President Saakashvili meets with regional TV companies’ journalists

I would like to greet the journalists who have come here from the different cities of Georgia and the representatives of the regional television companies. Our last meeting, with the same composition, took place a year ago.

You would remember that at that time energy situation in the country was deteriorated and the Georgian regions were in total darkness. At that time I had to say in numbers where and how much energy deficit we had, where and how many feeders we had and so on. There was not a healthy situation at that time in Georgia, but I gave you a promise that the similar situation would never occur. I remember that several people were skeptical about our promise, because the Georgian people had been listening to the similar promises for 15 years.

Today, I can boldly tell all the Georgian regions that we have fulfilled our promise - there is not a single region or settlement in Georgia in darkness and almost every household is supplies with electricity.

We have fixed payment system more or less, and everyone who pays electricity bills gets energy supply. This is a historic breakthrough and I am very happy that this problem has been solved once and for all. In summer we will announce a tender and this year we will start fulfilling many years dream of our energy-sector workers - we will build dozens of small and medium-sized hydropower plants. Georgia is rich in hydroelectric resources. The communists did not build power plants in Georgia on purpose. They built only Enguri power plant and some others, while it was absolutely possible to build 4 or 5 times more plants.

This is the cheapest way to generate energy power. They built thermal power plants and the reason for doing this was that if Georgia ever decided to "flee" from the Soviet Union it would have been completely depended on the Russian energy power. The whole of our energy system operated this way.

Today, we should manage to fully satisfy demand for electricity with the power generated by our own hydropower plants (we should have started it in the past several years but USD 500,000, allocated for this purpose, had been squandered). I think it will take us 4 or 5 years.

Today, keeping in mind great interest in the privatization process, world's many leading energy companies have submitted a bid. I can say that we will have money for that.

We have sufficient number of the workforce and the engineers who are able to work on this issue. We will also bring up the new personnel.

Together with the Americans we are opening new technical schools where will educate people in different spheres, including the technical personnel.

By the end of this year or in the first half of the next year, building of hydropower plants should start on a mass scale in Georgia.

By the way, we have resources for that everywhere: in Adjara, in the west and east part of Georgia, in almost all the regions. This concerns small and medium hydropower plants.

Building of a Khudoni hydropower plant is a long-term project, however, we already have its plan and there are many bidders. I think, it would take 6 or 8 year to build it, but as soon as Khudoni plant starts working, Georgia will become the exporter of the energy power. We will have our own free energy. Money will be spent on the building of the Khudoni plant, but as soon as the invested money is recovered, the generated electricity will be very cheap. This is the first important issue and I am very happy that it has changed.

Secondly, we should acknowledge that Georgia is an agrarian country. Of course, only agrarian sector will not be enough for the economic growth. But, in order to solve employment issue, it is necessary to significantly improve the situation in agriculture.

Our second strategic aim, which we haven't discussed earlier, is to double (in about 4 year's time) the share of the Georgian agricultural produce in the gross national product. We should double the production of our agricultural produce. How will we achieve this? First of all, we should restore irrigation system. This year we are starting great works in energy system in Kakheti region, which will continue for two or three years. As a result of this initiative great irrigation system in Kakheti region will be fully restored.

In the west Georgia we are starting doing several local works, which will become more large-scale next year. This concerns mechanization of agriculture.

Firstly, we plan to purchase 500 tractors every year. We have already earmarked money for that this year. But, after my visit to Kakheti region (you know that Khaketi has been hit heavily) I made a decision to give additionally 300 tractors to Kakheti and create a scheme based on which the equipments will be distributed.

So many things, simultaneously, were not done even under the communists. We should gain access to the new markets. People should learn how to manage this.

We have distributed brochures in the rural areas; however, our peasants already know many things written in it. It is our asset and strength that such educated people live in the villages.

However, this brochure provides lots of peaces of advice on which breed of grapes is mostly demanded in the world market, etc.

We are going to distribute free saplings in many areas, create seed farming from where we will distribute the saplings of the improved breeds free of charge.

