Saakashvili Outlines Cabinet’s Programme

President Saakashvili said on September 5 that the reshuffled cabinet’s new programme was result-oriented, aimed at “Georgia’s strengthening”Speaking in a live televised address, Saakashvili said that the programme would consolidate gains in the judicial, defense and law enforcement spheres, guarantee energy security, and ensure equal opportunities, jobs and healthcare for everyone.President Saakashvili also said that the reshuffled cabinet enjoyed “the overwhelming endorsement of the ruling majority in the parliament.”‘100 New Enterprises’Saakashvili said the government had a very concrete plan to set up at least 100 new agricultural processing enterprises by the end of next year.In July the government laid out a plan involving the sale of over 40,000 hectares of agricultural land at 20% of its market price. Would-be investors will have to set up a new processing plant on the purchased land. Officials said the government expected at least 100,000 new jobs to be created as a result of this plan.’100 New Hospitals’Saakashvili said the creation of “an appropriate healthcare network” was also a priority.“The new minister of healthcare and social welfare [Davit Tkeshelashvili] must ensure the availability of these hospitals for everyone,” Saakashvili said. “We must create a system wherein every socially vulnerable person enjoys health insurance.”Earlier this year the government laid out a plan under the name ‘100 New Hospitals’, which envisages the attraction of private investment for the construction of new hospitals and outpatient clinics throughout Georgia with a total of 7,800 beds by 2009.Infrastructure Development Saakashvili said that the further development of infrastructure would help to stimulate an already growing tourism sector.“Our plan is to develop tourism and build new roads to at least 200 large villages,” he said.‘Second Stage in Education Reform’The president said the “first stage of education reform,” involving the eradication of corruption and the creation of a fair and just system with equal opportunities for all, had been successfully accomplished.“The next stage,” he said, “is to train people in niche specialties.”He said more vocational education and training centers were needed to train “pharmaceutical specialists, construction workers, service experts, mining engineers, etc.”He also said secondary school teachers would receive a salary increase, bringing their average earnings up to GEL 200 (about USD 120) per month starting from January 2008.The president also announced plans for the rehabilitation and computerization of 400 schools throughout Georgia. “The first stage will see one computer for every 20 pupils,” Saakashvili said. “But our ambition is to have one for every student.”‘15% Economic Growth’Saakashvili said that the cabinet’s ambition was to have 13-15% economic growth.“Our fast growing economy has created a unique Georgian phenomenon based on our fight against corruption and on unity between Parliament and the Executive,” he said. “Despite Russia’s economic embargo, we have a chance to become the fastest growing economy in the world.”He said the plan was to attract foreign direct investment to the tune of USD 2 billion and “to put Georgia in the list of the top 20 business-friendly countries.”“We were 37th in this list last year, but we should be at the same level as Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Finland, Great Britain, the United States and Japan.”SecurityState expenditure for 2007 is due to increase by GEL 450 million, with the lion’s share going on defense, bringing an already record high defense budget to GEL 1.3 billion (about USD 783 million).“This [the increase in defense funding] is badly needed for a country like Georgia,” Saakashvili said. “I want to make it clear: in the nearest future we will be fully ready to repel any type of foreign aggression based on our combat readiness and resources.”He, however, added that Tbilisi did not expect “any kind of foreign aggression.”Saakashvili said that the plan was to create a 100,000-strong reserve force.  “Our armed forces have 30,000 servicemen, who are equipped to the highest international standards,” Saakashvili said. “This process of equipping our army will soon be finalized.”Property RightsThe protection of property rights, which has increasingly come under the spotlight, is, the president said, “a cornerstone of our country’s development.”Saakashvili, however, added that property right should not prevail when the wider society’s interest is concerned, for example, when it involves, what he called, an illegally privatized plot of land in a public park.“I want to tell those people who make allegations about the violation of property rights in Georgia: soon our country will join the list of the top 20 business-friendly countries.”This post is also available in:
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