Tbilisi TV tower lights will be switched off until the city budget is approved, acting Mayor of Tbilisi, Sevdia Ugrekhelidze said on 20 January. Speaking at a media briefing on Monday, Ugrekhelidze said the lights on the tower will be switched back on if the city assembly approves the budget with sufficient funds.
"The Georgian Dream majority of the city assembly did not approve the city budget, citing political and ungrounded reasons. One of them, for example, was illumination of Tbilisi TV tower. We believe, that they were willing to create problems for the Mayor's Office this way. However, in reality, they created problems for Tbilisi population, because by not approving the budget some social programmes, including vouchers, healthcare, city clean-up funding, repairing of bridges and tunnels, etc. might be suspended," Ugrekhelidze said "in order to make it clear what we are talking about, and to demonstrate that we are ready to make reciprocal steps, we decided to switch off the tower lights, and the funds will not be allocated to repair the TV tower and to illuminate it until the budget is approved. We believe, that this method, which is accepted worldwide and is known as the 'government shutdown', is a good indicator of what it means to not approve the budget. We have selected the topic that does not influence directly the lives and interests of the citizens, but it demonstrates the city's appearance, as Tbilisi TV tower has been a symbol of an illuminated and renovated Tbilisi. As soon as we begin and finalize the consultations and approve the budget, if there is a good will and the funds are allocated, the tower will be illuminated again. Otherwise, neither this, nor other topics that might be interesting for Tbilisi residents, will be possible to be carried out. We call on the majority to start consultations and resolve the problems for Tbilisi residents," she added.
On 29 December Tbilisi city assembly failed the draft budget with 21 votes against 18. 3 members of the assembly refrained from voting. 24 votes are needed to approve the city budget.
Representatives of Tbilisi city assembly majority said they were ready for a consensus and willing to start consultations with the Mayors office and the minority to resolve the issues. The Chairman of Tbilisi city assembly, Irakli Shikhiashvili expressed hope that the agreement over the city budget will be reached by 10 March. "We are willing and motivated for the city to have a budget, but not the one that a specific party – UNM – is willing to have. We want the city to have a budget that is motivated and aimed at providing a better future for Tbilisi residents," he said.