Since the Russian market has been closed for us (I am sure it has been closed temporarily), by means of the negotiations and dialogue we will do everything to show everybody, including Russia, that Georgia has other alternatives. If Russia, yet, turns its back on us, George will not perish and get ruined, and we will show this to everyone.

We have a great desire to sell wine in Russia since we know there is a demand for Georgian wine there. But, if they don't let us do this, we will not get ruined and our vineyards will not be cut down. We will export our wine to other countries. I am sure that the situation about Georgian wine will enable us to diversify the markets; however, we should preserve the Russian market also.

I, myself, am not happy about the fact that such things happen, but every hardship will strengthen and help us to overcome the existing situation.

Not to mention a large-scale health and education programs, which are being implemented in the regions. The similar programs have never been implemented. By the end of May we are starting fundamental repairing of almost 300 schools in Georgia. In most of the schools we will replace the old desks with the new ones.

In 1970s, when I entered the school, we were sitting at the new desks and we were very proud, because at that time the schoolchildren had been sitting at the old wooden desks. Later, the old-fashioned desks had been replaced with the new ones, but nothing has been changes since then.

In Tbilisi and in some other cities we are completely changing the desks, sport and other school facilities, not to mention the repairing of the buildings, roofs and water supply system.

This year we will introduce school buses to many of the villages. We should merge schools and introduce new buses, because the children in the villages have to walk several kilometres to reach their schools.

We should consolidate these schools. After that the schools will have their buses, which will take children to schools.

This year we are also starting a program of technical schools in the regions.

Nowadays, for the construction of roads and hotels we need ten thousand of highly-skilled personnel.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the Kazakh investors who have allocated several tens of million dollars for the construction of hotels in Tbilisi. For instance, building of a five start hotel is opening in Adjara as well as building of dozens of other hotels.

There was a certain place in Batumi where unemployed people would gather. Today, I saw it with my own eyes that there is not a single person standing there. The reason is that a demand for skilled personnel, plumbers, painters, grinders and others has increased in Batumi.

However, no-one can master these skills today, because many vocational training centers had been renamed as collages, universities or academies. Academies and universities have opened in Bakurtsikhe, Velistsikhe, Tsnori, Chkhorotsku and even in the every remote villages. It is beyond doubt that very educated people live there.

Today, in Georgia there is a demand for people with the professions that were given by those institutions which had been ruined in the last 10-12 years. We should open these technical schools again and attract people. Azoti plant in Rustavi has started working again. I visited it yesterday and talked to a craftsman who has 40 years working experience and who expressed his desire to share his experience with the youth in these centers.

Although Azori plant in Rustavi started working, the minimum age of the people employed, except some exceptions, is 40.

New personnel haven't been trained for so many years and nobody even needed them. But now we need them and will need more of them in the future. New personnel have to be trained! Hence, we should give the youth opportunities.

In early years it was a shame to study in the vocational training centers. Everyone should understand that all kinds of labor, which will benefit your country and will help it stay on its feet, is honorable.

I very much welcome Gigi's [Ugulava, Tbilisi Mayor] idea to set up working semesters for the students. This program will be designed first for Tbilisi. However, I would like to have it in Kutaisi, Batumi, Telavi, Zugdidi and everywhere where there are universities. However, I don't want it to be like the ones we had in the soviet times.

As soon as summer holidays start the students will be able to work in painting the facades, making parks, repairing kindergartens for a month. For this work they will get several hundreds of lari, which they can spend for their leisure and entertainment, and at the same time they will participate in the improvement of their own city's or district's infrastructure.

Hence, education is the top priority for us.

We have also started earmarking money for the folklore groups. We are giving money to hundreds of folklore groups so that they could renew their instruments and dresses. Until these days they had been sewing dresses themselves and the instruments they have, had been inherited by their grand parents. I have seen this with my own eyes. They should purchase new instruments and renew their dresses. If it becomes necessary, we will hire tutors for them in order the magnificent culture and folklore of our regions did not lose.

