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Saakashvili announces new Government changes

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, June 28
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s announcement on Friday that there would be more changes in the Government met with a mixed reaction from politicians and analysts, some of them assessing the move as “positive” and others saying that “there is no point” reshuffling the Government without “substantial systemic changes” being made in the country.

The changes in the Cabinet did not come as a surprise as Georgian media outlets had been speculating about the planned reshuffle for a week. Firstly Saakashvili announced that the Economy Ministry would now be known as the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. 28-year-old Vera Kobalia, head of the NGO Coalition for Justice, will replace Zurab Pololikashvili as the Minister. Kobalia, an IDP from Abkhazia, has lived in Canada for the last 15 years, working for the European Breads Bakery, established by her father.

Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure, Davit Tkeshelashvili has been replaced by Roads Department head Ramaz Nikolaishvili. Tkeshelashvili will now be head of President Saakashvili’s administration with the current head of Rustavi 2 TV's News Department Irma Nadirashvili as his deputy. Former head of the President’s Administration Temur Janashia has been appointed head of the State Security Service.

President Saakashvili also announced that the Youth and Sports Department of the Ministry of Culture will become a separate Sports Ministry, led by former Governor of Shida Kartli Lado Vardzelashvili. Foreign Affairs Minister Grigol Vashadze will have a new deputy, Tornike Gordadze, who will deal with European issues.

Members of the Parliamentary majority hailed the changes. Ruling National Movement MP Nugzar Tsiklauri said that establishing a separate Ministry for Sports will bring more “focus on this important field”. He added that Vera Kobalia has “very important ideas and interesting approaches to the development of the economy in our country.” “The flow of investments into the country has been in decline,” Tsiklauri said “I am sure that the situation in this respect will improve,” he added.

However opposition MPs criticised the Georgian administration for “not having established the place of the Economy Ministry in the country.” He said no “professional people have been appointed as Economy Ministers.” Chakhvadze noted that it was “not clear” to him why the previous Minister, Zurab Pololikashvili, had been appointed. “He was a professional diplomat, not a professional economist,” the National-Democratic Party MP said.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze welcomed the changes, saying that the rotation had been caused by the need for “new energy in several institutions.” “Generally, periodic changes are necessary and we do not need to seek a particular reason for them. Let’s call it a rotation,” Sakvarelidze said. Economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili however said that while the Government shows no will to introduce systemic changes “there is no sense in carrying out personnel changes.” “When the house is damaged, there is no point painting the facade. We need system changes, not continual repairs to the house,” Khukhashvili noted.