Georgian president praises government response to floods

President Mikeil Saakashvili met with the Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli and other government officials on October 10 and summed up the works carried out to deal with the floods and said that the country was past the emergency phase. 
President Saakashvili instructed the minister of agriculture to deliver foodstuffs to affected zones stressing that Guria and Samegrelo residents have already received the products. 

"I want this process to be monitored by the agriculture minister. We should give flour, oil, butter and other foodstuffs to every family that had hoped to subsist on its own produce this winter. This food has come from all parts of Georgia and we are grateful to everyone for it. Not a single family should have to starve because their beans, maize and other food stocks have been destroyed by the floods," President Saakashvili said. 

Mikheil Saakashvili discussed the issue of restoring the roads damaged by the flood stressing, "we should clear all the landslides and restore access to all the villages that have been cut off from the rest of the country. Within two weeks, or until the end of the month at the very latest, the Road Department should restore all the main bridges and continue work on secondary bridges," President Saakashvili said. 

He particularly talked about 55 homeless families stating that "we should make sure that not a single family find themselves left in the open. Some of them should be given a plot of land and assistance to build a house. In other cases, we should buy flats for them," he said. 

President Saakashvili said that these floods have exposed the main problem of poverty in that region and said that one of the solutions to this problem is to open food processing factories. According to President Saakashvili the Agriculture Ministry should have short- and long-term programmes to deal with it, which also involves the processing of tea, citrus and other fruits and marketing them. "Next year we will release 10m lari, together with the World Bank, to complete the Kakuti-Chokhatauri road, that is the road linking Guria with Batumi via the Chakvi-Batumi tunnel. That is the Road Department's undertaking. The Ureki-Ozurgeti road, which is Ozurgeti's other route to food markets, should also be completed. In addition, we should invest 2m lari in coastal defences, defences in Samtredia and Ozurgeti," the President said stressing that a total 40-50m lari will be spent in the region, however it was just a fraction of what needs to be done in Guria. 

President Saakashvili also stressed that the overall structure of the emergency situations department needs to be reviewed, adding that this department should expand, have increased funding and special powers. According to President Saakashvili we learnt a lot from the floods in Lentekhi and Racha, but better organization and better preparation is needed. "One thing is absolutely clear: the short-term consequences of these floods should be eliminated in the next few days, while the long-term development of the region is our special priority. Poverty and hardship make it all the more difficult for people to cope with such situations. Any such disaster becomes a personal disaster for them because they cannot support themselves. We need to draw up a very proactive, a major programme to deal with this. I think our people should stay calm. They have seen that the government has not abandoned anyone in this time of hardship. They have seen that the country is well run, they have seen that there is someone to support them, and they have seen that an effective government has emerged in Georgia that is capable, despite limited resources, of mounting a very rapid response. I think everything I promised when I went there two days ago has already been done. I was pleased to see that even the sceptics among our people acknowledged that we have kept our promises. That is how it should be in future," the President said.

This translation is published with permission from BBC Monitoring, Reading UK

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