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1 May, 2007 14:10

Georgians protest price hikes and taxes

Georgians protest price hikes and taxes

Thousands of people are rallying in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. They are protesting against the increase in gas, electricity and public transportation prices, as well as new taxes imposed by the government. 

The rally was organized by opposition parties.

It has become a regular scene in Tbilisi. Thousands of people gathered outside the Parliament building alongside the opposition leaders. They all share the same problem.

“I came here because I am a pensioner, I have very little money and the other day could not even afford to buy meat in the market. I am 81-years-old. How would they feel if their parents lived like us and died?” said one of the demonstrators.

The opposition claims to be the only side which understands people’s problems. The government has refused to back down and insists the price rises will go ahead.

While there was another large-scale protest in front of the city Mayor’s building, just across the street, one of Tbilisi’s luxury hotels was hosting a NATO seminar addressed by President Mikhail Saakashvili.

“We have heard many times that Georgia is poor. Impoverished Georgia, it has been said. This year Georgia is moving on towards the Middle Range Income countries,” said Saakashvili.

According to the Georgian Statistics Department, the situation is neither perfect nor tragic. The department says the price rises are not going to seriously affect people’s standard of living.

“I cannot say exactly what is going to happen with the prices. Higher communal tariffs will influence the average daily minimum of people, but prices may go lower in general due to this situation,” said Grigol Pantsulaia, Head of the Statistics Department.

But all these sound too diplomatic for the opposition who severely criticizes the government and vows to stand by the people until they achieve what they want.

“The Government completely ignores people – it is their style. Only two things may influence them to make some decision – if Uncle Sam calls from America with some directives,” noted David Zurabishvili, Democratic Front.

So far the government has not reacted to the continuing demonstrations. But it looks set to get even busier in Tbilisi. People say they stood on the same place when electing the new government four years ago during the Rose Revolution and what they are demanding now is what they were promised back then.