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President announces new economic course

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, December 6
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili spoke about the shortcomings in relations between the state and entrepreneurs on December 3. He was speaking at the opening of a new customs clearing building in Tbilisi. “Despite the impressive progress in terms of improving the business environment and combating corruption in Georgia in recent years, still there are many shortcomings in relations between the state and entrepreneurs,” Saakashvili said in his speech, broadcast live by Georgian TV channels.

Many entrepreneurs in Georgia feel that the state does not listen to them properly and treats them unjustly, Saakashvili noted. “Still we have frequent cases when the punishment is stricter than the violation really deserves,” he said, adding that entrepreneurs frequently have a “just” feeling that the state does not make “enough efforts” to improve the business environment.

“That’s why many business people have lost the feeling of stability and refrain from taking business risks, and consequently, they refrain from investing new capital in boosting their business, which does not create new job places,” the President stated. “Many people, who are capable of starting their own business, refrain from doing so because in their imagination starting a new business is connected with going door-to-door, with being treated rudely and with being humiliated,” he added.

The President stressed the importance of medium and small-size businesses for Georgia, saying that entrepreneurs should “feel comfortable” in the country and should have a “just” economic environment in order to “feel confident”. “That’s why we are announcing our new economic course, aimed at fully overcoming the shortcomings and creating a much better business environment in Georgia,” Saakashvili said at the opening of the customs clearance facilities.

As part of Georgia’s new economic course, Saakashvili cited the new tax code, which “will diminish tax administration pressure on entrepreneurs,” as well as establish a tax ombudsman institute. According to the President, if the owner of an enterprise made an unintentional error and the wrongdoing was not done in order to avert paying taxes, the taxpayer will not be fined. “The state should not suffocate taxpayers but instead should walk hand-in-hand with them as with real partners,” Saakashvili noted. As a result of new economic course, Georgia will get a “really business-oriented” state structure, according to the President. “The state will not wait in ambush to reveal a wrongdoing, but instead cooperate with businesses in order to help them develop in a just and legal environment,” he said in his speech.

Saakashvili’s new economic course statement was preceded by the call of a Parliamentary minority group, the Christian-Democratic Movement for the President to “free businessmen in Georgia from state pressure.” Following Saakashvili’s announcement, the leader of the CDM, Giorgi Targamadze expressed his hope that the business environment in the country will ”really improve”. “I hope that the initiative, voiced by the president envisages showing more loyalty from the administrative institutions towards businessmen and that it is not merely a PR stunt,” Targamadze told journalists at a special press conference “I hope that the words will not remain as mere words and instead be transformed into a real partnership cooperation between businessmen and the government,” he added.