Saakashvili Speaks of Motives Behind Cabinet Reshuffle
(civil.ge) - President Saakashvili said that he has appointed Irakli Okruashvili as new Economy Minister because major target of Russia's attack is Georgia's economy.
Chief of Financial Police Davit Kezerashvili, 28, will replace Okruashvili as the Defense Minister. Saakashvili said it was to some extent not an ordinary decision.
In other changes in the cabinet, Economy Minister Irakli Chogovadze will be appointed as the General Director of the state-run Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC) replacing Davit Ingorokva. Agriculture Minister Mikheil Svimonishvili will become Governor of western region of Guria. Governor of the eastern region Kakheti Petre Tsiskarishvili will replace Svimonishvili on the position of Agriculture Minister.
At a news conference on November 10 President Saakashvili said that as a result of the current reshuffle the country's economic team has become stronger.
Why Okruashvili? I want remind everyone that I have appointed Irakli as General Prosecutor [in January 2004] and he managed to create a system which still works with great success to fight against corruptionвЂ¦ Then we needed strong police and I have appointed Okruashvili as the Interior Minister [in June 2004]. He sacked entire police and created absolutely new system Patrol Police. When I appointed Irakli as Defense Minister [in December, 2004] the army was absolutely disorganized system. I want to say with great pleasure that we have created small, but the most modern army in the region. And we are at the very good stage of army development and our army is ready to fulfill any kind of task and it was confirmed by our operation in the Kodori Gorge, Saakashvili said.
He said that against the background of Russia's economic blockade, frontline of Georgia's defense lies on economy.
And we have sent Okruashvili just to this line, Saakashvili said.
He noted that the Economy Ministry should become a strong and consolidated structure focused on attraction of investments and gaining access to foreign markets for the Georgian products, reports Trend.
Despite persisting economic embargo we should create favorable economic and investment climateвЂ¦ [The government-sponsored] employment program now will be under the Economy Ministry's competencies. The Ministry will also be in charge of accessing new foreign marketsвЂ¦ So it means that we are creating a strong and very important structure, Saakashvili said.
The Georgian Economy Ministry is in charge of conducting talks with Russia over the latter's WTO accession. Georgia refuses to give its go-ahead to Russia's WTO-membership unless Moscow meets some of Tbilisi's demands.
Saakashvili also stressed that focus on economy does not mean that we will not stop further development of the army.
I have thought much about a candidacy for the Defense Minister's position and finally took to some extent unorthodox decision. This was a joint decision of mine and Okruashvili to nominate Kezerashvili, Saakashvili said.
Kezerashvili is one of the popular targets of criticism. Why? Because no one likes to pay taxes. If not Kezerashvili's efforts collection of taxes would have been very difficultвЂ¦ Yes, he has enemies; but it means that he was collecting taxes and doing his job very well, Saakashvili said.
Kezerashvili led the Financial Police from the very first day of its creation in February, 2004. The Financial Police was set up to fight economic and financial crimes and to probe into tax evasion cases. The unit, which is currently part of the Finance Ministry and is under the direct subordination of the President, has turned into an extremely influential institution and has often been the target of fierce criticism for its high-handed tactics against business. The Financial Police will become part of a new structure which is planned to be established in January, 2007 as a result of merger of the tax and customs services.