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Waves keep appearing

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, October 8
In 2009 Saakashvili has made two speeches to Parliament. The first was in July, just before US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, in which he spoke about a “new wave of democracy.” In his latest, on October 6, he announced a “new wave of liberalism”.

When such waves appear one after another it usually means there is a storm coming. We can only wait and see what sort of storm it will be.

This time President Saakashvili spoke about economic issues, presenting a new economic package sometimes referred to as an ‘anti crisis’ or ‘post crisis’ measure. The President analysed the causes of the present problems and outlined the future direction of economic development. The liberalisation of the economy he promised should in theory have been welcomed by everyone, including the opposition. However the immediate reaction to it was rather critical.

Firstly the opposition was sceptical about the genuineness of the President’s intentions. From whom is the President protecting business? His own favourites? “I will not believe that Saakashvili will not violate private property rights… I will not believe that he will not rig the elections,” explains one of the leaders of National Forum, Niko Orvelashvili.

The opposition stresses that there is a big difference between the words and actions of the administration. One vivid example is that President Saakashvili once offered to make opposition leaders Deputy Ministers, but when Salome Zourabichvili, leader of the Way of Georgia, applied for the Deputy Interior Minister’s position and leader of the Women’s Party Guguli Maghradze applied to be Deputy Minister of Education they did not receive an official response, meaning in practice that their applications were refused. Many in the opposition think that the President’s latest slogans are of a similar character.

Besides applying general criticism some analysts are challenging specific proposals. Former Minister of Economy and MP Lado Papava thinks that the proposal to hold a referendum before taxes are increased is pure populism. All economic analysts are sure that asking the people whether they want to pay more taxes is a nonsensical waste of resources as the result of such a referendum can always be predicted – no sane person will vote for tax increases. Economics is a living entity and cannot tolerate artificial barriers, whether imposed by Government or people, thinks Papava.

The President’s liberalisation plan envisages attracting more investment and increasing economic activity as foreign direct investment has dramatically fallen in the first half of 2009. However it contradicts existing plans to provide social welfare. Certain political parties have already said that the State should increase its influence if it is going to fulfil social liabilities, for example increasing the minimal salary to the subsistence level. Certainly the completely free market the President is promoting has not yet delivered the promised benefits to the Georgian population, even though a certain number of statistical indicators remain positive.

Some analysts suggest that the administration is obsessed by the local elections scheduled for May 30, 2010. It is doing its utmost to gain popularity in any way possible and therefore cannot make realistic assessments. Some of the steps it takes may well backfire on it, analysts believe. Perhaps the storm clouds have already gathered in the corridors of power, and the waves are just a warning of their presence for the rest of us.