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In final days of campaign, president drives home anti-poverty message

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, May 20
President Mikheil Saakashvili touted the government’s economic achievements and promised Georgians a more prosperous life while meeting workers at an aircraft factory over the weekend.

“The current lifestyle of our people is a struggle for existence. We should change it,” the president said in a speech televised live from the TbilAviaMsheni aircraft manufacturing plant.

Anyone with the will and ability to work should be able to find a job, he said.

Ridding Georgia of poverty has been the cornerstone of the ruling party’s election campaign. On the campaign trail, Saakashvili has promised voters more jobs and better living standards.

At the factory the president said planes would one day become a major Georgian export, claiming that no other country with a population as small as five million is capable of manufacturing aircraft.

“We have recently been doing things which have not been done in Georgia for many years,” he said, mentioning both the opening of an oil terminal on the Black Sea Coast and the start of construction on an international airport in Kutaisi.

The airport is part of a government plan to rehabilitate Kutaisi in “100 days,” a project Saakashvili said would turn the city into “one of the key industrial, tourist, cultural and administrative centers in the country,” providing 18 000 jobs.

The same day employment was again a strong feature of the president’s speeches when he visited the mountainous region of Racha in a trip that, while not officially part of the parliamentary election campaign, enjoyed heavy television coverage.

“When I am speaking about total employment this is not a myth,” he said there. “USD 100 monthly pensions is not a fantasy and it will be available next month.”

The last few days have also seen the president open a copper mine employing 500 people. Yesterday he met with more factory workers in Rustavi, an industrial town not far from Tbilisi.