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President Flew to Wrong Fields21.04.2010 | 21:21
The Georgian Labourists criticized President Mikhail Saakashvili for his visit to the US at the height of the sowing season. They said that it was better to give the money spent on that flight to farmers for diesel fuel. Actually the government is already supplying some fuel to countrymen. But these populist measures do not bring good results. Experts speak of a need for more radical and complex support.
The Georgian Labourists demanded that the government should provide 35 mln. lari from the presidential fund to buy some fuel for farmers: 50 l to everybody. According to the General Secretary of the party Soso Shatberashvili, instead of joining Kakhetian farmers the president of the country is relaxing in California under the guise of studying new visa forms. Moreover, according to the labourist, he interrupted his US visit flying to the funeral of the Polish president spending on all his flights 600 mln. lari, «which is absolutely unthinkable and inadmissible».
By and large, Saakashvili should not have met Barak Obama in the nuclear forum fields while he was needed on other fields of Sakartvelo.
Shatberashvili thinks that the authorities abandoned their agriculture to the mercy of fate. In his words, about 70% of the Georgian land remain uncultivated as the countrymen do not have money for its cultivation.«In addition, we demand that our farmers should get the tractors purchased on the Japanese grant that have been hidden somewhere by the authorities and are used only for PR events», added the politician.
In his comment to GeorgiaTimes the economist Nodar Khaduri called this attack of Shaberashvili «a purely political statement». «It should be calculated what macroeconomic effect can be obtained from 50 l of fuel. And the idea is not new. Last year the government supplied farmers with fertilizers and two years ago, if I am not mistaken, 20 l of diesel fuel were provided», he noted.
Another expert Georgy Khukhashvili also considers fuel provision an inefficient measure that will not make difference to farmers.
- Every year the government gives farmers one can of diesel fuel. But this cannot change anything. We need a real protectionist policy. As they say, one should not give people fish but should give them fishing nets and teach them how to fish. As regards fuel provision, this is an attempt to bribe voters before the election. The fuel will be burnt, something else will be eaten and farmers will remain poor.
- Last year the government started the program «100 new processing enterprises» for agriculture. Has it been fulfilled at least partially?
- I don't think so. Almost every year they promise something while they are getting ready for the elections. But the real state of agriculture this year is not better than last year or two years ago. The protection of the Georgian economic frontiers is too weak. Because of the cheap imported products local producers are not competitive. They have no motivation because it is not beneficial to work.
- Some time ago the Minister of Agriculture Bakur Kvezereli announced war against imported dairy products. The importers reacted immediately saying that without imported dry milk the local dairy factories will freeze...
- The Georgian authorities always set just tactical objectives bringing success on the short-term scale. "Long money" is required to develop production, and the state wants quick results. So the state is the natural import lobbyist. What is happening is quite logical. Importers can give millions of profit quickly but they dictate their conditions to the government.
- Shatberashvili says that the machines bought on the Japanese grant has not reached the farmers yet. Do you know anything about their destiny?
- Inefficient costs, corruption... nothing special: after all, we live in a post-Soviet territory, don't we?
- Georgian farmers complain about the lending rates that are too high. Do you think it one of the obstacles for the development of agriculture?
- Yes, this is one of the factors of weakness of our agriculture. It can be raised only due to some long-term loans, and the high interest rates are excessive for our farmers. When I speak about protectionism, I mean either cheap loans or at least some state subsidies at the beginning, for 2-3 years. But our authorities don't want to do it.
- Maybe they are limited by the obligations towards the World Trade Organization?
- This is an excuse. When they make such steps they always refer to the WTO, but in fact, if you really wish to protect your own manufacturer, you can always make an agreement with your partners by organization.
Georgian farmers themselves can feel the support of the state but consider it insufficient. After closing the Russian market outlets the industry found itself in quite a difficult situation, said Manana Tsulaiya, employee of the public relations department of the Farmer Association of Biological Production "Elkana"