POLITICS
“They Set Ambassadors Against Us”
27 December, 2012
Exclusive interview with PM Bidzina Ivanishvili

“After he took up the post of PM, we met Bidzina Ivanishvili in the Governmental Chancellery first time. His room features a new table. He says it cost 800 Lari.” Below we present an abridged version of an interview with the Prime Minister.
Q: Mr Bidzina, what do you make of the legacy that you inherited as PM?
A: I try hard to study these issues, to explain to our partners and to have
them understand that we are the people’s government and that we have no other interest. I have to rap the former Government for inconsiderate moves. As often as not, many projects proved to be harmful for the country.
Q: Do you mean Kars-Akhalkalaki railway project?
A: I believe the railway will be beneficial in geopolitical terms. The larger the transit traffic via Georgia, the better. But at the initial phase, economic benefits may not be interesting. When the Kars railway is constructed and becomes operational, our old railway that heads from Azerbaijan and is 2-3 times longer than the Kars railway, would suffer from a slump in goods turnover, which in turn would affect our ports. I think, we can handle such questions alright, given that we talk about the partners such as Azerbaijan. I am sure, we can cope with such issues. After all, we are not going to stop construction of Kars-Akhalkalaki railway. We have to honor commitments, assumed by our country. We will treat such issues with utmost care and responsibility.
I will do everything for the success of my country. I am interested in every sphere; I look into each of them, count every penny. I’d rather others do not ridicule it. The budget of the Security Council for the year of 2012 was 24 million Lari. For the year of 2013, the budget plan made by the previous government had no less than 30 million Lari. In contrast, we allocated 1.2 million Lari. They said nothing. Come on, what’s wrong with you – how could the bud get 20 and 30 times smaller than the initially planned budget be normal? But I am not going to plague anybody with a heavy-handed control.
Some items in the budget are classified and even now, we cannot openly deliberate on them. At least, Finance Minister was finally allowed to tap these items. Immediately, the first figures that emerged show massive use of cash for lobbyists and lobbying of Saakashvili. Who is this man emulating? He would point to us saying that the Communists were coming to power and claiming that we were looking backward. Yet, name a democratic country where the state builds villas for the members of its government. Have you heard of such things happening in any European country? Can you recall a European country where the head of the state is guarded by three thousand men? What’s been going on here guys? Was this country servicing one person? Why is not he answering my question: what did he need seven residences for, when he most probably could not visit all of them around the year? Saakashvili is reported to have said that he would use the car of his mom and drive without guards. Not bad – if he does so, maybe he would win back the trust of the people again.
Q: Saakashvili predicts that you run no chance either in the 2013 or the 2014 elections.
A: We are not scared of elections. Besides, we hold normal elections. In Europe, he claims that he had the smoothest possible elections. He did not shoot bullets but did everything else to us. They arrested 190 people. I don’t know how could one call the pre-election events smooth? Likewise, it would not be a catastrophe if the Parliament is dissolved. Let all the members of the minority sign under the request and I vouch in advance that we would enter the Parliament. We would create a technical default and hold new elections. Now Saakashvili tries to act as a media savior being oblivious of what did they do to Imedi TV. Every one of us remembers it. I know what they were planning to do about your media holding. I know how you have been enduring pressure for years and you managed to withstand. That’s’ why I feel a deep respect towards you. Your group is very strong. Who knew better than you what they were doing to us?
Q: You said about the former Minister Nika Gvaramia that it was better not to arrest him.
A: I had a meeting with the chair of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament and we talked about the arrests a great deal. I told him that while he needs explanations, the Georgian public has no need to know the reasons. I also added that drawing a parallel with Ukraine is not a right thing to do. The Georgian people have a good memory of what has been going on before and after the elections. The guest raised the issue of free media. It is funny when Saakashvili talks about free media. I retorted to the guest that it was Saakashvili who actually threw media down the drains and stormed into a TV Company .
Q: In other words, there is no room for cohabitation?
A: I’ll tell you about their way of cohabitation. The Parliament is set to change the legislation and subordinate the state guards to the Government, relieving me of this right. Yet, they informed us that they dislike such a change and went to trade the power of appointing ambassadors, vested in the President, to exchange for the right of state guard management and transfer it to the President (!). Its’ the second month they defy us by refusing to appoint ambassadors. Initially they would bargain this issue in an attempt to have the detained people released. Today they deny that they have been bargaining. Replacement of the current ambassadors is detrimental for them. They set the ambassadors against us. This is their way of cohabitation.
Q: We have reports that farmers are selling their lands en mass because they are unable to pay the land tax. This trend is especially conspicuous in the Black Sea coastal regions.
A: We will fulfill promises that we gave to peasants and farmers. They will be availed with cheap credits. They will get credits with low interest rates of 0-3% that could be covered in 10 or more years. We help investors with purchasing processing factories. Each region should have one of such factories at least. We are buying 350 tractors and give handle tractors to mountain villages. Only the problem with the land register hindered us somewhat to calculate the right budget.
Social conditions of people will improve. Everyone will have insurance. Pensions and social allowances are on the rise thanks to writing off senseless expenses. Electricity fees are likely to go down by 20-25% from January. As for the natural gas, we cannot achieve such a drastic cut in its price. But some reduction will still take place. We also work on slashing petrol prices. We are about to get rid of monopolistic prices. On the other hand, we are going to all lengths not to disrupt regular business activities and not to be oppressive. Finally, I congratulate our people on the New Year and wish everyone all the best for the coming year. The year of 2013 will be exemplary, while 2014 will excel and 2015 will appease our self-esteem. I promise you drastic transformation of situation.
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