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Ministers talk but not about their jobs

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, June 24
Consultation about possible changes in the Government has begun. Ministers would not comment for the media prior to the Government meeting on June 23 but Gia Khuroshvili, the Parliament Secretary, has welcomed the already rumoured changes, stressing that structural changes to meet the priorities adopted are crucial.

It has ben suggested that Zurab Pololikashvili, the Minister of Economic Development who hasn’t attended the last few Government meetings, will be replaced by Vera Kobalia, Chair of the Coalition for Fairness. It has also been said that the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources will be abolished and become a department of the Ministry of Economic Development, but Environment Minister Goga Khachidze denies this, saying that no one has ever spoken to him about it. “I have not heard anything about this from competent authorities, only from newspapers and magazines. This is baseless rumour and I have participated in no such discussions,” the Minister said, adding that although he was not familiar with any possible Government changes such steps are essential for each state and he can see nothing wrong with them.

The flooding caused by heavy rain, which has especially affected the Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti regions, was the one of the most burning issues discussed at the Government meeting. Prime Minister Nika Gilauri said that the cost of making good all the damage would be defrayed from the state budget as soon as the actual figure had been calculated. “Representatives of Ministries are studying the situation on the spot. The rain has affected the ground floors of buildings, damaged water supplies, etc. We are now working with the local administrations to establish the real quantity of damage in the region,” the PM told his colleagues. The Ministers agreed that a professional approach and acting on expert recommendations, rather than making populist gestures, will be the best way to address the natural disaster.

Gilauri also spoke about the new initiative to introduce special computerised study programmes for pupils. “We [the Government] are launching a special tender for providing new computerised study programes which will help children acquire computer skills. We would like to encourage all IT specialists in Georgia to participate in the process of our development,” Gilauri stated. Dimitri Shashkin, Minister of Education and Science, added that the new programme will give pupils from the 1st to the 12th grade the opportunity to not only acquire computer skills but study Georgian language and literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc and even demonstrate their knowledge in virtual laboratories. “We will start this project from August 2010, so the children can have their programmes from September,” Shashkin said, highlighting that this system is important not only for school life but in encouraging IT specialists to create Georgian products to further the country's technical development.

“The one hundred hospitals project will be continued,” the PM later told his colleagues, stressing that the previous agreement on this with Block Georgia has been cancelled and all the hospitals where the agreement's terms were not fulfilledhave been removed from their management. The PM said that planning and design processes will be undertaken in all hospitals throughout Georgia so work can begin in a month’s time. Alexander Kvitashvili, Minister of Healthcare, Labour and Social Protection, said that the 45 new hospitals being built at this stage will be the responsibility of the insurance companies winning the tender and the others rehabilitated with the financial support of the World Bank and USAID.

Kvitashvili denied that outdated medicine had been sent to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in a recent aid shipment. “I have not received any complaints from any officials. released the false information that 70% of the Georgian medicine was unusable. The list of items sent in the aid shipment exists and can be accessed by anyone interested,” the Minister added.

Meanwhile Bakur Kvezereli, the Minister of Agriculture, confirmed the removal of Maia Metreveli from the post of Head of Product Safety, saying that this step had been forced by changes planned within the office, which must now become a legal entity of civil law. “The office is now facing new challenges so these changes were inevitable,” Kvezereli told the media.

Although the Ministers would not confirm that changes would be made in the Government, one of the issues discussed at the meeting was the terms of reference and activity of Government bodies. Consequently they admitted that they were just starting to discuss changes and no one was wondering if they would be out of a job.