Labor Party leader and presidential candidate Shalva Natelashvili has promised free gas and electricity for consumers in the event of winning in the January 5 early polls.
Natelashvili said businesses would pay consumers' gas and electricity bills for the next three years and in exchange they would receive tax breaks.
“This will be done by those billionaire businessmen, who are now bribing Mikheil Saakashvili … But their bribe will be used instead to cover people’s gas and electricity bills,” Natelashvili said on December 12.
Natelashvili's pledge is in keeping with an increasing emphasis on social issues by many presidential candidates.
On December 11, Natelashvili pledged to compensate those who had financially lost out with the collapse of the Soviet-era banking system.
Presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili has also been playing the social card. He urged the government on December 11 to cover people's gas and electricity payment arrears accumulated since 1999. The government immediately responded, saying it already had elaborated special memoranda with KazTransGaz-Tbilisi, a gas distributor company covering Tbilisi and Telasi, and another electricity distributor company in the capital city. The initiative will mainly apply to internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in collective centers.
Meanwhile, business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili’s campaign staff announced on December 11 that Patarkatsishvili would spend USD 1 billion of his own money on social assistance programs if elected.