President Saakashvili's remarks at the cabinet meeting of 31 January


Today we shall discuss several issues of fundamental importance to our society.

First issue: natural gas.

At present Georgia is supplied with gas from two sources, Azerbaijan and Russia. We pay a political price, 235 dollars per 1,000 cu.m., for Russian gas. The reason behind this inflated political price is clear: This move was targeted at dealing a blow to our people, so the government must do all it can to reduce the impact of this blow. We must not raise the price of gas this winter because these coming months are especially difficult for poor people. The Energy Ministry must do all it can to increase the share of cheap gas in the balance of our energy resources and ensure that we burn as little gas as possible at our hydroelectric stations. The government is allotting funds to minimize the effect of the Russians' raising the gas price, which should be especially helpful to the most vulnerable members of our society.

Second issue - You know that a few days ago I brought up the issue of how budget funds are spent and how local officials are using these funds to decorate their own offices and overstaff their own administrations. We have seen a very healthy example of democracy in action: those officials who made this mistake have decided to leave their posts. I value this because people should have a sense of responsibility. The government must establish certain criteria. We must understand that officials do require certain things in order to be able to do their jobs. They must have access to transport and have decent offices, but not luxuriously decorated ones.

We must also establish criteria in the form of recommendations and direct instructions. I have charged the prime minister with establishing these criteria in order to clear up just what is acceptable and what is not. We must ensure that these people do not act as a burden on society, but rather that they fulfil their primary duty: to serve the public while putting aside their own comfort.

Third issue - developing the villages of the South Ossetia conflict zone

I intend to make frequent trips to Tamarasheni and Kurta [villages in the Georgian-controlled part of South Ossetia]. The people who live there are, simply put, heroes. During the most difficult years of the civil conflict they have overcome all challenges and shown their resolve again and again.

Given the harsh climate and the fact that the people often have to travel on bypass roads, I ask that the government give a one-off aid payment of 100 lari to each household there. Construction works under way must continue, schools must be refurbished and public areas must be properly lit. All these projects should be completed as soon as the weather warms up.

I want everyone to know that I will be paying special attention to the Didi Liakhvi and Patara Liakhvi Gorges. This is an especially sensitive area for Georgia. They need our firm support to ensure that there is peace in the region and avert anyone who may desire to disrupt that peace or stir up separatist tendencies.

This is a good beginning. The distribution of financial aide should begin tomorrow. Construction on the hospital in Kurta should be finished by this summer. All sports halls should be finished by April; we must create good working conditions for teachers. We must declare our full support for the people who live there.

We will set up free bus service on the Tamarasheni-Eredvi bypass road in order to provide these people with transport when criminal gangs close off the main road. Furthermore, a new entertainment centre in Tamarasheni will provide local young people with good opportunities to socialize.

This is what I wanted you to hear.

Thank you.

Press Office
of the President of Georgia

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