Prime Minister-designate Irakli Garibashvili told lawmakers at parliamentary confirmation hearings on February 22 that post-pandemic recovery, securing COVID-19 vaccines, inclusive economic growth and “establishing order” will be among his priorities during his first 100 days as PM.
“From the first day of the pandemic, the [Georgian] state, our society as a whole, our government showed high responsibility… However, we must admit, that is not enough,” Garibashvili said, adding that greater efforts are needed for “a breakthrough in the economy” amid the pandemic and the subsequent global economic crisis.
“We made an ambitious statement to turn our EU membership aspiration into reality,” Garibashvili recalled, noted however that the goal to apply for membership in the 27-member bloc in 2024 cannot be achieved without an “adequately developed economy,” improved protection of human rights, and ensuring the wellbeing of each citizen.
Garibashvili, whose candidacy was named by the Georgian Dream party to replace Giorgi Gakharia after his controversial resignation over the court’s pre-trial detention order for opposition United National Movement Chair Nika Melia, is set to hold the Prime Ministerial for the second time.
The PM-designate dubbed today Melia as “criminal,” noting that there will be “no indulgence for being the Chairman of some political party,” and UNM chair “will not escape justice.” The PM-designate also rejected “categorically” holding “any negotiations related to early elections” with the opposition.
Slamming UNM, “Radical Opposition”
Calling the parliamentary boycott by the major opposition parties “unacceptable,” Garibashvili said, “the fact that the destructive force, called opposition, does not enter the Parliament is a deliberate sabotage against our state.”
“Nothing can serve as a better basis for consensus than the future of our country,” Garibashvili addressed the opposition, adding that “our political positions may not draw closer, and God forbid they were drawing closer, but healthy [criticism], discussion[s] in a working environment will help us all in refining them [positions].”
In his words, people are less concerned by the “intricacies of the election code” but want voices to be heard from the parliamentary podium. He said the public demands from the politicians to solve “real problems” they face, and that “we need to unite around the interests of our people.”
“Whatever happens through partisan television propaganda [led by] our destructive opposition, might deceive people for a while but we will deprive them of this opportunity, as we will oppose this deception by the truth,” he promised.
In his remarks, Garibashvili also said “if healthy part of the opposition finds strength, courage, reason, and statesmanship, our team will welcome dialogue with them. Of course, I don’t mean [dialogue with] a radical branch that are attempting to destroy the state institutions.”
The PM-designate then expressing support for Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomeulauri to “end the chaos” and “establish order in the country and return a number of destructive forces to the constitutional order and framework,” alluding to arrest the UNM chair Nika Melia, whose supporters are barricaded in the party headquarters to resist Melia’s detention.
Links Russian Occupation to UNM
In the address, Garibashvili pointed fingers at the United National Movement party, claiming that “20% of our territories are lost” because of the former ruling party. “They could not avoid the trouble brought by the August  War, which led to the recognition of our territories by Russia,” he underscored.
“…Our Abkhaz compatriots, our Ossetian compatriots are watching the destabilization attempts being made, endlessly, by our destructive opposition, they see that we do not have unity in our nation,” Garibashvili stated, accusing his UNM arch-rivals of hindering de-occupation efforts.
The PM-designate also connected the death of Archil Tatunashvili, a thirty-five-year-old Georgian citizen, who died at the hands of the Russian-backed authorities in Tskhinvali, with the legacy of the UNM government’s policies.
Economy: “small Government is a myth”
In his address, the PM-designate shunned small-state solutions to Georgia’s economic woes, highlighting that the “small government idea is a myth impeding the country’s development.”
Calling on the government to play an active role in economic recovery, he said “the key principle of economic development must be inclusive development,” where each citizen feels the benefits of economic growth.
The PM-designate said that “the growing gap between rich and poor” is one of the symptoms of the global crisis that illustrate the need for new approaches from the Georgian Government. “It is considered that inequality intensifies feelings of injustice,” Garibashvili stressed, adding that “anti-state forces” are attempting to utilize public discontent to their advantage.
Garibashvili “support for large, medium and small businesses will become the cornerstone of the government program,” with the state bearing the burden “to save businesses and jobs affected by the pandemic.”
The PM-designate also outlined introducing predictability into the economy and Georgian politics as one of his key goals. “Everyone should feel that we live in a stable environment where sudden deteriorating events do not occur,” he said, pledging “a new ambitious 10-year development plan” in the nearest future.
“We have every resource to be self-sufficient in multiple areas, but also to export our products,” Garibashvili asserted, and called for providing improved infrastructure for the agricultural sector.
Healthcare, Minorities, Human Rights
Regarding healthcare, Garibashvili said that the pandemic illustrated the importance of “developing healthcare infrastructure,” including strengthening the “preventive medical system.”
The PM-designate reckoned that Georgia would receive the COVID-19 vaccine in March, and reiterated the Government’s plan to vaccinate 60% of the population by the end of the year.
PM-nominee also spoke of ethnic minorities, the need for their further integration, and the human rights situation, in general. “As for national minorities and their rights, we must do everything for their full-fledged integration. They should be equally involved in the state-building [process],” Garibashvili said.
“Human rights have never been protected in [Georgia], as much as it is under our [Georgian Dream] Government, but we should strengthen work and common efforts” in this direction, underlined the PM-designate, adding that Georgia’s “ancient and unique culture” supports its European Union aspirations.
He also added that “we must turn Georgia into a country where humans are equal and work for wellbeing, where each citizen’s rights are protected, regardless of nationality, faith, and worldview; we must create a country that is a desirable partner for the civilized free world.”