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Patriarch and President Differ on Stimulating Rural Economy

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, December 13
There is nothing more important than the village – President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili stated during his visit to the village of Dilikauri in Zestaponi region, on December 12. At the same time, Saakashvili symbolically gave families 30 GEL vouchers for ploughing and sowing.

The president talked about those projects which have been carried out for the development of villages, however, these "did not turn out to be enough" and the authorities would think more about how villagers might be more encouraged. ”We have made the decision to deliver 30 lari vouchers to villagers for carrying out the spring agricultural activities,” the president said adding that the vouchers might be used in different ways: for tillage, for fertilization, and for hiring a tractor. He continued: 'in mountainous regions, people can get 35 kg fertilizers instead of the voucher, which would cost GEL 70 otherwise and is absolutely enough for 1,000 square meters of land, thus it will remove all problems in this regard in those regions.”

The president also got information on the American corn harvest in Zespanoni. The harvest was quite satisfactory however the corn only made it onto mainly local markets and this affected the price. The president also said that experienced agronomists are very important in villages: "at least one good specialist should have a village and in the framework of this reform this problem will be solved.” This was a reference to a scheme where 'village houses' will be opened in villages where village residents will be employed and work towards village needs.

As the Minister of Agriculture Zaza Gorozia also underlined the 30 GEL vouchers given out by the president can be used for agricultural activities and for buying fertilizers and 'in case of non use of the voucher, it can be cashed in or exchanged,” the minister said and informed that delivering vouchers would be launched from December 20 and would last till December 31, 2012. The vouchers would not be delivered to the residents of big cities.

The fact that villages should be favored has frequently been mentioned by Georgian patriarch, Ilia II. The patriarch has spoken about large scale projects which would remove several very serious problems over the long term. ”Some small enterprises should be established in the villages and locals should be employed there,” Ilia II said mentioning that the situation in the villages is really hard and most of the villages in Georgia are half empty. "It is shameful that women go abroad and work there, men sit in the house and wait for her, when earlier men worked and fed the family.“ the patriarch said. The patriarch urged the state to think about how to keep people from leaving their villages. ”The state or some concrete group should allocate credit and small enterprises should be built in the villages,” the patriarch also gave the example of Sno in the Kazbegi region which has a fish- breeding initiative.

The patriarch also recalled his visit to the Netherlands where he asked to view their flower plantations, ”they told me that many Georgian ministers have been there but no-one was interested in the plantations or the fact that Holland became rich due to flowers. They also mentioned that this business does not need colossal sums and that others just did not know how to make the first steps. They also told us to look after floriculture especially when we have a market to which we would sell it - they meant Russia,” the patriarch stated.

Georgian economic analyst, Gia Khukhashvili, mentioned that systemic changes are needed in agriculture and that the authorities are mainly engaged with some short term or PR stunt instead, which would not make any real improvements in the agricultural sphere.