Georgia's new government to cut president's funding in 2013

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 02, 2012 4:10 PM
Georgia's new government to cut president's funding in 2013

By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia's new government led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili plans to cut President Mikheil Saakashvili's funding next year in a move to put pressure on his political rival.

Political novice Ivanishvili became Georgia's prime minister after voters relegated Saakashvili's ruling party to the minority in a bitterly contested October 1 election.

The election ended Saakashvili's nine-year dominance of Georgia, a focus of tensions between Russia and the West and a transit country for Caspian Sea oil and gas exports to Europe.

Ivanishvili said on Friday the government was considering a serious cut in spending for the presidential administration as well as for the national security council led by the president.

"The president spends 800,000 lari ($482.000) every year only on electricity bills and the state budget will not include this spending any more," Ivanishvili told reporters after the government meeting, where the state budget draft for the next year was discussed.

"The building, where the presidential administration is functioning, is not a property of the citizen Mikheil Saakashvili, it's the presidential administration," Manana Manjgaladze, the president's spokeswoman told a briefing.

Saakashvili, the hero of the 2003 Rose Revolution that swept out Georgia's post-Soviet old guard, must step down next year and reforms due to take effect after a presidential vote in 2013 will weaken the president and strengthen parliament and the prime minister.

Ivanishvili said the president could move from his administration building and take a floor at the state chancellery, where the government works.

Saakashvili works in a modern building with a huge three-dimensional bent glass dome designed by Italian architect Michele De Lucchi. Its construction was started in 2004 and completed in 2009.

The government also plans to scrap the president's plane, which he uses for official visits and trips.

Ivanishvili, who has promised to try to ease tensions with Russia, also said on Friday his government would work to get Georgian exports to the Russian market.

Diplomatic ties with Russia were severed over a five-day war in August 2008 and Moscow angered Georgia, the United States and Europe by swiftly recognizing the breakaway Georgian regions at the heart of the conflict - South Ossetia and Abkhazia - as independent states.

Russia banned importation of Georgian wine and mineral water as tension mounted before the war.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by)