The President of Georgia held a government session at Sataplia reserve


I would like to greet you all here at Sataplia reserve on a specially arranged Government session. We are intending to visit Prometheus Cave from here, because the territory there is more open and it has much more potential for such tourism. Me, Goga Khachidze and Vera Kobalia visited Mexico recently and we saw that a country with population of 100 million people has got only one natural reserve that looks like Sataplia and Kumistavi. This reserve hosts tens of millions of tourists - this is a major and the biggest tourism centers.

We have gathered here not because we want to see the reality in variegated colors or to conceal ourselves from someone, but I think there are some serious issues that we need to discuss.

Before we start our discussion, I would like to make several statements.

First is that we were searching for a lost alpinist in Mestia and unfortunately he was found dead today. Sachkhere battalion and MIA Emergency Situations Department participated in the search operation. Tens of people visit Mestia by now. In five years about million people will visit Mestia, Adisi, Chuberi, Ushguli, upper mountains, Mulaki and other places. Do you know that upper and lower mountains are almost 200 km, about the size of Abkhazia in length and it will be one whole complex? Envisaging this fact we need to strengthen more rescue service in Georgia. One helicopter must be based there on the permanent basis, because when the gorge closes it is not possible to fly the helicopter there. This is very important for the rescue services. We must buy trained dogs as well. Switzerland and several other countries have a very good experience of this... So to say, we must reduce all possible tragic incidences to the minimum.

I would like to pass my condolences to the family of tragically dead alpinist, to thank everyone who took part in the searching operation and I repeat I would like to make some conclusions.

Second - we have made a statement on this matter, but I want to once again underline this fact. You all know that Richard Holbrook passed away and I want everyone to understand what kind of friend has Georgia lost. In 2006 he forecasted Georgia-Russian war and he was warning the West about this in a loud voice. He didn't possess any official post at that moment, though he was a giant of XX and XXI century diplomacy. I remember well that in 2007, when we had no information yet, Richard Holbrooke made a public statement and said that Russian special services stood behind one part of anti-governmental demonstrations organizers. He loudly stated that he had no doubt regarding this fact. I repeat that we had no information regarding this matters. Today it became clearer what type of meetings were held in Minsk, what type of contacts Patarkatsishvili had. Holbrooke was the first who started speaking about this all. In 2008, it seemed that Russia had everything ready (due to the plan that was prepared - Georgia attacked Russia and Russia was defending itself and their own citizens), when people left for the Olympics and no one had time for us - Richard Holbrooke came to Georgia as soon as war begun. I do not even know how he managed to come to Georgia, which flight did he take. No one paid him money and we haven't asked him to come either. His name was too big for the world press, for the world diplomacy, especially for some left-wing elements of Democratic Party, who believed that because we were friends with George Bush this was a reason not to support Georgia that much. Richard Holbrooke was the most brilliant star of Democratic Party in foreign policy sphere. This is why his visit together with the support of Republican Administration was more important in that period than the support of whole administration. I remember he came to Tbilisi and checked in Hotel Koppala that was under the permanent threat of bombardment. He personally communicated with every TV Company and was frequently on air. This man played important role in rescuing Georgia's statehood and Tbilisi. I communicated with him permanently during last several weeks. I spoke with him several times during these recent days and he was actively involved in Georgian matters. It is true that it is big loss for us to loose a person like Richard Holbrooke, but his existence was very important, because America is a country where idealists like his are born permanently - idealist who believe in their ideals and in jobs they are performing, idealists who are ready to fight for the freedom and happiness of foreign countries. Richard Holbrooke was neither my cousin nor my classmate - I met him while serving for strengthening and rescuing Georgia's freedom. During one of the last meeting he told me: "The most important thing you did is that your had rescued Georgia's statehood". In 2008 after the war (unfortunately this war is not over yet), he told me: "If someone will ask and say that Georgia was saved economically it means that your statehood is saved and everything will come back to you". Due to my experience none of his prognoses were mistaken.  

It is vital to save our statehood at this stage and return of our territories will follow it. Richard Holbrooke knew it very well and our enemy knows it very well. This is why we need to get back to the issue of economy. Georgia has the highest indicator of economy growth among European and former Soviet Union countries that are not obtaining oil - it equals to 6.5 percent due to the data of last three quarters.

This is very important, but I don't want us to fall into euphoria. The major challenge for us today is growth of economy that is undoubtedly very important. The prices "bite" our people every day. If someone makes populist statements and says that the government made fuel to become more expensive and other things - they will not be able to mislead our people. The Government possess no fuel - otherwise we would distribute it for free. Very bad processes are going on around the world - fuel gets more expensive. This year prices of food products became more expensive, among them some basic products like buckwheat, sugar, wheat. 

