Speech delivered by President Saakashvili at Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State University
I would like to thank all of you, the Council of the University, Ms Rusudan Lortkipanidze.
Despite great pressure, you have proved that you would not give in to blackmail.You have seen that I have been refraining from any public statements on this issue. Many of those who did not achieve good grades during studies at university demonstrated a great desire to run the university. The university gave them an appropriate answer. This is very important.
The government should have a close relationship with the public and permanently hold dialogues with them. You are the best part of the society. Our main advantage is people, their education and intelligence. You are a guiding line for the new government.
We have short and long-term plans and the government has worked on this issue already. In two or three months we will start building roads and should enhance economic progress. Our long-term plan is to make Georgia a developed, modern and successful country. These aims will not be attained in a short period.
We also have medium-term plans concerning the energy sector. The energy sector is vital for the development of Georgia's economy. It takes two or three years to improve the energy sector. Thus, the combination of all these factors contribute to the development of Georgia.
We have to think through the existing situation in Georgia. We say that we have huge historic tradition and it is really so. We also have the most ancient tradition of statehood that some of the most developed and successful countries do not have. However, we lack the modern tradition of the development of the state. It means that we lack the very thing that determines politics.
We are building a new country, a new state. Basically we are building a modern statehood out of its ashes. While talking about current problems, about impoverished people we forget that we have managed to establish a framework for the country and stopped the process of disintegration.
It is impossible to develop a country if the state administration does not function. We have managed to create not only new state emblem and a new flag (which are only attributes) but also established new government institutions. We have built a new police force, though nobody believed that an honest and totally different police force would be formed in this country. We have laid the foundation for a new army. We have new public administrators, who have high enough salaries to look after their families. This is the main thing that differentiates government officials from other civil cervants.
We had ministers who had salaries of 50 dollars per month but had three-storey houses. Today we have senior officials with high salaries but they have to take out long-term loans to buy a three-room flat. They can really afford it today. This is the main difference between the old and new government.
When I came to power I remember many people said that we are populists and do only popular things. If you look closely, we have done many very unpopular things, concerning traders in the streets and cutting government staff.
Why did we cut government staff? Because in Tbilisi, where about one million people live, there can't be 3,000 people in the state administration. It would mean that there would be one administrator for every 300 people.
We of course do not seek popularity. Our government was not seeking a high approval rating and popularity. For the last year it was seeking public trust towards government institutions and it has achieved it.
Our previous police force was trusted only by 6 percent of the population. Now it has reached 90 percent. The Prosecutor's office was trusted by only 7 percent. Now, based on the polls, it has increased 10 times. Many more people trust institutions like ministries, organizations and the Presidential institute, the office and not the President himself, than did several months ago.
A country is considered to be a state when people see it as an institution they can trust and rely on and which reflects public opinion. At the same time we have to overcome old Soviet stereotypes. These are corroded water pipes in Kutaisi and Tbilisi, ruined infrastructure. Not a single road has been built and not a single infrastructure project has been implemented in Georgia for the past 12 years. First of all it is due to our mentality.
Georgia was quite a rich country, based on Soviet standards. We had a near monopoly as an exporter of citrus fruit, wine, tourism and mineral water within the USSR. It was a huge amount of money. This money flowed without hard work. However, this position was lost as soon as we became independent and we were introduced to the market.
Mental inertia, the idea that somebody should feed us, that we do not need to look for a market to sell our products, that tourists should come to Georgia without any promotion, still persists. Mental inertia is the factor that is hindering the development of Georgia. Even now people have the false belief that the government should be a major economic player.
The government is not able to feed its citizens the way they were fed, and everybody has to accept this fact, since it is a normal market relationship. At the same time the government should not forget its main function. Whichever state it is, however developed it is, there are certain spheres in education and culture that can't develop without investment and can't adapt to the market economy.
Thus, the state has to give up those factions that are not suited to it and concentrate on those it can deal with. We have to completely destroy the stereotypes related to our political system. Let's take parliamentary debates for example. There was dissatisfaction about a tough tone of the President. My apologies, but democracy is not one person talking and the rest of the government not saying a single word.
Did we not used to have a government like that? There is not a single state as silver-tongued as totalitarian states but it is not a democracy. Democracy means that everybody can express their opinion, even the most radical people. But in the end people decide who is right and who is wrong. This is what real democracy takes.
They ask the question: what kind of Georgian government does not have a single divergent opinion? And they propagate this idea. But I ask the question like this: what kind of government has differing views and which normal, democratic country has a government where there are 50 different viewpoints.
The fact that there is a parliamentary majority is not at all appreciated. They refer to them as a group of slaves, who think the same way. This majority has the discipline that is necessary for democracy. We make decisions after long debates and we are unanimous in our decisions, therefore we would not pass any private interest. This is a true democratic system.
We have also a civic society and free press, which is our main asset. People saying on all TV channels that they do not have freedom of speech is quite natural. It is the existing stereotype. Democracy and debates will help develop the country as every debate breeds truth. We have to be able to identify truth in the discussion.
Any government that artificially tries to suppress the discussion of any subject will certainly end up being the loser. It is our strength that we are not afraid of any discussion and debate. That's why we are here.
