Speeches & Statements

The President of Georgia held a government session in Mestia


I would like to congratulate you on this day, because it is a serious and important day for Svaneti today - I don't want to use term "historic", because time will define this one day.

First steps were practically made already and we have received first specific results by opening our new big tourism zone and new world pearl - Svaneti.

Svaneti was closed for the rest of the world and even for the rest of Georgia as well.

I am sure that the absolute majority of Georgian people - about 90 percent have never visited Svaneti. Everybody knows that Svaneti is somewhere far away, it is unreachable, interesting, but it is still very difficult place to reach.

In reality this resort has the greatest tourism potential all around Georgia. Several criterias that define the uniqueness of this resort can be listed here. First it is of course unimaginable beauty, relief, very dry and healthy climate, ideal temperature for winter and summer. Because of this the number of snowy days are very high, the wind hardly ever blows here, there is unique cultural heritage, incredible culinary and what's most important - very good people live here.

We saw that people got adapted to every job, among them in regards of tourism. Very hospitable, warm and special people live in Svaneti.

We must understand that the major of problem until now was the road - we are doing everything in order to resolve this problem.

We are developing skiing slopes now. You saw today that the airport has opened. We are planning to conduct subsidized flights this year. It means that tickets will cost much less of its original price. We are doing it because many people could see and tell others about this place.

The road coming from Mestia is not completed yet - the construction of it will end by the end of this year.

You know that two roads will be constructed here. First comes from Tsalenjikha that goes along Jvari and brings us directly here. The second is a very prestige road - we all must build it together - this road will come from Kutaisi and go towards Lentekhi direction. We mustn't have illusion that it will start this year. It needs planning first and we must see if we can attract international credit resources, but in future we must have these two roads.

It means that Mestia will become a very easy place to reach.

We mention Mestia, but it doesn't concern this region only. Below is Chuberi, then Mestia, then Etseri, Adishi, of course - Ushguli... So, here are several gorges connected to one another and when you reach Lower Svaneti it comes up to 200 km.

So we must understand what kind of tourism potential we are talking about. We were surprised when about 20 thousand foreigners visited Svaneti this year. In future this number will reach half a million. I am not bringing these digits from air. For example in Alto Adige (Italy) where there is a gorge about of the same size, with smaller mountains then here and less skiing potential - several times more tourists go there.

You must envisage the fact that we still have to arrange infrastructure here and that Svaneti is still far away for visiting. Though we soon will have airports in Kutaisi and Poti; from these places we will have direct flights. This is why these places will become easy to travel for the rest of the world.

I assume that in four years we will host about half a million tourists here. We need hard work and special campaign for this. We arranged Mestia center this year. Now we must announce tenders and good roads must be constructed all the way up to Mestia soon.

The rehabilitation process of buildings must finish and the main center must look like best resorts of Austria or Switzerland. Now I can say that this is possible. By the way I was in Austria in January and I thought: could we ever have such a center in our resorts? When I look at Mestia, now I realize that this is completely possible. There are no such towers, but about modern infrastructure - it could be even better here, because everything is being done now.

We are planning to construct several very important buildings. But the most important buildings here are hotels.   

I am surprised that the private sector is sleeping now. Hotels are being constructed in Batumi, Gudauri... Skiing season in Gudauri falls only on wintertime; but the season on sea cost was only in summer up to now.

The season is permanent here. Guests are always more here then there are places to stay. It will be like this during next 20 years.

We have a proposal, to declare this place as free tourism zone - but we aren't doing it here - because it is not right.

We will give a land to a person for one GEL, so to say for free, but we will not make them not to pay taxes. It is more than enough!

They will find golden bars here. If a person has entrepreneurs' talent they must understand that anything they open here will be permanently occupied.

We give people this land for one GEL, we understand that they have shortages in initial capital - otherwise we mustn't do it for sure. But in order to start construction process soon - we are offering this proposal. Everybody must forget about not paying of taxes. On the contrary - this place will become one of the best tax-payers during next several years.

This place is a real gold fund.

This is why I call everyone to enjoy this place. The land here is very small and before it is free and before we give it to you for one GEL, I call everyone to open their eyes, come here, build and get rich. We will be only glad for this.

We will start building a road going to Adishi. Later we must construct a road to Tetnuldi bottom. Then we must go all the way up to Tetnuldi and construct ski-lifts there.

For example, there is no snow here, but it is in Adishi already. When you come down skiing, you see Ushba. There are actually three routs here, but rout is immediately to be done there. After this, development will go in every direction. We make Ushguli road with the help of the World Bank. 14 km are common until Ushguli and after this - additional 7 km to the rout. These are two different roads. Each kilometer costs 600-700 GEL and we can make up to 15 millions. This is a very important rout. Small hotels should be done there as higher. 

There must be roads like in Switzerland in Mestia - i. e. the best.    

In addition, we must rehabilitate historical castles. In Adishi gorge, on Tetnuldi we shall announce a World tender for construction of a small ecological village. This can be not very expensive, but we must make a small ecological village. We shall announce it to architects all over the World, and I am sure, many of them will eagerly take part.    

We must plan roads by all means, we shall see, calculate and if we can do it this year, we shall do it this year, if not - we shall do it the next year, but the next place of development is Tetnuldi and its cableways. This is very important.  

