Transcript of Mikheil Saakashvili’s Speech

Transcript of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s televised speech made on December 29. The transcript does not include questions and answers, which followed his speech.The Most Successful YearI will summarize the most important events of this year in couple of words.I think that in 2004 Georgia started development as a State for the first time in the history of its independence.The State has several attributes. For the first time the state apparatus has been established in Georgia this year, which serves not to the private interests, but to the people and society.This is estimated very easily.Before, the State did not pay enough to state service employees so they could not think of stealing.The officer had 50 Lari salary [per month], the policeman – 60 Lari. You can not demand from the soldier who receives 50 Lari to sacrifice for the country, as well as you can not ask the policeman receiving 60 Lari not to take bribes.A customs officer, who receives 100 Lari, can not be asked to go at work everyday and not to steal. We could not force them to work for the State and society’s interests.We learned to respect the State symbols. We have new flag and anthem; moreover each pupil learned singing of the Georgian anthem. People love this anthem.Yesterday [on December 28] I visited Akhalkalaki [a town in southern Georgia, which is predominantly populated by the ethnic Armenians], where I witnessed very exciting scene – how the Armenian children, our citizens, were trying to sing our anthem and how happy they were. It was unimaginable before. This means, that new State mentality is being established in Georgia.Adjara IntegrationWe have significantly strengthened our positions within the Georgian state. Adjara has become the major success of this year. I used to hear a question – what has changed in Adjara?Regarding Adjara everything has changed for Georgia. After gaining [Georgia’s] independence Adjara has never subordinated to Georgian central authorities’ jurisdiction. [Adjara] had its own military units, which were ready to fight with Georgia.We could solve this problem without bloodshed. This was the historic achievement with long-lasting consequences.Strengthened International PositionsWe have significantly strengthened our international positions. Disputes about the question – what the Ukrainian developments mean for us, will continue for many years.Our [Rose] revolution of last year puts Georgia into the special situation, but it would have stayed in isolation, would have hindered our rapid progress, if not the recent developments in Ukraine.Our factor was rather important for the Ukrainian revolution and even the Ukrainian leaders speak about it. But [the revolution] in Ukraine triggered geopolitical revolution for us. Actually, Georgia is not in the isolation any longer. The strong state has emerged which [like Georgia] moves towards the European integration, and which is our supporter in economic and political point of view.Against the background of launch of Turkey’s talks over EU membership, the borders of this organization actually moves very close to our borders, which gives us absolutely new opportunities for us from the international point of view.Moreover, the image of Georgia has also increased. Several days ago our Embassy in Brussels was handed over a special award for the Georgian President. This award is for those persons from the non-EU country, who greatly influenced on the EU’s policy.I do not say this in order to boast. This [award] refers to Georgia’s role, Georgia’s function, developments in Georgia… [Passage omitted].It is unprecedented that everybody talks about Georgia and it happens because of developments here, because of developments in Ukraine. I want to say without any exaggeration that this has never occurred during many centuries of our history.This is what we have achieved this year.Plans for 2005What will be the top priority for us for the next year?We should extremely activate economic projects next year. We launch construction of infrastructure. There is no economic development without development of infrastructure.First of all I mean construction of roads. Almost no roads have been constructed in Georgia since its independence.We will completely deal with the roads in Tbilisi and with the main roads in Kutaisi, Zugdidi and in other towns.Next year will construct a new highway connecting Zugdidi, Chkhorutsku, Tsalenjikha and Senaki. This will be 91 km-long highway, which will be opened next year on November 23 [the anniversary of the Rose Revolution].I hope that from the next year we will start construction of Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Karsi [the latter is in eastern Turkey] highway. This project is vital from both political and economic point of view, because due to this project entire region of Javakheti [which is predominately populated by ethnic Armenians] will be integrated into the Georgian economic space, which is of vital importance for the Georgia’s future.We will launch preliminary works over construction of a great highway, which will link Tbilisi and Batumi… [Passage omitted]. The part of this road connected Tbilisi with Khashuri will be constructed at first.Tbilisi will have new international airport, which will be opened on November 23 [next year].Starting from the next year every big air company operating in the world will conduct daily flights in Tbilisi. When I came into power none of them were flying in Georgia. Next year there will be not a single big company, which will not fly in Georgia.This means tourism, this means trade, this means creation of serious incentives for Georgian economy. Next year our budget will be three and a half times more compared with previous year.  