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Opposition responds to Saakashvili’s report

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, February 14
Inflation, taxes, corruption, the country’s economic condition and the prison system were the topics raised by opposition representatives during the debate with the President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, on February, 11. They commented that as a result of the present authority’s inadequate policy the situation in many fields in the country remains unacceptable.

In his speech, Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian- Democratic Movement pointed to the authorities failed projects and the main steps to solve the country’s social problems, “For years I have suggested steps to stimulate the country’s economy, for example reducing the tax burden, court reforms and fighting monopolies. Despite this we have only gained utopian projects.” Targamadze mentioned what he considers to be the present Government’s unrealistic projects: “An anti-crisis programme, employment programme, economy stimulation programme, cheap insurance programme, 50 day programme, 100 day programme, 100 hospital programme, cheap loan programme, 100 businesses programme.” The opposition leader also mentioned that Georgia is a “record-holding country” in inflation terms. Responding to Targamadze’s statements, the President cited concrete figures based on international research that differ significantly from those voiced by Targamadze. As for the failed programmes, the Majority representative, Goka Gabashvili mentioned the unsuccessful Christian Democrat projects such as the programme of cheap tariffs.

Fellow Christian- Democrat, Levan Vepkhvadze dedicated his speech mainly to the price of gas, which, according to him, “is too expensive and taking present reality into consideration, Georgia must have cheaper gas.” In response to the accusation, Saakashvili stated this was “fundamental lie” and appealed to Vepkhvadze to name any country in Europe which has cheaper gas than Georgia. Vepkhvadze was unable to name any country; however, he said, “Georgia does not make use of the memorandum signed with Azerbaijan, nor does it make Russia’s GazProm pay the transit fee, which would made gas significantly cheaper for Georgians.”

Apart from economic issues, the topic of corruption was also mentioned in speeches by members of the opposition. “There is elite corruption in the country,” declared Guram Chakhvadze of the National-Democrats. Repeating the word several times over, the President has asked him to name those officials, who were corrupt; otherwise he would not consider it an accusation. Chakhvadze was unable to name names, but stated that “arresting people working in high posts makes me think that there is the elite corruption in the country.”

Opposition MP, Dimitry Lortkipanidze accused the President of “changing Georgian culture with other cultures” and stated that this was the aim of bringing foreign English teachers into the country. He recommended that the authorities work on reducing the number of prisoners in the country, “We are in 6th place in the world and second in the Europe ssin terms of the number of prisoners in the country, Georgia must leave such a shameful position.” He also appealed to the authorities to pay more significant attention to the problems of the refugees.

Examining the opposition’s performance during the debates, analyst Irakli Sesiashvili told The Messenger, “From the beginning, I have not considered some people, who call themselves opposition members as opposition. However, there were people during the debate, whose performances were really strict, based on actual problems and quite satisfactory. They could perform better; however there was more opportunity for the authorities to talk during these debates as well as having the final word. If the non parliamentary opposition has been present, the debates would have been better and more acute. Then I suppose that the President would have avoided appearing before parliament altogether.” He has also stressed the mode used by the authorities during the debate. “The cynical and ironic attitude of the authorities is a sign of their political culture.” Sesiashvili said. He also had a point for to the opposition, “One thing, on which, I consider the opposition should have had a very strict reaction was the president’s statement that he was glad that the man, who killed the policeman was dead. I think that it is not moral for the President to say such a thing of one of his citizens and the opposition should have responded.”