Government plans to spend at least GEL 40 million next year to address urgent needs of population living in the areas adjacent to the breakaway South Ossetian administrative boundary line, Davit Narmania, minister for regional development and infrastructure told lawmakers on November 15.
He briefed lawmakers about government’s efforts in this direction during a joint hearing of several parliamentary committees, including a parliamentary commission for territorial integrity.
Narmania, together with state minister for reintegration Paata Zakareishvili, co-chairs an ad hoc governmental commission, which was launched in early October to address needs of local residents of the villages adjacent to “dividing lines”. After his report
Establishment of the commission was, at least partly, a response of the Georgian government to the so called ‘borderisation’ process, involving installing fences by the Russian troops across the administrative boundary line of South Ossetia.
After Narmania’s report, a question and answer session was dominated by a dispute over the term “dividing line”, used in the name of the ad hoc governmental commission with UNM lawmakers criticizing government for not using “occupation line”.
Narmania told lawmakers that on the first stage, the commission, which includes senior officials and deputy ministers from various ministries, held series of meetings with locals to gather information about their needs. He said that even before the commission was launched, number of infrastructure projects had been implemented over the recent months, among them rehabilitation of three ten-kilometer road sections in the Shida Kartli region, building of wells for pumping potable water in four villages and rehabilitation of irrigation systems in three villages. He said that five water wells are also planned next year the Ministry of Agriculture will allocate GEL 6.7 million for rehabilitation of irrigation systems in the region.
According to Narmania the Energy Ministry has already launched GEL 20 million project to develop gas distribution network that will provide 15,830 households with access to natural gas. He said that the process is expected to be over by summer, 2014.
He said the state will provide one-time GEL 200 allowance to about 10,000 families for heating purposes for this winter; the minister said recipients of this allowance will be able to either buy firewood or pay electricity and gas bills.
GEL 1 million will be allocated for construction of one new school and rehabilitation of “several schools” in the region next year, Narmania said. He also added that students from this region will be provided with GEL 2,250 funding next year for covering their tuition fees. Exact number of students from this region is not yet available.
Debating Term 'Dividing Line'
Question and answer session followed after Narmania’s report, which grew into debates with UNM lawmakers focusing mainly on the name of the ad hoc commission.
UNM MP Chiora Taktakishvili said using term of “dividing line” in the name of the commission and avoiding using “occupation line”, including by the state ministry for reintegration in its statements, was contributing to “justifying the occupation” of the Georgian territories by Russia.
“Are we here to talk about a dividing line or an occupation line?.. Does the government deem these territories as occupied or as divided?” MP Taktakishvili asked.
“We deem them as occupied and we also believe that they could have been unoccupied,” GD lawmaker Giorgi Volski, who chairs the parliamentary ad hoc commission for territorial integrity, responded by making an obvious reference to GD’s position that 2008 war could have been avoided if not the previous authorities’ wrong policies. MP Volski also said that rhetoric should not be used in detriment of pragmatic and practical goals and interests.
“We do not shun away from saying that our territories are occupied,” Narmania said, adding that the commission has been set up not for political purposes, but for addressing very concrete issues of local residents’ daily livelihood.
Nodar Tangiashvili, who is in charge of relations with international organizations at the State Ministry for Reintegration, told UNM lawmakers that the state strategy for engagement endorsed by the previous government in 2010 uses extensively the term “dividing line”.
UNM lawmakers were also criticizing the government for softening rhetoric and not using term such as “puppet regimes” in reference to the authorities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
GD lawmaker Victor Dolidze, who chairs parliamentary committee for European integration, called on the parliamentary minority group to focus on practical, concrete issues rather than diverting focus on “blah, blah, blah rhetoric.”
“When we sit down with ‘puppets’ [for talks], are we supposed to tell them: ‘You puppets, do you want these projects to be implemented or not?’ That’s what I call blah, blah, blah,” MP Dolidze said.
UNM MP Taktakishvili said the fact that “today the entire civilized world deems Russia to be an occupying power and demands from it to meet its commitments” is due to, as she put it, “attacking policy” of the previous government.
GD MP Tedo Japaridze, who chairs parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, responded: “We should remember consequences of that very policy… Because of those consequences now we have to spare no efforts to remove all those barbwires and occupation from our territories.”