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Saakashvili’s optimism will defeat the crisis

18.03.2009  |  22:58

Georgia's leadership does not tire of repeating that, thanks to wise management, the country is easily dealing with the crisis. On the whole, it is magnificent banquets to celebrate the opening of new establishments, built by private investors with foreign money, that are inspiring them to make such speeches.

Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili is trying to instil optimism in his country. But he has not got a very good sixth sense. Because the people, as the protest actions show, are gathering behind the opposition. For some reason, they are not rejoicing. But of course everything in Georgia is going so well that the president is even suggesting that the crisis-plagued West should learn from it.


For example, Europe could borrow its experience of developing the energy sector. Mikheil Saakashvili declared this on 15th March at the opening of the National Commission for Energy Regulation in Kutaisi, so Rosbalt reports. The head of state noted that the country has started to repair hydro-electric power stations. Complex work is being carried out on the Namakhvani and Oni cascades, on the Hudon hydro-electric power station, and the Mtkvar hydro-electric station should be opening soon. When the country is fully supplied with electricity, the next step, according to Mikheil Saakashvili, will be to produce enough to export. With this aim in mind, the construction of the 80-megaton Paravani hydro-electric station will commence soon, in spite of the crisis.

Incidentally, according to a report by Business Georgia, the "State Electricity System" is just about to start construction of a new 500-kilovolt power line. At its presentation, which will take place on 19th March at the Shereton Metekhi Palace Hotel, Saakashvili will again have cause gush with compliments aimed at himself and his entourage.

Kommersant radio reports that Georgian experts have reacted critically to the head of state's announcements, nothing that to begin with they need to build the new hydro-electric stations, and only then can they start dreaming about where the surplus electricity is going to go.

On the same day, Saakashvili spoke about a successful modernization of the army. This happened at an awards ceremony for Georgian artillerists who took part in the August war. That same one in which the Georgian troops were forced back deep into the country, sometimes not even waiting for the enemy offensive to come. Saakashvili has said that the clash with such high class professionals in the form of the Georgian military has made Russia reform its armed forces. The president was clearly counting on nobody knowing that the transformations in the Russian army started long before last August.

According to Saakashvili's conceptions, Georgia has been far less affected by the crisis than its friends and neighbours. This theory has already played a nasty trick on him. Armenia has taken offence. Now Saakashvili has "run over" Ukraine. At the presentation of a free economic zone in Poti late last week, he declared: "The number of residential burglaries has fallen in Georgia, and the thieves have gone over to Ukraine." One of the reasons for this criminal migration, according to Saakashvili, has been the economic crisis. "In Ukraine people are keeping their money at home rather than in banks. Whereas in Georgia, the economy has not collapsed, and the banking system is holding firm," explained the president.

The president recited his theory several times about the absence of a large-scale economic crisis in the country at the presentation of the Poti industrial zone. Saakashvili was not unfounded. According to him, proof of this is that the Russell Heym company is continuing construction of Aptauna, and a railway is being built towards Turkey. Admittedly, construction companies, as experts for the portal Business Georgia note, are not taking on new projects, and they are finishing old ones thanks to the support of "Georgia's Bank".

Saakashvili talked especially enthusiastically about what will happen towards the end of his presidency. People will only have to wait until 2013, and the Black Sea coast will be prospering on account of the recently established free industrial zone. The Arabic group Rakia Georgia FIZ LLC has just started to implement the four-year long project. "From next year these two cities will be linked by a motorway, and you'll be able to get from Batumi to Poti in 25 minutes," declared the president. "It will practically be one city, not administratively, but economically. It will be a megapolis of almost full employment - I am sure of this, despite there being terrible unemployment in Georgia today," he continued. In Poti, promises the head of state, a large airport will be built, and Batumi airport and Poti port will be expanded.

But if we take off these "rose-tinted glasses", we can note that the real sector of the economy is demonstrating a decline in production. Sales accrued by the company Georgian Steel are four times lower than last year. Kazakhstan's "Kaztrangaz-Tbilisi" owes its creditors $48 million, and our temporary administrators have been put in charge of the company. The joint Indian-Georgian company Eurasia Steel has postponed the opening of a metallurgical factory in Kutaisi. A lot of construction has stopped, and the people are living worse and worse, and poverty levels have risen in Guria and mountainous Adhzaria. Unemployment has reached 13 percent. As the BBC notes, this is the highest figure in the Caucasus region.

But Saakashvili, as befitting a true optimist, is calling on people not to despair, but work on attracting investment, which will help to create new jobs. But surely that is too good to be true.

Svetlana Bolotnikova


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