The fate of the harvest for the next year is still not clear. I do not want us to deceive our people. Inflation processes will increase. The maximum what the Government of a small country can do with the limited means, is to develop somehow a program of measures to alleviate the inflation shock for our people. We have to find resources for this by means of our economical growth that is rather high - more than 6 percent. We have to distribute these resources for the most needy layers of population, but we must not have illusion - gasoline, sugar, wheat, buckwheat, rice, other products are getting more expensive for Georgia as well as for Brazil, America, China, Japan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, i. e. for all the countries. However, different from Japan and America, where these are not the main basket of goods, here, where people have to survive, this is very hard shock. That is why we must not write with gold pens: we shall be very well - in the conditions of today's economy, nobody will be very well very soon. We try maximally to alleviate the shock and we use all the efforts. The Government must be of maximum effectiveness. The Parliament adopts the budget today and we greet it, but our task is to seek for certain means from the reserve funds to alleviate the shock, connected with the World inflation wave.  

We cannot perform miracles, but we have to understand that increase of prices is the important problem for the all layers of the population. Making more products in villages means that people will have more harvest there and that is good, but at cities, where the level of unemployment is high, we have to set kind o tariffs, develop some programs. Though we cannot reduce tariffs, as it is a commercial part, but, especially in winter months, we can think about a compensation of some kind and purposeful assistance for socially unprotected layers of population. This a very important question.    

It is necessary to increase work effectiveness in each Ministry. You know that we scheduled further decrease of bureaucracy in the budget. I want to say that expenses of the President's Administration and Office are decreased. I great the fact the Mayor's Office of Tbilisi seriously decreased the office, offices of the State Chancellery and the Ministers are decreased as well. We got State Ministers with the offices like ministries, that is unacceptable. 40-50 people work in these ministries without portfolio. Bureaucracy has a characteristic of growing, but we are a small country. Set an upper limit - it is not understandable, why the ministries without portfolio have such big offices. All this is on the people's charge. I do not want us to have many employees with low salaries - we must have less - qualified and high-paid personnel. Many - must be in the private sector. Amount of personnel was maximally decreased in the Ministries, but this must not happen every year. You yourself make a problem - you increase jobs and then you have to decrease. I warn you, hire only qualified personnel and only for existing jobs. Once and forever shall be over that some had hundred people contracted and others hired friends and relatives. 

Corruption in Georgia is decreased almost to zero and fight with corruption will go on.

You know that a bad fact took place today - the Chief of the Forest Department was arrested on a charge of corruption. As far as I know, there was a suspicion on this. Despite we love Goga Khachidze so much, and what happens here is his merit, I want to tell him openly, he might have some apprehension, whether his friend was guilty in this case, but I have no doubts that there is a full lawlessness in the Forest Department. The fact that 110 people are arrested in the 300-employee service allows making certain conclusions. The every third person in this Service is arrested and I want to say that hundred more are to be arrested. I do not want to offend anybody, but it looks this way out of the business. Everybody in Georgia knows that the Forest Department is a place, which we could put in order by no means. We put in order Police, Taxation Service - EZR was important breaching. The only place of chronic disorder - is the forest. When we speak about the bribe in amount of 30-40-100 GEL, this does not mean that the level of corruption is low, but that the corruption is systemic here and everybody are involved. I personally received plenty of information about this specific person. He said many times, I'll not let you into the forest, if you do not let my relative to make his own enterprise and so on. 

Georgia is a small country and despite the fact that many lies are distributed via some Press and Media means, people know the truth without any television or newspaper. That is why I want reorganization to be performed in this Ministry. It is obvious that there are problems in the Ministry, mainly in the Forest department. The good agency is, for example, the Department of Protected Areas and other services as well. I personally visited this Ministry and saw that many very good employees work here, but there also are fully hopeless areas. I ask you to present the plan of reorganization of the Ministry, as there is coverage of areas of several Ministries. Forest shall be developed as a profitable, but well controlled business.  Being without control means weakness and weak-mindedness. This has to be a business actually to support the country, foresters and work for people. I was in Sweden several times and it can be seen even from an aircraft how the Forest Department works there - forest is somewhere cut somewhere there is a new forest and somewhere - old but well treated. The State strictly regulates this and do not believe that it is possible to be in another way. Only in the Soviet Union nothing was regulated and in case of market economy, everything is strictly regulated for the benefit of people. I want to say it in open way: you made this area to fail. Everything must be changed in this Ministry. Prime-Minister knows about it, maximum till the end of the year, you all sit down and present plan of how the system shall be changed. Many will have to leave, functions will be redistributed and many issues must be discussed in a structural way.

I repeat once more, I am grateful to all those people, including Goga Khachidze, who do many good things, but there are issues to be resolved.  

I also want to note that in Kutaisi we build the new Chancellery. When I said that we are going to sneak in to Kutaisi, some people, who do not want to understand correctly what we say, said that we were sneaking out of Tbilisi. I want to disappoint them - the Government of Georgia will not sneak out or go out. Of course, the Government of Georgia will continue functioning in Tbilisi, but we shall as well "sneak in" to Kutaisi, as the Government of Georgia shall be everywhere. They want very much to get rid of us from Tbilisi. Of course, in no way shall we weaken the function of Tbilisi, but at the same time, until the Chancellery is built in Kutaisi, we can sometimes conduct the Governmental sittings here in some colored halls of Sataplia or Prometheus caves.  

Thank you.