We can also talk about other stereotypes. For example yesterday army reservists went to Kutaisi. We all know that sending reservists to Kutaisi will not solve the problem. It calls for the implementation of infrastructure projects, so that the water supply issue is solved once and for all in Kutaisi and in other towns. It requires the investment of billions of dollars. Of course it would happen neither today nor tomorrow.
The main thing is that hundreds of people without any special allowance brought water to families and worked for the good of society.
About 20,000 reservists in the reserve camps are waiting for their turn to get up at 6 am, run five kilometers when it is 20 degrees below freezing and overcome obstacles. When necessary, they will put out a fire in Borjomi-Kharagauli national park and supply the residents of Kutaisi with water.
There is a mentality that I must build Georgia. Neither Saakashvili nor Noghaideli nor Lomaia can build Georgia. It's a very important mentality.
Several days ago an honorable 75-year-old man wrote me a letter: "Please accept me for the reserve camp, do not have age limits. I can do everything." At the same time people watch a 22-year-old boy commenting on the speech of the president saying, "again promises and promises". This boy has become old in early age.
You are 30-years-old, you have the whole of your life ahead of you, you have strength and can move. Build the country yourself.
First of all there was not a single promise in my speeches. We have to do everything with joint efforts. If you do not want to listen to it, nobody makes you do it, but build this country yourself, work and make it strong.
Some opposition groups in their speeches say that they do not like the words written on the cars of the patrol police. Take the paint, brush, select the color and paint it the way you like. I did what I could.
Now you should work a little if you know how something should be done. It is the main thing that has to be implemented in Georgia.
We have to propagate the idea that we are an active society, which is not waiting for somebody to solve this or that problem for them. Of course there are impoverished people who need much more attention. Yesterday, when the reservists brought water to these people on the twelfth floor, was an example of that attention.
But it is an exception. The public can take care of itself. While talking about our society, we should take into consideration its ethnic diversity. We must try to see events that took place in Georgia over recent years from their viewpoint. We must try to see it through the eyes of the Ossetian and Abkhaz people.
We must also ensure that every Azerbaijani and Armenian can feel themselves to be part of this society. We are creating a special administrative school for these people to ensure their employment in the public sector.
It does not mean that we let bandits feel free. We will never let anybody interfere with the territorial integrity of Georgia. To ensure peaceful settlement of the conflict we must not only talk about peace but we have to believe it. It is a very important factor and this was the peace initiative I presented in Strasburg.
We have to understand why it is done. We have members of the cabinet, for example Zinaida Bestaeva, whom no one will tell not to be proud of Georgia, because Georgia is her motherland. However, nor can anyone tell her not to be proud of being Ossetian because that is part of her identity. She is an Ossetian who is proud of Georgia. We have Azerbaijanis who are proud of Georgia. We have Armenians, hundreds of thousands of them, who are proud of Georgia. And I am sure that we will have many more Abkhaz who are proud of being in Georgia and part of Georgia. That is our asset, rather than weakness. That is how we should view these people. That is another stereotype that has to be destroyed.
We have great plans. The first year was a year of building state administration infrastructure. The next year will be the year for implementing serious reforms in education, state administration and self-governance.
It is very important that we should create total democracy at the governor and mayoral level. All mayors will be elected, either directly or indirectly, rather than appointed. The activities of governors will be monitored by elected representatives.
It does not mean that the Georgian government will not have governing reins. It is impossible to manage the country without having them.
We will start building infrastructure. As soon as it warms up we will start the construction of roads and house building to create the appropriate infrastructure for the development of business.
As soon as we have a new tax law, not a single government body will touch the entrepreneur. Now every student should think about going to the private sector, although of course the best should be employed in public sector.
It is a very important issue, as the private sector makes the economy. To take products out of rural areas the government can build roads with the help of the private sector. But now our business does not have that much.
We can talk to other states to get preferential tariffs. We are already working on this issue.
No single state body will treat you badly. The rest is up to the people.
Going back to the previous topic, the public should take its own fortune in its hands and build the economy, just as I built the army and police force.
As for the education reforms, it is first of all an investment in this field and we are working hard on this issue. It is impossible to get quality education without paying.
We have a program to provide every school in Georgia with computers and an internet connection.
It is Kakha Lomaia's program and will cost about 40 million dollars. We will allocate this amount by all means. But universities and institutes also need money.
For instance, let's take the bacteriological research institute. It is a world-class research institute but today it is deserted and destroyed. We have this asset but do not use it properly. We have many similar scientific centers that are potentially very important but are not used. It has to be given special attention.
Finally, I would like to tell you that parliament is soon to approve the cabinet. And before the parliament does it I would like students and the professors to ask any question to them and make them make promises, the fulfillment of which I will demand.
It is very easy to find a common language with parliament, as they are the politicians. But they should know that they can not negotiate with students unless they work well.
Here you are given the chance to see the whole cabinet and if you approve them, parliament will approve them on Thursday. But if you do not approve them, I will reconsider the composition of the cabinet. The power will be given to you, to the students and the youth of Georgia.
of the President of Georgia