PM Irakli Garibashvili denied rumors about his possible resignation as “ridiculous” and said that no cabinet reshuffle is planned.
Series of reshuffles since December 5 affecting some of the senior and mid-level officials in executive government, as well as in GDDG, a leading party in the ruling GD coalition, caused speculation about possible broader political implications. Those changes involved replacement of deputy infrastructure minister; head of the interior ministry’s internal investigations unit; chairman of the PM’s economic council; governor of Guria region; head of government’s department overseeing regional governors; head of the Finance Ministry’s revenue service.
Last week Zviad Jankarashvili, executive secretary of Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia (GDDG), party founded by ex-PM Ivanishvili and now chaired by PM Irakli Garibashvili, stepped down just two months after being appointed on this post. Jankarashvili, who is a relative of Garibashvili, was head of interior ministry’s internal investigations unit, before stepping down in April, 2014. These changes triggered rumors swirl about ex-PM Ivanishvili being behind the recent reshuffles, allegedly aimed at sidelining Jankarashvili and his allies in government; some media sources have also speculated that ex-PM Ivanishvili was not happy by performance of his protégé incumbent PM Garibashvili, which could have possibly led to his replacement.
Speaking at a news conference on December 9 PM Garibashvili said in his first public comments since recent series of reshuffles, that such speculation was “so ridiculous that I don’t even know whether to respond or not.”
“Prime Minister is head of the government, confirmed by the Parliament and replacing Prime Minister does not happen so easily in democratic states. We continue working,” Garibashvili said.
Commenting on ex-PM Ivanishvili’s role, Garibashvili said: “I want to stress that Bidzina Ivanishvili is not meddling in government’s work. I never hide that when needed and when discussing important issues I may call him and ask for an advice, for his opinion.”
Garibashvili said that it’s “a normal, healthy, transparent process and it happens in any country, when former prime ministers, presidents are asked for an advice.”
He said that recent reshuffles were part of a routine, “normal, working process”.
“They’ve done their job and time has come to move them to other positions,” Garibashvili said. “I am really surprised why it caused so many questions.”
He also denied having intention to change any of the cabinet member.
“No cabinet reshuffle is planned,” the PM said.
Garibashvili said that “many got prematurely excited” by rumors about possible replacement of the PM and by speculation about his close allies being sidelined.
“Some say that I’ve been deprived of my pillar and that my team has been [sidelined]. We are one team and we all serve the path, which was launched by Bidzina Ivanishvili,” Garibashvili said. “I do not divide people… by members of ‘my team’ and members of ‘other team’ – we are one team.”
“I want to calm them down who… thought that I’ve been deprived of my pillar – I stand firmly and everything is alright,” he said.
In his opening remarks at the news conference, the PM spoke about a recent depreciation of the Georgian currency, Lari. GEL, which was stable throughout this year, lost 12.4% of its value against the U.S. dollar in a period between early November and December 6. GEL, however, gained for a second day on Tuesday, climbing 1.3% to 1.926 per U.S. dollar.
PM Garibashvili said that the recent fall was mainly because of external factors. The PM, however, also said that extent of depreciation was caused by market overreaction, which he blamed on, as he put it, “our opponents’ deliberate attempts to seed panic, which caused stir.” Garibashvili said that GEL “faces no threat, on the contrary we expect it to further gain in coming days.”
“Our opponents and some experts were saying that GEL depreciation was a result of decline in foreign direct investment, but data released today about FDI show that it was a lie and an attempt to mislead the public,” Garibashvili said, referring to preliminary data, according to which 2014 third quarter FDI almost doubled on annual basis to USD 508 million.
He said that despite of challenges in the region, Georgia’s annual economic growth will exceed 5% this year, which, he said, was better than growth figures of neighboring or other countries in the region and beyond.
“This is the response to those false allegations and irresponsible campaign of our opponents and so called experts, which aim at worsening [economic] environment in Georgia,” PM Garibashvili said. “I want to ensure people that we control the situation, we work in coordination with the central bank, and it should be noted that Lari stabilized without requiring intervention from the central bank.”