Governmental order in the ministerial office
28 September, 2011
Governmental order in the ministerial office

In whose Governmental pockets have the millions vanished?


It is nearly two weeks since the schools reopened and schooling preparations are still underway. Parents are busy mostly with purchasing textbooks. Those who cannot afford new books, are trying to find used ones among acquaintances and friends. Others look for the books of previous year at the used book markets for available little cash just enough to afford the desired used books.
In the last days, I cannot help but recall the

TV news showing the Education Minister entering a book shop on the Rustaveli Avenue and purchasing all the needed textbooks for his child. He paid 46 Lari for the whole lot. The Minister boasted in front of the TV cameras that this year the school textbooks were much cheaper than in the previous year and that no textbook for I-VI grades costs more than 10 Lari.
So I dashed to the same shop. However, textbooks turned out to be not what I though; they were much more expensive than I expected. They cost me 118 Lari. Still, I could not reprimand the Minister. I thought the prices were lowered for the textbooks for the junior pupils. Accordingly, parents of the senior pupils have to wait.
I got interested in the real benefits that the parents of I-VI class pupils supposedly received. And I reviewed the prices. The 10-Lari ceiling for the textbooks more or less survived the test for only one manual – English language textbook published by McMillan –  it is priced 18 Lari. An attentive eye of a prudent parent would notice the fact that most of the new textbooks printed for I-VI classes under the new school plan were of much lower quality than those ones that were printed last year.
The press representatives were so scared to write on this subject that I turned suspicious and decided to try dig deeper even by offering confidentiality to the respondents. As a result, I learnt from the reliable source that this year they gave the job of printing most of the textbooks to the ‘24 Hours’ publishing house. It turns out that this publishing house has no technical means to print books. It can print only newspapers. The publishers explain that the books were printed in Slovakia via an intermediary. Hence it transpires that the publishing house acted as an intermediary between the publishers and the foreign publishing house; certainly not without a financial reward. You will be prompted to ask a question. Why did the publishers with many years of experience need any mediation? Did not they enjoy long established contacts with foreign publishing houses and printing enterprises in Turkey, India, China and elsewhere, who received orders from other publishers to print school textbooks for this season?
“At the beginning, Minister Shashkin told our publisher that he recommended the ‘24 Hour’ publishing house to print the books there. But when I saw that their prices were higher – by almost 1 dollar – our bosses decided to have the books printed in the publishing houses of Georgia and Turkey instead. Then Shashkin immediately called the publisher to his office and said to him without mincing words: “It seems you did not get what I have told you; therefore, I will put it this way – it’s a governmental order and you must go and print the books wherever I will tell you!” He also suggested to the publisher not to create problems for himself! After such treatment, our downhearted publisher said, ‘ I could not go to prison’. So, he decided to give in,” – said one of the publisher’s associates.
Apparently, we witness the elite corruption here. Or else how can you explain the behavior of high-ranking officials who dictate the rules of the game to the businesses and deliver painful financial blows to the private sector, population and generally the economy of the State. It’s another question why they chose Slovakia instead of Turkey to print the books, as the Turkish option would have been all the way cheaper. You start to question even the fact that the books were printed in Slovakia and nowhere else. What dividends could go to the State (rather, to its officials) and its crony intermediary?
In reality, our sons and daughters received low quality textbooks, instead of cheap books of decent quality. Publishers are afraid that in the future the State – some of its officials to be correct – would totally rob them of lucrative school textbook printing business. Some rumors have it that the money earned from the above mentioned printing of textbooks were needed by the Governmental officials to open their own publishing house, so that next year they would be able to print the textbooks at their own enterprises.
While working on the topic, I tried to contact the publishing house ‘24 Hours’. At the other end of the line a certain Davit Gelashvili greeted me as a person in charge (though, I knew that this affair was in the competence of certain Irakli Lezhava). When I posed the questions, he became distraught, asking me why I was questioning him as if I were the police, and hang up.

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