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Saakashvili’s Modernisation for Georgia

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Monday, February 14
President Saakashvili delivered his 70-minute State of the Nation Address on February 11 which he called, “A report about modernisation.” He said, “I would like modernisation to be one of the main objectives and results of this historic stage in the life of our country.”

The President explained that modernisation means Georgia becoming a European state, Georgian citizens will be patriots, more educated and competitive and at the same time they will be citizens of the world. According to his explanation modernisation means implementing reforms to make Georgia a more civilised, more progressive, and more democratic state where the public has no fears; a multiethnic and multi-confessional society where all communities are an integral part of the Georgian nation. A major component of the modernized Georgia will be the developed economy in which there are many jobs and sources of income, with the means to realise the full potential of our citizens.

“That is why we shall not rest in this fight as we labour for the modernisation of Georgia. That is why we will overcome every obstacle and any difficulty. That is why we will move only forward, and we will achieve victory!” Saakashvili stated.

2015 - A major milestone

Despite the fact that President Saakashvili’s term expires in 2013 and according to the current constitution he does not have the right to participate in the next presidential elections for a third time, in his annual address Saakashvili mentioned 2015 several times as the new target date for the accomplishment of several important tasks. However as soon as he finished talking about the goals which will be implemented before 2015 he explained that 2015 is not linked with electoral cycle or anybody’s personal political career. “We are pursuing a long-term plan for Georgia’s development and 2015 is the first major milestone in this effort. Our plan is based on the potential of Georgia, on the progress of our ongoing reforms, our actual human and material resources, and the projects that already have begun,” he said.

Among those tasks Saakashvili listed doubling agriculture production; doubling exports; doubling the state budget; halving the current level of unemployment; a 50% rise in the average salary; population growth to 5 million; increase in the number of foreign visitors to 5 million per year and building 17 new hydro-electric power stations.

Saakashvili said that agriculture exports will double by 2015 lowering the country’s dependence on the global food market and creating thousands of new jobs in new businesses. He commented on unemployment problem, stating, “Nothing will be considered a success until we break unemployment.” Saakashvili addressed every unemployed person saying that the creation of new jobs is his government’s main priority

“I want to speak for all our unemployed citizens and to share their pain with you. Unemployment is the main obstacle we face in developing Georgia; unemployment multiplies the pain caused by inflation; for too many of our fellow citizens, unemployment kills the joy of life and hope in the future,” he said.

Speaking on the Georgian economy Saakashvili used the World Bank Survey published in November 2010 which states, “All sectors of the Georgian economy are completely open for investors and there are no monopolistic and oligopolistic market structures in Georgia.”

Saakashvili named opening up international markets to Georgian foods as one of the top priorities of the country and said that Georgia’s goal is to have free trade agreements with both the United States and the European Union by 2015. “Georgian made goods are appearing for the first time on shelves in shops in countries where nothing Georgian had ever been sold before. But the state of affairs is far from satisfactory. Our goal is to sign free trade agreements with both the United States and the European Union within five years,” the President stated, adding that exports together with nominal GDP will double by 2015.

Saakashvili on IDP resettlement

The President said he fully shares the problems regarding IDPs and their resettlement in different regions of Georgia. However many of them are still without homes and reside in temporary shelters with poor living conditions. “Nothing will replace what was temporarily taken away - their own homes, the houses of their ancestors - until Georgia becomes united again and every displaced person gets backs their own property,” he commented. Saakashvili said that it is their obligation to resettle people in their own private homes, instead of in shelters. “Of course, moving residences produces difficulties, which is why considerable material compensation has been granted to IDP families. As a result, about 25,000 IDPs already live in their own apartments or have their own houses. They have property that they own, instead of a temporary shelter,” added the President. “Our main obligation is to continue to improve their living conditions. Funds have already been allocated to renovate their housing, and renovations work will be carried out at all IDP settlements that require it during the next 12 month,” he stated concluding that no IDP family will be left without care and support.

Foreign Policy achievements

Saakashvili talked about the numerous diplomatic achievements over the last year, stressing that today, the entire civilised world calls Russia an occupier and there is no longer any question regarding where international law stands. Today, Georgia has more political support than ever. “Today, everyone see that the efforts to isolate Georgia failed and that the recognition of Georgia’s occupied territories is impossible. Today the whole world sees who is the aggressor and who fights for freedom...who depends on military means and who refuses to resolve conflicts through violence,” he said.

On Russia he said that Georgia wants dialogue with Moscow; it will never tolerate the disintegration and occupation of Georgia.”

“The Russian leadership’s course has no future,” he said. “The idea of empire is still alive, but it has no future.”

He also said that Georgia’s course towards EU and NATO integration remained “unwavering” and attempts by Russia to isolate Georgia had “failed”. He declared, “We will never give up the choice of the Georgian people in favour of Euro-Atlantic integration.”