Social protection is a hot topic in Georgia. The transition to a market economy following independence and changes in the working world have given rise to new challenges for this post-Soviet state: unemployment, difficulty accessing basic services, and poverty, to name a few. One of the country’s top priorities is overhauling its healthcare and social protection system.
To this end, Georgia adopted a “Targeted Social Assistance” program in 2006, to which an income-dependent family subsidy was added in 2015. This program benefits approximately 12% of the population, while universal healthcare covers 90% of the population. While these reforms succeeded in making basic services more universally accessible, the system is becoming increasingly expensive for the government, while the cost for patients also remains high and the quality of care does not meet expectations.
Moreover, certain categories of the population remain marginalized, including the most vulnerable (people with disabilities, street children) and the country’s internally displaced population of some 300.000, who were forced to flee the separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by the conflicts in 1992-1993 and August 2008. These displaced people are eligible for a statutory subsidy and the right to housing. Nonetheless, more than 50.000 families still have not received housing, and 10.000 are living in conditions of extreme insecurity.
Georgia must address the problems of inequalities in provisions and insufficient assistance to be able to provide its people with a decent standard of living.
Protecting the Destitute
France is among the foreign powers the Georgian authorities have turned to for expertise. In November 2018, Agence Française de Développement awarded a public policy loan worth €35 million—the first part of a three-year program—tosupport the reforms currently underway in the realms of social protection, healthcare, and assistance for internally displaced people.
The first step is to improve the effectiveness of social programs available to the most vulnerable, who receive little to no support under the current system.In terms of healthcare, the project aims to improve the services available and its accessibility by implementing a strategic purchasing system, which will reduce the cost for patients and improve quality of care. The project will also contribute to modernizing services to meet European Union standards. It will focus particularly on treatment for mental illness.
Finally, the program will support reforms for the subsidies available to internally displaced people and rehousing for families living in dwellings unfit for habitation.
In parallel, UNICEF has launched a MICS 6 (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey).The aim of the study, for which AFD contributed €100.000, is to collect very accurate information and measure key indicators about women and children in Georgia.These statistics, which are expected to be finalized in spring 2019, will enable the Georgian government to devise policies more suited to these vulnerable populations.
A Brand-New Retirement System
For Georgians, a new era is beginning. In July 2018, Georgia adopted a mandatory individual retirement plan for employees (self-employed workers may opt to participate voluntarily). The aim is to ensure lasting retirement funds. This system will complement the existing universal basic income distributed to the elderly beginning at retirement.
The Georgian government called for French expertise in the implementation of its new department of pensions. Opened in January 2019, this department is responsible for collecting and managing contributions and paying pensions to beneficiaries.AFD is now financing a technical assistance program worth €500.000, implemented by Expertise France.
This solid program, launched to great fanfare in November 2018 with former French Minister of Social Affairs Marisol Touraine in attendance, should help facilitate the success of a complex reform and allay the fears of Georgian society by building a sustainable, reliable system.
Because France and Georgia do not share the same past nor the same current issues, it is not possible simply to “cut and paste” the French system. The intent is rather to share with the new retirement agency any knowledge and expertise that applies to the Georgian context. This includes supporting the creation and organization of the agency, developing the information and communications systems, and determining an investment policy.
This technical assistance for the retirement system is one component of a more comprehensive project initiated by the World Bank and focused on developing the Georgian private sector, which has received €60 million in funding from AFD.Its goal is to establish an effective, appropriate regulatory framework to promote business competitiveness and job creation while also developing the country’s potential for innovation and exports.These ambitious measures are essential in the promotion of sustainable growth in Georgia.All must benefit from the country’s growth.
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