Mikhail Saakashvili, President of Georgia, had an article in the IHT last week. He marks a year since the Rose revolution with an update on Georgia’s progress.
When my administration took office, three provinces of Georgia were unstable and viewed themselves as independent enclaves: Adzharia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The first step toward reunification came in May, when I worked with reform-minded citizens in Adzharia, near the Black Sea, to force out a thoroughly corrupt autocrat. In South Ossetia and Abkhazia, we are working hard to achieve reunification through peaceful means. We have asked international organizations to do more. Our autonomy offer to South Ossetia is unprecedented and we will work with the international community for a resolution. Abkhazia remains a more difficult task. But we are working assiduously – with those in the region and our neighbor Russia – and I am confident we will peacefully heal the wounds of the Georgian nation.
Economically, we have initiated a privatization effort that would make Milton Friedman proud, selling everything the government had no business owning in the first place. Why, in the 21st century, should a government own hotels? It shouldn’t, and our government no longer does. Moreover, we are completely overhauling our tax code, replacing it with a people-friendly, pro-growth system that relies on a simple flat tax.
We seek to build economic, cultural and security relations with our friends in the South Caucasus and around the globe. Our close relationship with America is one of our proudest accomplishments. Georgia is a steadfast partner in the war on terror and our capabilities have been enhanced by American training and equipment. For this, we are extremely grateful.
We have contributed troops to Afghanistan and the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. This month we increased our troop levels in Iraq fivefold. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization recently approved our military reform plans – a critical step on the path to integration in NATO structures. We are also taking the necessary political, legal and economic steps to make our goal of joining the European Union a reality.
As we celebrate a year of our new democracy, I am deeply proud of my people, my government and my country. Yes, we have a long way to go, but the path is clear. For every day that we reduce corruption and crime, we bolster the hopes of every Georgian. For every day that we see Georgians from all over the world returning home, we inspire the dreams of a new generation. We also see that the message of our revolution – that democracy is universal and can be successful in post-Soviet states – is widely spreading in the region.
Many Georgians remain sceptical. The pace is agonisingly slow. One thing that strikes me about Georgians is that even if they spent 10 years working abroad, they would always go home. They have a love for their country I have not seen in many other cultures. I hope Mikhail is right – and Georgia’s economy does pick up. This piece by Kathy Lally from earlier in the week provides a good counter balance to Saakashvili ‘s piece.