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President Talks Agriculture, Jobs and Rudeness

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, September 26
The Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, opened the new season of Special Report on Imedi TV channel on Sunday. In an interview recorded before Saakashvili’s departure to the 66th UN General Assembly Session, the president hosted journalists at his village house in Kvareli in Kakheti region. Discussing the challenges of the agricultural sector in “the place closest to paradise” the president foresaw a 150% increase of agricultural produce this year. Encouraging “gifted people” to start producing foreign grains and use innovative wine technologies the president would like the country to have 4-5 times more intense production than it has nowadays. “People living in the villages feel greater economical pressure so what we need is to be less dependent on international market fluctuation and increase demand on Georgian products abroad,” said the president suggesting the US market as the new destination.

Discussing various domestic and foreign problems the country is facing nowadays Saakashvili welcomed the dramatic fall of unemployment which should finally become below 10% according to the state modernization plan. Talking about unemployment as the “main problem of society” Saakashvili spoke about ways to get out of the difficult situation. “We live in a country with no gas or oil, we can’t artificially create jobs but they should be created in really existing sectors like infrastructure,” said the president explaining that infrastructural development has helped other larger countries to “overcome economic depression”.

“Now when Europe thinks about stopping using nuclear energy they will have to get hydro electric energy instead,” the president said announcing that for the first time in history Georgia sold its electric energy to the EU - Bulgaria - and Serbia via Turkey in this year. The president welcomed the fact that Georgia is a unique post-soviet country as it does not depend on Russia. “On the contrary – we are exporting electrical energy to Russia which is a great weapon,” explained the president.

Talking of “diplomatic blackmail” from Russia, the president emphasized that Europe is the main region which can affect Georgia’s promotion on the international level. “EU membership is not our obstinacy but a rule of life and we are so close to this,” he said underling the global challenge the country is facing nowadays.

Welcoming the disappearance of corruption preventing business development the president stressed that “we have nothing to boast about while there is still the level of poverty in the country”. Recollecting how the taxation system used to oppress people in the past he further spoke of the “fair complaints” from the citizens especially after the August war in 2008. Saakashvili welcomed the “psychological revolution” in the system which has encouraged the people to start paying taxes.

“There are two important principles for me on the political level: playing by the rules so as not to damage your country, and to avoid economic failure in an electoral year,” Saakashvili stated. Expressing his confidence that the parliamentary elections in 2012 would be fair the president discouraged any radical rhetoric and welcomed negotiations and discussions on problematic issues. Saakashvili, who often watches different TV channels and uses social networks, said that the politicians should look to themselves before blaming anyone for their failures. Admitting his frequent “rude quotes” towards his opponents the president encouraged everyone to appreciate freedom of speech. The president welcomed critical opinion but advised people to respect the government's achievements. Discouraging religious or ethnic confrontations the president stressed that Georgia consists of multi-ethnical diversities with various religions. “Our enemies won’t destroy us if we’ll meet them together – this is Georgia,” he said.

Economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili spoke of the state constitution as the “bible” for any president and thus discouraged Saakashvili from violating the results of previous referendums by increasing the number of MPs from 150 to 190. Khukhashvili was referring to the agreement between the opposition and the ruling party working on the improvements of the electoral environment. Talking of the constant confrontation between Georgia and Russia the analyst found the president’s “energy plans” paradoxical.

“Georgia has great potential to produce and export electric energy especially in summertime but when almost all the plants belong to Russia how we can talk of energy security?” Khukhashvili said welcoming the president’s confession of his “rudeness”. “Apologies from the President are not enough for such a large country so Saakashvili should realize that he isn’t an average citizen, but the leader of the country,” the analyst told The Messenger.