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PM Sums up 2018, Names Occupation and Poverty as Main Challenges

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, December 21
Georgian Prime Minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze summed up 2018 year on December 20, saying the main challenges of the country are poverty and the Russian occupation of the Georgian territories.

According to him, the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling party government managed to reduce poverty by 10%.

"We have initiated real changes since 2012 and all my predecessors did their best to reduce the most difficult problem facing our country – poverty - as quickly as possible. We have significant changes in this regard,” he said.

However, Bakhtadze stressed that significant part of the population still lives in poverty.

“Unemployment is still the main economic challenge and this is a very difficult barrier for our country to develop rapidly. Naturally, the main task for us is to overcome poverty,” he said, adding the government will implement some important reforms in this field.

He also mentioned the governmental initiative of annulment of bank debts of around 600,000 blacklisted Georgians.

“This is a one-time solidarity act, as a result of which 600,000 citizens will meet New Year without debts. I would like to thank the Cartu Foundation once again for supporting us,” he said, referring to the foundation of the GD founder and Chair, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

As for the occupation problem, the PM said this is a very hard and painful challenge for the country.

“We are watching the borderization process and installation of barbed wire fences every day... We use all the platforms to send our message to the world community,” he added.

Bakhtadze underlined that the Georgian government is very involved in its peace policy and its response to the painful challenge of occupation is only peace.

“Unfortunately, 20% of our territories is still occupied by the Russian Federation. Russia does not fulfill its obligations undertaken in 2008 and does not withdraw the occupation troops from the Georgian territories,” he stressed.

The PM also referred to the recent Presidential elections, as a result of which, Georgians elected the first female President Salome Zurabishvili, after which the new Constitution of Georgia took effect.

The key topics also included relations with NATO, European Union and the United States, adding these relations have become even more special.

The EU created a special meeting format only with Georgia as the most successful country of the Eastern Partnership. During the NATO ministerial this year it was clearly stated that Georgia has all the levers [it needs] for NATO membership,” Bakhtadze said, adding Georgia-US relations have also been upgraded to a new level and the latest supportive act of the US Congress to Georgia is one proof of this.

Bakhtadze stated that systemic reforms are underway in the defense and police fields. He hailed Georgian soldiers for their contribution to global security. He stated that the Georgian government is investing more in social projects for soldiers and policemen.

“In 2019-2020 salaries will be increased for 7,526 soldiers and 1,634 soldiers will receive flats. We have already increased salaries for 13,200 policemen and the process will continue. The policemen will also receive flats from the government in the following years,” he added.

According to the Head of the Government, people are a top priority, adding GEL 1 billion will be spent on healthcare and social projects in 2019.

“Pensions will be increased to 200 GEL. Social support for children under 16 and for socially vulnerable families will also increase. We will also take steps to improve the demographic situation and help young families settle problems,” he claimed.

The PM also vowed that in 2019 1,100 internally displaced families will receive flats, 3,000 such families will receive houses and 1,500 will be given properties to own.

He said that he initiated regular meetings with the civil sector representatives one or twice a year to speak about the achievements and challenges for the country’s better and democratic future.