Beslan Butba: human resource investment as top priority26.10.2009 | 23:24
The election campaign is starting off in Abkhazia. Upon acquisition of independence a year ago the country will elect its president on December 12. The opposition in the young republic is going to contest the president's post. The chairman of Abkhazia's Economic Development Party (ERA) Beslan Butba is answering questions of GeorgiaTimes correspondent.
-What's your presidential election program?
-It was a long time ago that ERA elaborated the program of economy and social sphere modernization in Abkhazia. The republic's best economists took part in that.This is a new development strategy with self-sufficient and modern Abkhazia as a primary goal.
-What's different in your program comparing with that of your opponents?
-So far I know nothing about the programs of my opponents. I suspect they have none. At least in ERA party's understanding of the term "program". As for Sergey Bagapsh - Abkhazia has been familiar with his election promises for five years - and they have never been implemented.
-You are criticizing the economic policy of the current authorities. Exactly what reforms do you propose?
-Current authorities have no economic policy - they just rush from side to side. This is what we criticize. We may like or dislike the economic policy but it must exist anyway. As for ERA party we are going to build a highly efficient, highly competitive, fast developing economy. It's most important that major investments should be made in human capital by boosting education and quality of health care.
We plan to carry out large-scale demographic and employment reforms. We have elaborated a complex program on rural development, upgrade of farming enterprises, implementation of new technologies and crops. We have developed a special program of Eastern Abkhazia development ensuring support of depressed areas. Besides we put more emphasis on social support of pensioners. In simple words we suggest leaving alone what doesn't exist and creating a new economic system of the state, practically from scratch. The main goal is a RUR 20,000 average monthly salary, 50,000 average employed population etc. This all is possible: we must only give way to private initiatives and release economy from excessive care of the state - plainly speaking from flagrant corruption.
-You signed the letter the Abkhaz opposition addressed to Putin and Medvedev criticizing Bapagsh of transfer of the Abkhaz railway and airport to Russian business structures. What would you have done with the facilities as president?
I said Bagapsh's actions could contribute to the growth of anti-Russian sentiment. Personally for me, for our party members, for our followers and Abkhazia on the whole - anti-Russian sentiment is essentially out of question. We are loyal to Russia in Caucasus not because it's gainful, but because we feel Russia with our hearts. It was our conscious choice immediately after the collapse of the Union. Already then we were part of the Russian civilization. I'm completely sure that our relations with Russia must remain transparent and straightforward.
There is no question that we need investments for railway and airport rehabilitation. It's totally clear that Abkhazia can't restore its facilities without assistance of Russian investors. The problem is different: the president's statements on the subject displayed his incompetence. Besides they made me think that using Moscow as a disguise somebody was going to take advantage of the funds for private purposes. We objected that such large-scale and important facilities could turn into a money-laundering mechanism. It's the authorities that made us think so. In our view the Russian stand on Abkhazia is clear and effective. And we constantly see attempts at misappropriation of Russian support on the part of the Abkhaz authorities. It's time to put a halt to it.
-Which candidate will have Moscow's support? Is it possible that the 2004 situation will repeat?
-How can I speak for the Russian leadership? As for the 2004 situation - we will do our best for it not to happen. That is why we proposed unification of all political forces and signing the Public Treaty. As far as I understand Moscow's strategy is to stay away from Abkhazia's domestic processes and deal with the authorities the people will elect. I don't believe the 2004 situation is likely to repeat with Russia's active support of one candidate. I think Moscow understands now that there is no political force in Abkhazia that would pursue an anti-Russian policy.
-This is a question to you as a businessman: how feasible is it to come to economic prosperity given other countries' reluctance to recognize Abkhazia's independence?