10 billion for Abkhazia’s “free floating”25.03.2010 | 09:56
Today Abkhaz president Sergey Bagapsh is discussing financing schemes for the republic from Russian budget in Moscow. The Kremlin promised to allot RUR 10 bn - the amount that South Ossetia received too. GeorgiaTimes tried to find out if these investments into Abkhazia are justified.
The complex plan of assistance to social-economic development of Abkhazia was supposed to be adopted this week promising huge money amounts for the republic. In three years' time Russia plans to spend RUR 10 bn there.
According to Sergey Shamba Abkhazia is going "do a lot of construction work " with the Russian money: nearly 160 km of roads are among the projects. The funds will also be used for recreation facilities, agriculture and social programs.
In addition to this gratuitous aid Moscow will allot a low-interest RUR 700 mln credit facility for 10 years. As Shamba promises, the state plans to launch loan lending with reasonable interest rates for private small enterprises.
These days Sergey Bagapsh is in Moscow to decide the channels the funds will go and Russia's methods to control appropriations.
According to preliminary information, the structure will be the same as in South Ossetia, Apsnypress reports: a department at Russia's Ministry of Regional Development will announce tenders, determine contractors and transfer money to them.
Shamba remarks that unlike South Ossetia, Russia can't reproach Sukhum for fund misappropriation. Besides, he adds, saved money went to restoration of socially important facilities.
Why does Russia need that? As believed in Georgia - Russia is there after Abkhaz real estate considering local residents exclusively as health resort personnel. To prove that Russia's won't put up with Abkhazia's independent actions, Irakli Tskitishvili, an Expert Club member quotes Vladimir Putin's recent statement addressed to Belarus. GeorgiaTimes has already written that many were wrong interpreting his words as "permission not to recognize" former Georgian territories. Russian interlocutors of our newspaper paid more attention to the second part of the speech on Kisa Vorobyaninov's position: bargaining is out of place here.
Besides, there really was certain unpleasantness over properties belonging to Russian citizens, and Sergey Bagapsh really planned to legalize property sale and purchase for non-citizens of Abkhazia. However he had to halt after protests of the opposition. Nevertheless, the government promises to reconsider legislation and protect rights of foreign buyers. As Izvestia writes, only buying new buildings will be permitted and Abkhaz authorities are not going to sell the land.
But property issues in relations with Sukhum are far not the most important ones, Russian experts think. Cooperation has strategic and moral basis, Valery Khomyakov, Director General of the National Strategy Council remarks.
- Russia has moral - not legal obligations - to Abkhazia since it must be Russia's destiny to help those in trouble. It's not the first that Russia does it. There is also a strategic interest here. For Russia Abkhazia is an important element for maneuvering in Caucasus - that's why Abkhazia gets financial aid.
- Mass media report that despite Russia's assistance Abkhazia infringes upon rights of Russians who own properties in Abkhazia. Isn't it "black ingratitude"?
- Journalists and experts must be more careful and more attentive in issues like this. There are lots of political forces that don't want Abkhazia and Russia as friends. A considerate policy is needed here. I know Abkhaz business community is watchful for Russian businesses not to suppress it (which is possible). To solve such tricky issues I think a joint body must be set up like Chermomyrdin-Gore commission that dealt with problems in US-Russia relations in the 1990s. I think here too, such a commission must be set up upon approval from the parliament or simply with the president's decision. The commission must focus on Russia's "harmful" acts against Abkhazia.
It is important for Russia to choose the form of "soft power", or assistance must be provided in the form the USA did in Germany and Japan after WWII without interfering in their domestic affairs. We must not climb onto the heads of Abkhazians, and recent elections revealed advantages of this position. We made no mistake keeping back quietly and letting the Abkhaz nation make their own choice - which president they need. 2-3 election cycles like that one and Abkhazia will mend its reputation. They will no more be perceived as separatists that climbed down from the mountains. There will be a democratic government, able to organize fair, transparent election.
- How grounded are the apprehensions that independent Abkhazia will renounce Russia putting it at a disadvantage in Caucasus?