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Regional governors tasked with local development projects

By Shorena Labadze
Monday, February 18
State Minister for Regional Issues Davit Tkeshelashvili met with all of Georgia’s provincial governors on February 16, publicly instructing them to begin work on rural Georgia’s most pressing problems.

It was the first such official meeting for Tkeshelashvili since his appointment to the newly-created post, as well as for four new governors appointed amid talk of a revival of local government.

New Shida Kartli governor Lado Vardzelashvili confirmed that all the country’s governors were in attendance, including Levan Bezhashvili, appointed Kakheti governor the day before.

Tkeshelashvili advised Bezhashvili, formerly the chair of the parliamentary legal affairs committee, to develop close relations with the people of his province.

The meeting was touted as working toward “Georgia without poverty,” the campaign slogan for recently reelected President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Tkeshelashvili said the governors discussed the concerns of villages, where roughly 45 percent of Georgians live.

“With spring coming, villages need our help most of all [for farming]. Our key priority is to alleviate their workload by attracting investment projects,” Tkeshelashvili said. “In different regions there are different problems, but there is one main, general problem for every district: gas and electricity supply.”

Tkeshelashvili spoke of “concrete plans” to deal with utility supply problems, as well as potable water, sewage and housing issues, but did not go into specifics.

Neither did new Kakheti governor Bezhashvili, who said only that governors’ top responsibility is to implement state-funded regional programs.

“The budget is being formed now, and the [regional programs] will start in the nearest days,” said Vardzelashvili, the Shida Kartli governor.

Political analyst Gia Khukhashvili was skeptical of the emphasis on reinvigorated local government, dismissing the institution of governors as unworkable in its current state.

“Personally, they may be good politicians with good wishes, but when there isn’t any economic basis in the country, what can they do? The only thing they can do is sit and cry with the poor villagers,” Khukhashvili said.

But some Kakheti residents say they’re looking for a governor who will get things done, not a shoulder to sob on.

“It doesn’t matter who replaces who [as governor],” one middle-aged Kakheti villager said. “We need to see problems resolved and the work done; it doesn’t make a difference who does it.”