We shall have the Mestia complex and we must have the Ushguli complex in 2-3 years. By this time, Kutaisi road will come up here. 

So, actually, I repeat it once again, in no separate region of Georgia, not coubting Ajara - there people visit for less time, in no place will there be 500 000 tourists. And here they will be by all means. Nevertheless, before, we must provide all the communications and the advertisement campaign. 

I want to express gratitude to the Department of Tourism, by the way, they made the center very well and they have very good ideas to make youth and recreation centers.     

In addition, I want to ask Vera, to establish a separate Rescuer Service. Ministry of Internal Affairs cannot combine the functions that are directly connected with tourism. This is a completely different thing. This is a service purely oriented on tourism, that is why it has to be a small unit of the Ministry of Economy, in coordination with all the other existing rescuer services. There must be at least one helicopter, permanently based in Mestia, as when the gorge is blocked by snow, there should be this possibility at place.

Minister of Economy and sustainable development Vera Kobalia: We had negotiations with the Government of France and the first group of 10 trainers for the Rescuers' Program will come here in January. Group of 20 trainers will come on February and by the end of may we will have a possibility to have a team of 50 people in Georgia. The first group will be in Mestia. The best Rescuers' Program with dogs and helicopters is there in France and these specialists will provide trainings in Georgia. As you know, Georgia is on of the countries that have the strongest alpinists and 50 of them will be employed in this direction.        

President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili: By the way, we already gave some small skiing school, for example in  Ushguli and we shall make those in one or two other places in order to train as many personnel as possible.

I want to thank as well Sakaeronavigacia and the Ministry of Infrastructure, as they made a lot very quickly. This is about airports and construction of roads as well. We saw both the roads and both of them are very good. Everything was done very quickly and I want to express gratitude to those who constructed roads. 

I want to return to the issue that we spoke about in the cave of Sataplia. You know that oil became more expensive, inflation will increase, I do not have good forecast in terms of the processes of the World crisis. Of course, this is a strong shock for all of our citizens and this will reflect on their every day life. Oil prices will reflect on the prices of the products of primary consumption. I ask what we have done in terms of the compensation package.  

Prime Minister Nika Gilauri: Mr. President, after you gave us the task on the previous sitting of the Government, we discussed several different options. Actually, the most available package that will touch every family is the electrical power voucher and in several weeks, probably by the end of January, by February, everything will be ready. Probably we finish negotiations with the energy companies by the end of the year. Actually, we say that every family will receive a 20 lari voucher that can be used to pay for electricity. Of course, the problem will not be totally removed for them, but this will alleviate the burden of payment. The cost of this program will be approximately 20-25 mln GEL. There are one million 300 thousand customers in Georgia in total. Million of customers out of those are active, they permanently use electricity. Correspondingly, we distribute 20 lari vouchers among one million people. This is, approximately, one months consumption of Georgia, and if this initiative is approved, by the end of January, by February, we shall be ready to fully implement this project.     

Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava: By the way, in several regions of Tbilisi there are already 40 well-organized stores (the amount of these will be increased up to 200), where all the people who use a social card - retired, socially unprotected, refugees, can buy the products of primary consumption (eggs, oil, sugar, bread and so on) 15-20 percent cheaper. I. e. the will make a three lari economy on each 20 lari. Payment is made by a card and everything is in legal frames. Tbilisi population that uses a social card - 500 thousand people in total, uses this service. 

President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili: We must do everything and maximally alleviate the press of the World crisis for the people. The initiative of the Mayor's Office is very interesting. What about 20 lari voucher: not every family needs this voucher, but we can give them to others in need. Everybody has acquaintances, friends, neighbors who make economy and pay, for example, 16-17 GEL for energy per month. If somebody pays much more, and these 20 lari does not make big damage for him or her, needy person can use it for three months - pass all the winter. In comparison with common prices, may be this is not a big relief, but it depends on the family and the situation. We can do what we can - not more and not less, but the Government has to express solidarity. Therefore, this is one of the ways.  

We help farms in agriculture - we have a special program of seedlings; this will increase the harvest of corn in 4, 5, sometimes 6 times, depending on the situation and place; many things can be done that will make life of people in need, life of unprotected easier, but these are longer term programs.    

We shall distribute electricity vouchers by the beginning of February. The most difficult period, actually is February-March as the people start to be out of the harvest store and there is no new harvest yet and it is difficult to pay for electricity and gas. . .  

I want once again return to the issue of this place. For example, this is a very good hotel, however, when it was being built, many people probably thought, why do they need it for. Now it is rented in advance from the summer. My friends wanted to meet the New Year here, but there are no free rooms here. 

We are ready to give businesspersons portions of land along this hotel free of charge to build hotels.  

For example, if I had 3-4 millions, I would not even think where to invest the money. If each hotel costs 2 millions, I would invest my money here to gain 10-15 millions of profit in 5-6 years. This is the reality.     

That is why I ask you all to think about it well and do it. May be I am not a very big financial consultant and that is why I do not have two millions, but actually, intuitively you and we, look at everything through stereo spectacles. In one part of the spectacles, we see what is there, and through the other part - what will be.   

What we see here is the unimaginable potential.

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