July 6, 2006 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Speakers: Introduction by Christopher DeMuth, AEI
Address by Mikhail Saakashvili, president of Georgia
On Thursday, President Mikhail Saakashvili spoke about the current state of Georgia, as well as its past history and outlook for the future. Since the Rose Revolution three years prior and overthrow of their corrupt government, Georgia has made drastic reforms, turning the country into one of the least corrupt in all of Europe. In the past three years, foreign investments and addressing the issue of energy has helped transform Georgia into a thriving country and booming economy. The reconstruction throughout Georgia has led to more roads, hospitals, and schools, as well as increased participation by the public in political affairs. One of the biggest improvements in Georgia is the newfound trust in the police, where rates have jumped from 6% to a public confidence rate of over 70%. Still, the biggest pride in Georgia is their ethnically diverse and tolerant society, a group based on multiculturalism. Georgia is one of the few countries in Europe where there is no anti-Semitism.
However, Georgia still has a long road ahead in its development. Now that it has achieved success, there is a great necessity to keep stability, safety, peace, and democracy. Corruption still is a major concern in the country, and the spread of electricity to rural areas is a current goal of the government. Saakashavili commented that he has seen a shift in the wants of the people. Just a few short years ago, people had very simple desires, and after seeing these changes met, they are all wishing for grander things, a change the president is very proud of.
As for Georgia’s relationship with Russia, Saakashavili wishes the country well. He thinks that they will be strong in the long run, and hopes to continue a friendly relationship with them. Georgia’s international relations have also grown stronger, now many international development agencies and governments have an invested interest in the success of the country.
by Rebecca Bonardi