Economy Minister and Deputy PM, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, said he’s canceling a meeting with UNM presidential candidate, MP Davit Bakradze, which the latter offered to hold earlier this month to discuss economic situation in the country.
Kvirikashvili said that the statement by UNM, released earlier on August 14, demonstrated to him that the meeting proposed by Bakradze was considered by the UNM as part of a pre-election campaign and was not guided by a genuine desire for a dialogue.
The Economy Minister was referring to UNM’s statement, voiced on August 14 by MP Giorgi Vashadze, in which President Saakashvili’s party again warned the government of “deteriorating economic situation.”
“Although the Economy Minister has expressed readiness to hold a meeting regarding grave economic situation, we are waiting for this meeting in vain for a week already. As it seems the Minister has more important things to do than to talk about economy and about [how to] overcome unemployment,” MP Vashadze said.
Economy Minister Kvirikashvili said that at the time of MP Vashadze’s remarks, he had already had a verbal agreement with Davit Bakradze to hold a meeting at 1pm on August 15, but he decided to call it off after UNM voiced allegations as if he was refraining from the meeting.
“I want to make it clear: although Davit Bakradze is the former parliamentary chairman and one of the leaders of the UNM party – the political force under whose leadership the country’s economy was led into a wrong direction for years, businessmen were terrorized, private property seized; although he was the chairman of the Parliament, which unanimously endorsed a bill, drafted specifically for the purpose of destroying one specific bank [PM Ivanishvili-affiliated Cartu Bank]…; although he is the leader of the force, which at the expense of increased external debt was creating an illusion of unreal economic growth, and which now wants to lecture us which economic policy the country should pursue… I still decided to have this meeting because I am the Minister of Economy of the country. But I also have to note that I knew that probability of positive outcome from this meeting would have been equal almost to zero,” Kvirikashvili said.
“MP Vashadze’s remarks convinced me that the National Movement regarded this meeting only as a part of pre-election PR campaign and not as a genuine desire for a dialogue,” he said and added that UNM should bear full responsibility for a failure to hold the meeting.
“I regret that under the pretext of being personally upset, the Economy Minister declined the proposal for a meeting,” Bakradze said. “I regret that this business-like and apolitical proposal turned out unacceptable for Mr. Kvirikashvili.”
UNM has recently laid out set of proposals, which, it said, would help stimulate economy; among the proposals are: holding of consultations on economy on the regular basis to foster sense of stability among businesses; more coordination between the Parliament and government in the process of drafting economic-related bills; tax amnesty; introducing regulatory impact assessment mechanism; carrying out unscheduled tax audit of enterprises only with court warrant; banning for tax authorities to demand advance tax payments.
“I offered him this meeting not because I am happy to see Mr. Kvirikashvili, but because people are concerned about problems and these problems need to be solved… Unlike Mr. Kvirikashvili, I meet people in the regions every day; unlike Mr. Kvirikashvili, I see that life of majority of people either has not changed or has changed for worse and unlike Mr. Kvirikashvili, I am concerned about the fate of these people and I want them to have better life,” Bakradze said on August 14.
In a statement released on August 13, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) of Georgia, which unites more than hundred small, medium and large business organizations operating in the country, welcomed Kvirikashvili’s earlier decision to hold a meeting with Bakradze.
“The economy has slowed down in 2013 due to a stranded political environment and to some untimely legislative changes that scared off businesses and resulted in a nebulous business environment,” the statement reads.
“Despite that, recent claims voiced by some politicians that the economic situation is disastrous are unfounded and misleading. Such inflammatory statements are alarming investors and undermining the confidence of Georgian business people in the future of their own businesses.”
“Negative rhetoric is destructive, harms the economy and backfires on all Georgians equally not withstanding their political inclination. We therefore encourage both government and opposition to openly and constructively discuss all economic challenges behind closed doors in the interest of the country,” ICC-Georgia said.
It has also urged the government and the Parliament to refrain from drafting business-related bills without prior consultation with the major business organizations in the country.
“We are confident that with a predictable business environment the economy will grow substantially in 2014. We are also glad that several major international groups have expressed serious interest in some large investments in the country. ICC-Georgia, which includes more than one hundred major companies and business associations, expresses its full confidence in the Georgian economy and in the future of the country. We strongly encourage Georgian businesses to expand their activities without apprehension and we do encourage foreign investors to consider investing in Georgia with confidence and serenity,” the statement reads.