We have launched the most important reforms in police and education system, which will become more wide-scale next year.  Military reform is of crucial importance as well. So Georgia is changing rapidly.  Of course, the expectations are always higher, than those changes which are taking place.        But I do not know another country throughout the world, which could undergo changes as quickly and irreversibly as Georgia has.  Of course, much work is to be done. When I say that a policeman, customs officer and state official get high salaries, this does not mean that the pensioners have better living conditions. Even the fact that we double the pensions cannot settle the existing problems.  We will consider that we have succeeded only after the pensioners receive salaries equal to the subsistence level, when a teacher receives as much as a policeman. This will require time; this will not happen in 2-3 years, this needs serious work.  Next year we plan to implement wide-scale privatization and the funds received from privatization will be invested in development of infrastructure, strengthening of defense capacity and implementation of social projects, which is rather important for our country.      New Tax Code and Financial AmnestyWe have adopted a very important tax code with the lowest tax rates on the entire territory of the former Soviet Union within the Black Sea basin.   Now, our business should learn how to profit by this code. The businessman should learn how to work, because nobody will do it instead of them.  We order new uniforms for the armed forces. Thanks to God, the servicemen have uniforms. Recently, it was so funny, when the servicemen held a protest rally and they had the American uniforms on. These uniforms are American and Turkish. We have tried to sew these uniforms in Georgia, but we failed. We gave them [companies] money, they went to Turkey, bought there uniforms and then said, that they have sewed them.    We should learn to process agricultural products, we should also gain a foothold on the wine market. Presently GWS is the only [Georgian] firm which has access to the world wine market, and it works brilliantly. We visited supermarkets in Europe and not a single [Georgian] firm except GWS is represented there.  We should study to work better with the new tax code. We have pardoned non-payment of old taxes, we intend to solemnly destroy all the tax documents of previous years, since the previous authorities were manipulated with these documents [the cases of those businessmen against whom the charges were brought for tax evasion], saying “if you [businessmen] do not give a bribe and will not be loyal, we will destroy you at any time.”  We did not pardon top officials. Financial amnesty does apply to them, because they have created this system of corruption and I do not think that we should have been kind towards them. Now, they will have to act legally.We tell the businessmen: now you should observe law. The law has become tolerable and it is quite possible to observe it. The taxes paid by you will be directed to construction of roads, schools for your children. You will soon witness the results of these [paid] taxes.   So, this is the new tax code and tax amnesty. The rest depends on flexibility of our society.Consolidation of the StateI want to mention one more issue. We started to consolidate our state. I do not mean only to Adjara. Everybody in Georgia felt, that this country is their native land. I visited Akhalkalaki [populated by large number of ethnic Armenians] yesterday [on December 28]. It is not important that I danced with the local children. Most important is that until presently Akhalkalaki was left without any attention [from the officials].  [Certain forces] tried to frighten us that there are various aggressive groups in Akhalkalaki, who oppose the Georgian State. However, the population is quite well disposed.  My predecessor [ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze] used to arrive in Akhalkalaki, gathered some [party] activists in the meeting hall, he even was not warning anyone beforehand [about the visit] in order to avoid any disorders there.   We have warned them preliminary and thousands of peoples met us, and everybody could see how we were met.  Everybody could see how excited they were while listening to the Georgian anthem, everybody could see how they respect the Georgian flag, and everybody could see that even small children try to speak Georgian.  Just this is the new State, this is new mentality, and they feel that they are a part of our common success.  For the first time the battalions of reserve forces have recruited ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis… [Passage omitted]. We are [the part of] one united State. We intend to offer particular proposals to the Ossetians; recently their leadership has significantly changed [the stance]. I believe that the similar tendency will be observed in Abkhazia.The process of consolidation is unavoidable in Georgia. This will need time, this will need our serious consolidation, but we will do this.  This is what I wanted to tell you.Civil Georgia, Tbilisi

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