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Parliament grants vote of confidence to cabinet

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, March 21
With 101 votes to 16, Georgian lawmakers gave a vote of confidence to cabinet ministers on Tuesday. The procedure was necessary after the replacement of Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs, Andria Urushadze by former Ambassador Zurab Chiaberashvili. Prior to the vote, Prime Minister Nika Gilauri promoted the progress Georgia has made under its current governance.

The unemployment rate has decreased from 16% to 15%, Gilauri said, stressing although that it still remains a problem for the country, the government will solve it step by step. Speaking of Georgia as an "exporter of reforms”, the Prime Minister announced that thousands of jobs will be created thanks to infrastructure projects the government intends to carry out this year.

Comparing Georgia with other countries, Gilauri noted it has the lowest foreign debt in the world and its economy is growing twice as fast as Russia’s - which he said is "a good message for investors”.

Recalling the challenges the country has faced since the Georgian-Russian war in August 2008 and the world economic crisis, Gilauri said that Georgia has overcome these crises. “During that period we fought to keep jobs, while today we fight to create them,” he said.

Gilauri also emphasized that when the country completes negotiations with the European Union on a free-trade agreement, Georgia’s chances to develop into a regional leader will increase. He defined a "regional leader" as having an open economy, economics without corruption, good transportation infrastructure, and a beneficial geographic location, which is a good guarantee for the country during an economic crisis.

This year, in continuation of the reforms, the government is undertaking construction of a new town, Lazika, under the umbrella of a national program. Planning to introduce a relevant legislative package to Parliament in the near future, Gilauri predicted that revenue from the tourism sector in the country would reach $1 billion USD in 2012, affirming that "tourism creates the healthiest jobs" in Georgia.

In response, the opposition raised questions about social and healthcare issues and worried about the "hard communal pressure" on the Georgian population. The Prime Minister claimed that Georgia has the lowest prices in the region. Promising to make healthcare insurance accessible for every socially unprotected person, Gilauri said the government will take responsibility over at-risk groups, and mediate for pensioners with insurance agencies.

Giorgi Targamadze, leader of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), advised the Prime Minister to make measured decisions. Discouraging spending millions of lari on one-time vouchers, Targamadze suggested instead that the government buy tractors for farmers.

Levan Vepkhvadze, a member of the CDM, worried that people in rural regions have no real jobs but are still considered self-employed by the government because they cultivate the land to support themselves. Declaring that one-time vouchers did little to improve conditions for rural citizens, he suggested that government officials move to the regions and attempt to live, even for a couple of days, on the modest sum provided to farmers.

But ruling United National Movement members think differently. Welcoming the social advantages introduced by the government, MP Goka Gabashvili accused the opposition of "painting an apocalyptic picture".