In the cultural sphere money will not be distributed between Rustaveli Avenue and Freedom square, as it had been taking place in the last 12 years, but in the whole of Georgia.

Georgia's budget is not Tbilisi's budget only.

I know that there are lots of well-known public figures who come here and ask money to implement certain projects. But our resources should be spent equally on the whole of Georgia. We should finance the center of Tbilisi and the very well-known figures just after we do this. We are the government which serves not only one part of our population but the whole of Georgia - this is the principle of my administration.

We are opening hospitals in every region and by the end of my presidential term we will open them in every big village.

Free emergency service works very well everywhere.

Next year the project will be finished which will enable us to reach the regional centers easily by means of good roads. It is very difficult to do in some areas. For instance, the roads in Tianeti are dilapidated, several sections of the road in Mestia is also terribly damaged. Although it would be difficult to maintain these roads, we should do it. This is necessary not only for the free movement of the people but for enabling them to sell their produce and live with normal life.

When I am talking about agriculture and increasing agricultural produce by two-fold, it should be stressed that without industrialization it would not be enough to distribute fertilizers, repair irrigation system, or even to spread knowledge.

This year the businessmen are building several big plants in some of the Georgian regions. We are promoting this process. Last year apple processing plant opened in Agara which, despite some problems, started working. Several fruit processing plants are being built in Adjara which will process tangerines, oranges, kiwis, apples and other fruits. Nut processing plant is being built in Zugdidi. Georgian tea has a great prospective. I believe other agricultural produce will have also great prospective. I am sure many will make tomato paste, grapes juice etc. out of our produce.

Recently, I visited Italy where 7-8 plants expressed their interest in Georgia.

Our rural population will see the results this year, by the end of autumn.

This is all I wanted to say about our projects. Some might find it boring to listen to such a detailed talk on the economy and might think that it is more important to talk about great political materials. But the key policy is that people could see the results, especially when we have already achieved some.

Paata Shamugia - Adjara TV company: Mr President, the second anniversary of the Rose Revolution is coming up in Adjara. What are your views on the achievements in the region? And Secondly, are you going to spend the vacation with your family in Batumi?

President Saakashvili: Of course I am going to rest in Adjara. Taking into consideration the fact that my family has enlarged, it would cost lots of money to rest somewhere else. Adjara, in this case, is the most affordable resort. I would like to tell every Georgian, every citizen of Georgia and the foreigners: as good place as Adjara are very rare in the world. I have been to many famous sea resorts and should mention that Adjara is better than many of them. There is a different climate in Adjara - the sea season almost nowhere lasts till the end of October. The reason I am telling this is that I love this part of Georgia very much. At the same time, Batumi and Kobuleti are becoming so beautiful, so modern and nice parks are being built on exactly those places where Aslan Abashidze had left the bombs that no-one can find the place like this anywhere in the post-Soviet space. When we finish building it, everyone, and first of all the tourists, will be astonished.

Together with the Turks a new airport is being built in Batumi. It takes time to finish building the airport, however, we will manage to build it by the end of the year. The runway will be much better than it is in the neighboring regions.

Building of dozens of hotels has started in Batumi. Inturisti [old hotel] will really be a 5 star, a high-class hotel. Soon the richest Turkish businessmen, who have the Georgian origin, will come to Adjara and who will start building number of hotels there. This is all about tourism, however, lots of other things will be done in this region.

This year, in the mountainous part of Adjara, over 30 schools will be built. Some of them will be modern, reinforced concrete schools. I also promised the people in Kobuleti to build a modern school there and I want to build there a glass school like in England. It will cost 1-2 million dollars, but we should build it. The same school will be built in Khelvachauri. Last year all the schools had been repaired in Batumi and fully equipped with computers. If this process has not finished in the mountainous part of Adjara, it will be finished this year.

By the end of this year there will not a single big settlement in Adjara without water supply, which was a persistent problem for decades. As I promised the people in Batumi, we will start works on the water supply system in august. It will take two or three years, while 80 years were not enough for the communists to do this. We will build European standard water supply and sewage systems. We will do the same in Kobuleti, Poti, and in other cities of Georgia.

