$7 million in fines issued in Georgia during state of emergency
For violating the state of emergency, which was in force in Georgia from March 31 to May 22, the police fined about 8,000 people for a total of 23 million lari (about $7 million).
The opposition demands that the government annul the fines. However, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that he was not going to make such a request to parliament.
“The fines introduced by us were an effective lever for maintaining order and recommendations of epidemiologists … But the pandemic did not end, therefore, the abolition of the fines may cause a sense of permissiveness and impunity for the undisciplined part of the population,” Gakharia said, explaining his position.
However, representatives of the parliamentary majority say they may discuss the issue.
The opposition suspects that the authorities will write off the fines closer to the parliamentary elections to be held this fall, in order to receive additional votes from the electorate.
Violations during the state of emergency were fined at a rate of 3,000 GEL for individuals and 15,000 GEL for companies.
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The opposition, in turn, believes the fines imposed by the authorities are disproportionate to the average income of the population – in Georgia, the average monthly per capita income is 336 lari (about $105). Thus, the fine of individuals is nine times higher than this figure.
On May 27, the European Georgia opposition party presented a bill to parliament on the abolition of the fines issued during the state of emergency.
“We know cases where fines were issued to entire families who were in their car. Or for a violation of the curfew for a couple of minutes, and other minor offenses,” said Sergi Kapanadze, one of the leaders of European Georgia, recalling that the pandemic worsened the material situation of people.
The leader of the parliamentary majority, Mamuka Mdinaradze, believes that writing off fines can do a disservice if Georgia is overtaken by a second wave of the epidemic – maintaining discipline will become twice as difficult.
“According to our data, 90 percent of those fined are not able to pay 3,000 GEL. Therefore, we need to make some balanced decision without extremes,” Mdinaradze said.
“It is possible that closer to the elections, for the sake of additional votes, these fines will be canceled and they will begin to exploit this topic,” said Roman Gotsiridze, a United National Movement member.
In Georgia, the first case of coronavirus infection was recorded on February 26, 2020.
To counter the epidemic in the country, a state of emergency was in place from March 21 to May 23.
The Georgian government’s restrictions on the state of emergency began to be phased out in April 27.
The resumption of domestic tourism is planned from June 15, and the opening of borders for foreign tourists is expected from July 1, although with some reservations.