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Presidential Aide’s Remarks Capture Media Attention
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 7 Feb.'07 / 14:43

The Georgian daily 24 Saati (24 Hours) wrote on February 7 that the Georgian President’s economic advisor Mart Laar’s whistleblowing comments on “worrying” trends concerning the protection of property rights in Georgia “is a signal to the authorities that the current policy is a risky one that may lead to a halt of foreign investments and to an endless process of redistributing property.”

The authorities' alleged abuse of property rights has lately featured prominently in the local media and has also become a major target for the opposition’s criticism.

Mart Laar, ex-prime minister of Estonia who was contracted to advise President Saakashvili last May for a one-year term, said in an interview with the RFE/RL Georgian Service on February 1 that he has been discussing this problem with both the Georgian authorities and business circles.
 
He said that this is “a very sad legacy” of the past, when privatization was carried out in a way associated with lawlessness and injustice for many people. He went on to say that this legacy triggers the temptation to restore justice in a different way - and if it is impossible to do this through legal means, other methods are often used, “and this makes me worry.”

Mart Laar also said that he has already discussed the issue with President Saakashvili and several Georgian ministers to find a solution to the problem. He said there may be a special legislative act on the protection of property rights to explain to the population which privatization cases may be investigated by the authorities. He stressed that the solution should be made on the Parliamentary level.

Laar also said that every property dispute should be tackled transparently and in court, but he also added it will be preferable if such cases are few.

He also noted that ongoing problems regarding property rights have become a major issue for discussion during his meetings with Georgian business circles.

Laar said that clear property rights are essential to ensure foreign investments. “This must be clear, and when it is not clear, this is a big, big problem,” he added.
 
During a meeting between opposition lawmakers and President Saakashvili on February 6, the latter pledged to initiate a draft law within two or three weeks as an additional guarantee of property rights, MP Davit Gamkrelidze of the New Rights opposition party, who participated in the meeting, said.

24 Saati writes that the Georgian leadership should immediately take into consideration the Estonian adviser’s critical remarks, which have were voiced “in a calm, but very strict, manner,” as potential foreign investors will listen more to Laar’s assessments than those of the Georgian leadership.

During a recent visit to Georgia in December, the IMF mission called on the Georgian authorities “to accelerate structural reforms, especially in those areas pertaining to stronger property rights.”

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