Parliament must return to the second stage discussion of the draft state budget 2021

In parallel with the parliamentary elections and the boycotting opposition, the Parliament has to approve the most important financial document - the state budget 2021. The procedures for the first stage of the budget review were initiated by the ninth Parliament in the pre-election period, but the process was rather flawed.

Despite the criticism from the parliamentary opposition and request from the Finance and Budget Committee, the government has not yet submitted to Parliament a budget draft that would include the cost of measures for the prevention of the spread of the new Coronavirus. As the government has indicated in the documents attached to the draft budget, the expenditures are to be reflected in the draft budget only in the final, third stage.

The draft budget submitted by the government to the Parliament for consideration at the second stage can be only formally called a revised version since the government has not introduced any changes to it and it was submitted for reconsideration in the original form: the revised version does not reflect any comments or recommendations made by the Parliament; it is still unknown what parameters the budget envisages to address the spread of the new Coronavirus in 2021.

Although the timeframes determined by the regulations have expired, the second stage of the draft budget review has not been held in the Parliament yet. The legislative gap, on the one hand, which does not take into account the election context and the inactivity of the ruling team on the other, resulted in the Parliament skipping the subsequent stage of the draft budget review. The second stage, unlike the final third stage, generally ensures for a more comprehensive review of the draft budget - a public reading of the draft at committee sessions and the issuance of relevant recommendations by the factions.

The Parliament shall approve the state budget 2021 by the end of December 2020. Accordingly, the newly convened Parliament shall continue the reading of the draft budget initiated by the Parliament of the previous convocation. With the view to conducting the review of the draft budget in an appropriate manner within the current deadlock, the government shall submit to the Parliament a revised version of the draft budget reflecting all necessary expenses for the fight against Coronavirus along with the recommendations of the Parliament. Following that, the Parliament must continue the discussion of the revised draft budget not from the final third, but rather from the second stage. This is important in order to give the newly convened Parliament the opportunity to review the draft according to the sectors, as well as to involve all factions in the discussion process. However, this cannot be achieved only by holding the remaining third stage, as the third stage of the budget reading involves only one - the review of the draft by the Finance and Budget Committee and the approval at a plenary session.

“Democracy Index-Georgia” calls on:

- the Government of Georgia - to submit to the newly convened Parliament a revised version of the budget, which, among other issues, will reflect the expenses required to combat the pandemic;

- the Parliament of Georgia - to resume the discussion of the revised draft budget from the second stage, because without discussing it in the format of committee and faction sittings, it is impossible to exercise real parliamentary control over the approval of the state budget.