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Tbilisi City Council members debated the 2016 Tbilisi draft budget on air on Rustavi 2. Tbilisi City Council member, Irakli Abesadze, stated: "There were insufficient funds in the budget to carry out some infrastructural projects although the fund for the salaries of the staff of Tbilisi City Hall increased by GEL 7 million, the amount of money allocated for concerts increased by GEL 2 million and expenses for advertisement were increased by GEL 600,000. It seems that this is an elections year and they want to advertise their performance."

The Chairman of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia faction, Rima Beradze, responded to Irakli Abesadze’s statement: "The amount of money for concerts was not increased. GEL 3 million has been added to the money allocated for culture and education. The addition of GEL 3 million to the culture and education budget means that Tbilisi will have seven new kindergartens in 2016."

FactCheck

tried to verify the accuracy of the statements of the Tbilisi City Council members.

In the list of the 2016 budget priorities and programme directions, concerts; that is, city events are referred to in Article 02.07 of the budget (p. 23). According to the article, the draft 2016 Tbilisi budget allocates GEL 4 million (p. 88) which is GEL 1,707,000 more as compared to the amount of money allocated for the same purpose in 2015 (GEL 2,293,000). Apart from organising concerts, this article envisages the construction and installation of commemorative signage, the establishment of cemeteries for writers and statesmen in Tbilisi pantheons, the maintenance of statues throughout Tbilisi, the installation of New Year season and stage/concert lighting illuminations and providing audio equipment and stage decorations.

In regard to advertisement, the dissemination of informational videos through media and social networks, the printing of advertisement materials (including installation) belong to the budget’s sub-programme entitled Dissemination of Important Public Information (code number 07.02.04 found on page 61). According to the draft budget for 2016, GEL 1.8 million is allocated for this sub-programme which means an additional GEL 580,000 (page 117) as compared to the budget for 2015.

In her statement, Rima Beradze also brushed aside the increase in concert funding and stated that the money allocated for the education programme increased in order to build new kindergartens in 2016. We have to clarify here that the funding of concerts; that is, city events (code number 02.07) has nothing to do with the education programme (code number 7.0) and it is unknown why Ms Beradze decided to connect these two different programmes. The funding for concerts was indeed increased.

FactCheck

also verified the funding for the education programme. According to the draft budget for 2016, funding for the education programme (GEL 95,903,800 under code number 7.0 and found on page 115) was increased by approximately GEL 4.5 million (the budget for 2015 allocated GEL 91,325,100 for this same purpose). The building of new kindergartens is envisaged by the sub-programme entitled Assistance for Pre-school Educational Establishments (code number 07.0102 and found on page 52). The funding for this particular sub-programme is GEL 84 million according to the draft budget for 2016 which is GEL 2 million more as compared to the amount of money allocated for the same purpose in 2015 (GEL 82.1 million). Therefore, the increase in the funding for the education programme is not only the result of the aforementioned sub-programme (Assistance for Pre-school Educational Establishments) as the funding for the advertisement sub-programme was actually increased. In regard to the new kindergartens, the construction of nine new kindergartens is scheduled for the next year according to the draft budget for 2016.

Infrastructural projects proposed to Tbilisi City Hall comprise the following: Tbilisi City Council’s United National Movement faction addressed Tbilisi City Hall with the request to include sufficient funds in the budget for 2016 to solve Tbilisi’s traffic problems. Specifically, these include constructing a two-level flyover at the crossing of Tamarashvili and University Streets, a connecting road from Vere Gorge to Heroes’ Square going in the direction of Laguna, two-level flyovers at Saakadze Square and Marshal Gelovani Avenue (near the Knight in the Panther’s Skin statue) through the tunnel and others. To the best of FactCheck

’s knowledge, Tbilisi’s budget for 2016 does not include funding for any of these aforementioned projects.

According to Irakli Abesadze’s information, GEL 4-10 million on average is necessary for the planning and construction of any of the aforementioned road work projects. Therefore, the amount of money which was allocated to increase Tbilisi City Hall’s salary fund, together with funding for concerts and advertisements (approximately GEL 9 million in total), would have been enough to fund certain projects from the list as proposed to Tbilisi City Hall.

On 10 December 2015, a revised version of Tbilisi’s 2016 budget draft was submitted to Tbilisi City Council. According to the information of Jaba Samushia, Head of the Property Management and Finance-Budget Commission, there are changes in the funding of the aforementioned sub-programmes. More specifically, funding for city events (07.02) was increased by GEL 400,000 and reached GEL 4,400,000. Of note, however, is that funding for the sub-programme targeting the dissemination of important public information decreased from GEL 1,800,800 to GEL 1,000,000.

Conclusion

According to Tbilisi’s 2016 draft budget, funding for city events (concerts, etc.) was increased by GEL 1.7 million (according to the revised draft of the budget, it was increased by GEL 2.1 million). The funding for advertisement was decreased by GEL 200,000 (according to the previous draft of the budget, it was planned for an increase of GEL 600,000).

The funding for education was indeed increased. However, instead of GEL 4.5 million (as envisaged in the first draft of the budget), the 2016 budget revised draft envisages an increase of only GEL 3.7 million. This is because the funding for advertisement was decreased by GEL 200,000 instead of receiving the planned GEL 600,000 increase. Of further note is that the total amount of money added to the funding of the aforementioned sub-programmes and to the Tbilisi City Hall salary fund (approximately GEL 9 million in total) probably could have been enough to fund certain infrastructural projects as proposed to Tbilisi City Hall.

FactCheck concludes that Irakli Abesadze’s statement is TRUE whilst Rima Beradze’s statement is FALSE.