Tbilisi: President to students: build the private sector

The Messenger, Georgia
Feb 16 2005

President to students: build the private sector

Presenting cabinet at university, Saakashvili praises new Georgian
version of Windows, defends criticism of opponents

By Nino Kopaleishvili

The political ball is in the students’ playing field, stated President
Mikheil Saakashvili as he presented the new cabinet of ministers at
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University on Tuesday.

The government members, who are set to be approved by Parliament on
February 17, met with the university students to answer any questions.

The students were emboldened with the president’s words that in
case the ministers failed to gain the young people’s trust, he would
seriously reconsider the candidates.

“I want you to ask all the questions you have,” he told the university
audience on February 15, “Now all the power goes to you, to the
Georgian students and youth. Here is the ball, and here is the
playing field.”

In his speech Saakashvili called on the students to create an active
society and to become engaged in the private sector to support a
thriving economy in the country.

“Now is the time that those who are shrewd and smart to step forward,”
said the president, stressing that the new government and a new tax
code supports enterprises.

“All students should think about entering the private sector.
Certainly the best should come to the state offices but the best
should go to the private sector as well. This is very important
because private sector creates the economy,” he said.

Talking at the university the president also referred to the reforms
that are under way in the education sector. According to him the
government is ready to invest money to improve the level of education
in the country.

“The reform of education is mainly putting investments in the education
sphere. We will work on this as a fundament because without money
there is no high-quality education,” he said.

“In four years all Georgian schools should be computerized and
given access to the internet,” the president said, highlighting the
announcement on Tuesday that Microsoft is working with the Tbilisi
IT-company United Global Technology (UGT) to create an official
Georgian language version of the operating system.

“Today Microsoft made a presentation of the first Georgian language
[Microsoft software] and we should do everything toward this
direction,” said Saakashvili. As he stated, the project would cost
the government USD 40 million “We will allot this money by all means,”
he promised.

On Tuesday Saakashvili once more stressed his will to create an active
multi-ethnic society in Georgia that is ready to work hard for a better
future and does not demand too much care from the government. As he
explained, Georgian society remains occupied with an obsolete mentality
and considers that it is the government who should initiate activities.

“We [the people] should lay the groundwork to an active society,”
he said. “The population can take the reins of their fate into their
own hands.”

In his didactic speech at the university Saakashvili also talked about
the ethnic tolerance, and the multi-ethnic society that is struggling
for a better future in Georgia.

“We have Azeris who are proud of Georgia. We have Armenians who are
proud of Georgia, and I am sure we will have many more Abkhaz who
will be proud of the fact that they are in Georgia and they are a
part of the country,” said the president.

Saakashvili also commented on his harsh statement that last week in
Parliament that New Rights Opposition leader MP David Gamkrelidze was
“jerking around.” The president’s statement was severely criticized
in media, and Saakashvili defended himself saying that there is a
place for harsh expressions in a democratic state.

“I am sorry but democracy is not when only one person can speak and a
poor government tolerates it and never responds. We already had such
a government,” stated the president.

“Democracy is something where everyone can express his opinion, among
them the most radical opinions, but finally people will decide who
is right and who is not,” he added.

As for the question and answer portion, Georgian media covered little
of the interaction except for State Minister Kakha Bendukidze telling
one student that he expected a “more intelligent” question.