SEPT. 3 2015, TBILISI (The Conway Bulletin) — Following earlier electricity price rises in Georgia’s regions, the state regulators approved a similar price increase in the capital.
For the Georgian Dream, the ruling coalition, the price rise means they have barely been able to fulfil one of their promises from the 2012 parliamentary election – to cut the price of electricity and to keep it low.
But, as Akaki Tsomaia, economics professor at the University of Georgia explained, the plunging value of the lari had forced the regulators to agree to the price rise.
“Georgia is experiencing a 45% depreciation of its currency against the US dollar. Electricity and gas providers in Georgia have no other way than to increase the price of these services. Otherwise we will definitely have a major electricity shortage,” he told the Bulletin.
Still, this assessment, which is widely shared, didn’t stop the opposition UNM party blaming the coalition.
“The absence of professionalism led us to this point,” UNM’s deputy chairperson Nika Melia told TV broadcaster Rustavi-2.
Electricity prices have triggered protests in the region, most notably in Armenia where thousands protested earlier this year and forced the government to waive price rises.
In Georgia which is known for its street level politics, however, the population seems to have accepted the rise more quietly although some people did expect protests shortly.
Vladimir, an IT specialist walking along Tbilisi’s central promenade said: “People will probably start next month once they get bills.”
Irakli, 37, who was waiting at a bus stop, agreed but he said that politics, was the key driver of social unrest.
“We’ve taken to the streets so much in the recent two decades, but for other reasons,” he said. “But it all accumulates and only needs one non- social spark to explode.”
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(News report from Issue No. 247, published on Sept. 11 2015)