PM-designate Giorgi Kvirikashvili told lawmakers at a confirmation hearing during parliament session on December 29 that economic development, encouraging entrepreneurial spirit and alleviating bureaucratic burden for businesses will be among his priorities.
“In 2012 the Georgian people hired our government to serve them. A lot has been done by this government to demonstrate how it is possible for the government to listen to its people,” said Kvirikashvili, who is set to become Georgia’s third PM since the Georgian Dream coalition came into power in late 2012.
He said that “many problems” have been addressed and solved in the areas ranging from healthcare to agriculture, but reforms require to be continued.
In separate remarks during confirmation hearings in the Parliament on December 28 he told opposition UNM lawmakers that GD coalition’s campaign promises ahead of the 2012 elections were “often exaggerated.” He reiterated it during debates at the parliamentary session on December 29, but also added that although some of those promises were inflated, they were “sincere.”
He also said that the state-funded universal healthcare program will require changes in order to “optimize” it and to make it “differentiated based on needs”; he said that the program embraces more private-public partnership model. The program, which requires more and more funding from year to year, is one of the staples of what the government calls is its “socially-oriented” and “human-centered” policies; but it is also criticized by opponents as not sustainable in the long run.
“We can list a lot [in terms of achievements], but the main thing that was established by us is that the government is listening to its citizens. That’s the new culture in the Georgian politics and we are disposed to pursue this path,” Kvirikashvili said.
He said that “cornerstone” of his government’s policies and priorities will be “economic development” and encouragement of “entrepreneurial spirit.”
Kvirikashvili said that already existing program Produce in Georgia, which was designed to provide state subsidy for interest rates of bank loans for enterprises, “has done a lot”, which has up to 120 beneficiaries.
This program, he said, will continue but in order to help new business initiatives, the government plans to expand it.
“One very important component that we are planning to add is promoting startups – specifically for young people, for people with initiatives; it will fund innovations. It will be launched initially as part of the [state investment fund] Partnership Fund. It will be for young people, who have ideas, but no financial resources and no access to bank loans,” Kvirikashvili said.
“I think it will be a revolutionary change in Georgia, because it will promote spirit of entrepreneurship,” he said, adding that the government plans to present details of the concept in few months.
He said that the government policies will be focused on promoting and encouraging private sector so that “to replace the state wherever possible.” He also said that private-public initiative will also be encouraged.
Kvirikashvili said that he is strongly in favor of “maximally easing bureaucratic burden” for businesses. He said that the government plans to develop one-stop shop centers where business entities will be able to get all the government services under a single roof. He also said that the government should become more efficient and bureaucratic apparatus should “not at least grow further.”
Speaking at a committee hearing on December 28, Nodar Khaduri, who will retain Finance Minister’s post in Kvirikashvili’s cabinet, said that the government plans to write off unpaid taxes accumulated till 2011.
Kvirikashvili also listed development of the service sector, and specifically tourism industry, among the priorities.
On parliamentary elections planned for October, 2016, the PM-designate said that it is “vitally important” for the country to have competitive and democratic elections, which would demonstrate further step forward compared to previous elections.
“We will establish new culture of communication between the government and the Parliament and with the citizens and civil society,” he said. “All the important decisions should be taken through maximum engagement with the public.”
Kvirikashvili reiterated that European and Euro-Atlantic integration with eventual goal of the EU and NATO membership remains the key priority.
He also reiterated his remarks that “pragmatic” approach towards Russia, including the format of direct dialogue between PM’s special representative for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin, aims at “mitigating risks” on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic and European integration path. He also said that Tbilisi will continue to engage constructively in the Geneva International Discussions, launched after the August, 2008 war.
“We will establish Georgia’s image as of European country, which is a link between Europe and Asia,” he said.
He also reiterated that he’s “concerned about increased Russian propaganda” in Georgia.
“This is a machinery of lies and it is damaging for our country’s foreign policy strategy. I can promise you that we will try to take important steps in this regard. Strategic communications department at the State Ministry for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration will take steps in this direction to counter this propaganda,” Kvirikashvili said.
Kvirikashvili said that Tbilisi should “not be afraid of taking bold steps” in its efforts directed towards reconciliation with Abkhazian and Ossetian “brothers”.
“Time is working against us, against reconciliation of future generations. We are disposed to take bold steps,” he said without elaborating, but also added that State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Paata Zakareishvili, has “good ideas” in this regard. He, however, also said that while he shares some of those ideas, others might be premature for this stage.
Confirmation hearings in the Parliament will continue with debates and speeches from lawmakers, followed by the vote later on December 29.