. However, utility debts remain a problematic issue for IDPs residing in Tserovani and a portion of the population is indeed left without natural gas.

Kakha Kaladze’s statement that the Georgian Dream has never promised to free IDPs from paying for their utilities is not true.

FactCheck concludes that Kakha Kaladze’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.

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