A question, why we pay such a great attention to Adjara, is frequently asked. I should mention that I love all the parts of Georgia equally, but Adjara was one of the most badly affected regions. The results are apparent there and we will triple and quadruple these results.

I have heard from many people that because of the bird flue it is dangerous to go to Adjara. Firstly, the bird flue was detected in one settlement, in Adlia, and it has been localized in such an organized manner and so promptly that many of the European countries would envy us. Secondly, all the norms are so followed and Batumi and Kobuleti are so luring that all the people in Georgia should get prepared to spend their vacation in Adjara. This is very important.

However, this is does not concern only Adjara, the same thing can be said about the other regions of the black sea coast, such as Guria. We expect tens of thousand of Armenian and Azeri tourists to come to Georgia in summer. Many Turks will also arrive, because visa regime has been abolished with Turkey. There is not as beautiful city in the black sea coast in Turkey as Batumi. I have been there and neither Trabzon nor Sinope is as beautiful, however, each of them have their own charm. Batumi has always been the center of the Black Sea coast and it has become much more beautiful today. Batumi will definitely be a very beautiful city in 2006 and will be much more beautiful in 2007 and, in 2008-09, it will be the city of my dream - with tall buildings, beautiful parks and developed infrastructure. This year the old so called Pioneer's Park will be rebuilt there, which has been totally ruined. This will be the most beautiful part with the zoo and entertainment facilities. A dolphinarium will be restored, which together with the singing fountain, has stopped functioning under Aslan Abashidze for some reasons. I would like to say that lots of things have changed in Adjara which is the merit of the Adjarian people. In Adjara, as well as in the rest of Georgia, workaholic and witty people live who have managed to free themselves. We were ready for everything, but these people, while being under great pressure, managed to free themselves. Those people have started the development process. I believe that Adjara will become an example of regional development for all the post-Soviet countries. I remember that when Kazakh President visited Georgia he expected a different situation, but as soon as he and the Kazakh delegation visited Batumi they said that they would invest hundreds of million dollars and they have fulfilled their promise. Turks and the Georgians who have returned in Georgia from abroad are investing money. The capital will also appear in Georgia and finally, all our effort will benefit the country.

Poti TV company: Facades of the buildings have been repaired in Poti with 440.000 lari allocated from the local budget. According to the contract the guarantee that the facades would not spoil was five years, however, they could not resist even one winter. Although the media highlighted this issue many times the local government did not react to this fact. Could you please comment on this? Who is responsible for spending the budgetary funds ineffectively?

President Saakashvili: There was the time when three mayors of Poti were in jail simultaneously. This does not mean that bad people live in Poti, on the contrary, fortune was not on these people's side. There are many talks that building facades is not at all relevant. That's right, only painting the facades does not alter anything. We should take care of our resorts by improving the roads, installing the fountains, repairing the facades, fixing the lights, and what's most important by improving the standard of living. We should do everything with the money we have so that to attract more investments and investors. This is the principle of the life.

I have given the instructions to the governors that the quality must be high. I am not interested in empty figures and reports. These people should learn how I like to work. Georgian has the government which will never stop controlling the results. Gigi Ugulava knows that at any time I can go with him to see the outskirts of the city. During one of such patrolling we selected a place for a new park in Gldani district. Then we found out who was the owner of this land which turned out to be privatized by the governor of Gldani district. At 10 o'clock in the morning we made this person give back that land. On the morning news it was said that the property has been confiscated, which I don't deny. In stead of a vapid restaurant a modern park will be built there. We are interested in everything, including Poti. Those who don't work don't make mistakes. Some mistakes are made by chance, some - intentionally.

We don't have a virtual government. The standards of the government are quite different and differ from the parties' standards. Who talks much makes more mistakes. The government is kept responsible for the promises. It's high time we learnt how to obtain quality information. I would appreciate if you provide me with the similar information and I will react aptly on them.

Communications Office
of the President of Georgia

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