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VerdictFactCheck concludes that Zurab Tchiaberashvili’s statement is TRUE.

Resume:

  As per the initiative of the Government of Georgia, the GEL 10 supplement for socially vulnerable children will be increased to GEL 50 from the beginning of 2019. GEL 20 will be cash assistance and GEL 30 will be a food voucher.

In the first draft of the 2019 state budget which the Parliament of Georgia considered in October, an increase in social assistance for children was not envisioned.

In the processed version of the 2019 draft state budget which was submitted to the Parliament of Georgia for consideration on 2 November, the component vis-à-vis “social assistance for target groups,” which comprises different forms of social assistance including the child supplement, increased by GEL 72 million as compared to the 2018 budget.

European Georgia Movement for Freedom MP, Zurab Tchiaberashvili, is of the opinion that the aforementioned decision is related to the second round of the presidential election. Obviously, FactCheck

is no position to straightforwardly affirm this statement. However, the fact that the increase in the child supplement was not envisioned in the first draft of the 2019 state budget does indeed gives credibility to Mr Tchiaberashvili’s assertion. The Government of Georgia’s representatives have not made any statement about a potential increase in social assistance for children. This initiative was voiced for the first time on 2 November 2018 (after the first round of the presidential election).

Analysis On 2 November 2018, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, stated:  “Socially vulnerable children under the age of 16 years will get a GEL 50 supplement instead of the existing GEL 10 supplement. The beneficiaries of this initiative will be 140,000 children.” In accordance with the statement

of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, socially vulnerable families whose ranking points do not exceed 100,000 will get a monthly GEL 50 supplement for each child (under the age of 16 years) beginning from 1 January 2019. The GEL 50 supplement includes a GEL 20 monetary benefit and a GEL 30 food voucher.

European Georgia Movement for Freedom member, Zurab Tchiaberashvili, commented

upon the Government of Georgia’s initiative:  “Facing the forthcoming defeat in the presidential election, the Georgian Dream suddenly starts caring about poverty and states that the GEL 10 supplement for socially vulnerable children will be increased to GEL 50. However, in the initial draft of the 2019 state budget, which the Parliament of Georgia considered two weeks ago, there was nothing of that kind.” In the same statement, the MP also underlined that “the Government of Georgia started to provide a GEL 10 supplement per child in the summer of 2015. As early as 2012, UNICEF issued a recommendation to start providing a supplement in the amount of GEL 25.”

In 2012, UNICEF issued recommendations

for the new Government of Georgia (Georgian Dream). One of the recommendations concerned the introduction of additional social assistance for children:  “UNICEF assessed the possible outcomes of increasing different forms of social assistance and if the government introduces a universal child benefit of 30 GEL per month per child for those aged 0-16 years, it will decrease extreme child poverty.”

The Government of Georgia introduced

supplements for children in 2015. Socially vulnerable families whose ranking points were below 100,000 received an additional GEL 10 for each child under the age of 16 years. In accordance with the latest data of the Social Service Agency, 125,391 individuals under the age of 16 years now receive the GEL 10 supplement.

A UNICEF 2017 report

underlines that targeted social assistance is mostly channeled to households with children. Targeted social assistance and the child supplement has a significant impact upon the reduction of child poverty. Despite this, UNICEF’s data show that poverty figures increased in Georgia in 2017 as compared to 2015. The share of children living in extreme poverty increased from 2.5% to 6.8%. Extreme child poverty has also increased as compared to 2013. The UNICEF report indicates that increased poverty is caused by the slow economic growth rate and increased consumer prices. Social transfers have not been enough to prevent an increase in poverty in Georgia.

The UNICEF report, which highlighted the growth of poverty, in general, and the growth of child poverty, in particular, was published in June 2018. Given the results of the report, it is logical that the Government of Georgia comes forward with the initiative to increase social transfers for children. However, in the first draft of the 2019 state budget which was submitted to the Parliament of Georgia for consideration in October, the increase in social assistance for children was absent.

In accordance with the first draft of the 2019 state budget, it was envisioned to decrease the component of social assistance for target groups of the population (programme code 27 02 02) from GEL 680 million to GEL 672.5 million.

The processed version of the 2019 state budget draft which was submitted to the Parliament of Georgia for consideration on 2 November shows that the expenses vis-à-vis social assistance for target groups of the population increased by GEL 72 million (to GEL 752 million). Of additional note is that the processed draft of the 2019 state budget indicates that the funds allocated for the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territory, Health, Labour and Social Affairs have increased by GEL 74 million as compared to the previous version of the budget.

Why was the supplement for socially vulnerable children not envisioned in the first draft of the state budget? The Head of the Healthcare and Social Issues Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, Akaki Zoidze, and the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Health, Labour and Social Affairs, Davit Sergeenko, answered this question (see link 1; link 2).

They clarified that work to increase child assistance had started in the summer but they had to wait for the adjustment of budgetary parameters. In particular, work to harmonise budgetary parameters in regard to a possible increase in current and social expenses was in progress with the International Monetary Fund. However, the Government of Georgia did not make any statement about a possible increase in child benefits before 2 November.

 

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