22 September, 2011

Opposition starts new series of protest rallies

Recently the President presented bicycle track to the dwellers of Kutaisi (second largest city of Georgia) personally demonstrating the privileges of riding bicycle to walking on foot; it was said also that the whole Europe is doing so. But citizens of Kutaisi demanded rise of salary and went on strike. The strikers were attacked by law-enforcers, some were beaten on the spot and those who got their butts in gear were followed to the

end with sound effect. This way the democracy and well-being of Kutaisi remained in TV. We discussed our economic and political prospects with Gia Khukhashvili, an expert in economics:


Q. – An article in ‘Kommersant’, a Russian publication, says that French National Bank Caisse des epots et Consignation is issuing EUR 10 billion for developing of North Caucasian resorts. The Bank and open share company ‘North Caucasian Resorts’ will register the joint corporation in Netherlands. ‘North Caucasian Resorts’ will hold 51% of the joint company and the remaining 49% will go to France Caucase, a specially set up daughter company. Isn’t it a bit strange to implement such vast investments against the background of tension in the North Caucasus?

G.Kh. – I don’t think it’s connected with politics. As you know Olympic Games will be held in North Caucasus in 2014. Consequently, the business interest is logical but the shadow side will have to carry bigger load. Believe me, it isn’t French investment. It’s financial combination based on cash or some other kind of assets that is given the name of a bank.

I don’t think there is any ground for us to display discontent. Fournier’s declaration has only diplomatic nature. For certain reasons he couldn’t discuss Russian-French agreement. Any way this isn’t a loss for us, it’s just an agreement of French bank and Russian functionaries in North Caucasus. It’s their specific business and it can’t be submitted to Georgian arbitration.

Q. – The President often reproaches his opponents for criticizing the building of the country. At one glance there are envious people who never like anything even if the President inaugurates new facilities or launches new projects. But on the other hand is the economics of the country developed enough to manage building of new airport and infrastructure in every city? Isn’t all this artificial and done in haste?

G.Kh. – Actually, something is really being done and a lot of things make me happy. There is more light and order. This is certainly good but it isn’t a direct indication of wellbeing and development. Infrastructure can be drawn as an indirect sign. To my mind there is no Georgian economics because no added value is being created here. We are a consumer country, more oriented on the service sphere and even here we can’t meet the standards. In the last count this is reflected on high social risks. Unless local production is developed and healthy environment for competition is created we’ll be speaking about this additional sector and won’t pass on to development of economy. Every day we are fulfilling short-term tasks and can’t manage to take up long-term prospects.

Q. – Correspondence of dispersal and arrests of workers on strike with European traditions is a different issue. 12 rally-members were detained, out of them 4 were hunger-strikers. But the trade unions don’t exclude that their number could be bigger as after dispersal the participants fled and the police in cars chased them. The strikers demanded nothing special – it was improvement of working conditions and return of 17 sacked workers.

G. Kh. – As for dispersal of the rally I can say that here we encounter a systemic problem. The Georgian labor legislation resembles the relations of a slave and master, interests of employed are not protected. The employer can sack the employed without taking social or other responsibilities. Even considering this unacceptable law whatever happened in Kutaisi is completely amazing. The workers were demanding only their due wages and improvement of labor conditions, nothing else! The rally itself was legitimate. Despite this they were dispersed. As I know they weren’t taken to police but to some other place and were forced to work there. This is immoral. Such things are rare even in uncivilized countries. The authorities view everything from the political standpoint. As they say, everybody who expresses discontent is guilty.

Q. – ‘National Forum’ is planning to hold ‘March of Georgians’ on September 27. Gubaz Sanikidze, one of the ‘Forum’ leaders declares that the ‘March’ should start the second stage of national movement with people showing the authorities their anger. What will be the result of another ‘marketing’ vision in Georgian protest rhetoric?

G. KH. – As for anti-Abkhaz rhetoric, I think the’ Forum’s approach is wise and there shouldn’t be any threat. But still, it’d be better not to appoint the action the same day in order not to mislead the opponents. As for the march, I understand the opposition that is trying to probe the situation and demonstrate to the authorities their strength before the coming political peripety thus examining its own abilities. But I think the stress isn’t put correctly:

On the one hand when you talk about the unity and invite other political forces to participate in the action but on the other hand when first you declare about the ‘March’ but only after this you offer participation, it mustn’t be quite right.

As you know there is no unity inside opposition and for this reason other political subjects took this offer lukewarm. In case consultations were held before the announcement, more people would take part in it.

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