Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili attended the 21 February meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers

"The issues I wish to discuss with you today concern the effectiveness of how our agencies serve our citizens. 

"The World Bank has ranked Georgia number one in the world in terms of implementing reforms. There is no longer institutional corruption in Georgia, though we continue to fight other forms of corruption. The people are well aware of the fact that we make no compromises in this regard. 

"If we are to build a free economy and attract a large amount of investment, we must make the Tax and Customs Departments and finance bodies more oriented towards serving our citizens. The people expect good and honest work from your agencies. 

"The Tax and Customs Departments showed record collection figures this January, but other criteria are of no less importance to us - how fast people are served, how simple and understandable the procedures are and how comfortable honest taxpayers are in their dealings with tax bodies.

"You are aware that there have been a number of cases where the Customs and Tax Departments have treated people with indifference. Procedures are often artificially complicated, which damages the interests of businessmen. 

"We have simplified procedures, reduced tax rates down to zero and protected the market from smuggling, though we have forgotten that we must also retrain our employees and administer competency tests to them. 

"One thing that bothers me and the prime minister very much is the Transport Regulatory Commission: at a time when parliament was busy with a number of other important issues, a draft law creating this transport regulatory body somehow sneaked its way through the legislative body. Unfortunately, we were not able to pay sufficient attention to the fact that a totally corrupt law was being adopted. A leech was created with the long name of the Georgian National Transport Regulatory Commission. It feeds by overcharging every passenger who flies in Georgia and every passenger who enters the country by sea and it had similar plans for railway passengers, though the railways resisted. Specifically, it charges five dollars to transport operators for each passenger crossing the border and 100 dollars for each ship and imposes surcharges on each time a plane takes off. These charges are ultimately paid by the passengers themselves. 

"Guess how many employees there are at the Transport Regulatory Commission. Two hundred and seventeen. Two hundred and seventeen leeches exist parasitically at the expense of the Georgian people in order to improve their own living conditions. The commission has eight secretaries, its administrative department has 26 employees, the legal department has eight employees and the international relations department has 12.

"This body recently refused to allow a certain airline company to operate Tbilisi-Dnepropetrovsk-Odessa flights. Many of our countrymen live in these locations. A criminal agreement was struck between airline companies in order to ensure that ticket prices not fall. The main criminal in this criminal agreement was this very state agency. This reprimand is meant for everyone. 

"Instead of lowering prices for passengers, this agency is concluding agreements with China and the Czech Republic that force people to pay more than they are paying today. It has sought to control everything. It even began regulating public minibuses. They decided to take a share of the railways; they decide everything on their own and place a huge burden on the people.

"All employees will clear out their offices by 1800 hours today. I order the Economic Development Ministry to put a padlock on this agency and reassign its employees so as not to leave them without jobs - put them to work because we need many qualified workers.

"A [draft] law should be submitted, but as of today, on my verbal order, which I hope will be made law next week by parliament, payment of all surcharges by the people to this parasite must be put to an end once and for all.

"We must protect the public from various special interests and we must also look into the activities of supervisory boards. The people who work for such boards receive a salary of 3,000-5,000 lari and only report to work to claim their salaries. This is happening at a time when we barely have the resources to raise the salaries of teachers. 

"We must act quickly to fix the situation at the Customs Department because we have many competitors in our quest to attract foreign investment. Georgia has an advantage in this area because it is not corrupt, but at the same time it must develop faster," Saakashvili told ministers. 

Includes BBC Monitoring material

Press Office
of the President of Georgia

Send link to the email
Captcha* Verification Code
2013 (11)
2012 (12)
2011 (12)
2010 (11)
2009 (11)
2008 (12)
2007 (12)
2006 (9)
2005 (11)