08TBILISI296, GEORGIA BI-WEEKLY UPDATE FEBRUARY 22

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI296 2008-02-22 12:39 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4725
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0296/01 0531239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221239Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8937
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000296 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ECON KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA BI-WEEKLY UPDATE FEBRUARY 22 
 
 
1. This cable contains current items of political, 
economic, and social interest concerning Georgia during the 
weeks of February 9-22. 
 
Prime Minister Unveils Anti-Poverty Plan 
---------------------------------------- 
2. The Georgian government has presented its long-term plan for 
realization of President Saakashvili's election program "Georgia 
without poverty," as well as a 50-day action plan aimed increasing 
foreign investment, decreasing unemployment, and eliminating 
poverty.  The action plan provides for actions intended to lay a 
foundation for further economic improvement and making the benefits 
of economic reform tangible for ordinary citizens.  Key components 
of the plan include: launching a so-called cheap credit scheme that 
aims at boosting exports; legislative changes to introduce a tax 
rebate for new enterprises over the next ten years; constitutional 
guarantees for property rights; increase of the state pension; 
selling plots of land as part of a "100 new agricultural 
enterprises" program; and distribution of fuel to farmers for spring 
agricultural activities.  Opposition parties were unimpressed by the 
government's plan, and the newly created Christian Democratic 
Movement staged a protest action against it outside the Chancellery. 
 
 
Parliamentary Stalemate on Election Reforms 
------------------------------------------- 
3. On February 19 Parliament failed to reach a quorum that would 
have allowed it to approve three constitutional amendments on the 
agenda.  The amendments -- reduction of the threshold for 
proportional seats in Parliament from 7% to 5%; parliamentary 
elections in spring; and changing the "winner-takes-all" system for 
majoritarian seats -- had long been demanded by the opposition. 
Nevertheless, opposition MPs continued their boycott of Parliament, 
and enough MPs allied with the ruling National Movement were absent 
for a variety of reasons that only 140 MPs were registered as 
present, short of the 157 needed to pass constitutional amendments. 
With the on-again, off-again negotiations between the government and 
opposition seemingly deadlocked, each side blamed the other for the 
lack of a quorum.  Speaker Burjanadze postponed discussion of the 
amendments until next week.  While most National Movement and 
opposition MPs favor the changes, a group of majoritarian MPs, 
apparently hopeful of retaining their seats in the upcoming 
election, have argued against replacing the current majoritarian 
system. 
 
Adjara Passes New Draft Constitution 
------------------------------------ 
4. On February 20, the Supreme Council of the autonomous region of 
Adjara approved a new draft of the Adjaran Constitution by a vote of 
23 to 1.  Proponents of the new draft stressed that the previous 
constitution has remained unchanged since 1978, and the new version 
is in full conformity with the Georgian Constitution and is "based 
on democratic principles."   The new draft was not supported by the 
opposition Republican Party, which said it limits the powers of the 
regional government and makes it completely accountable to the 
central government in Tbilisi.  The draft will be submitted to 
Parliament for consideration and approval in a few days. 
 
Controversial Detention Facility to be Demolished 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
5. In a meeting on February 18, President Saakashvili instructed 
Justice Minister Gvaramia to start working on the elimination of 
pre-trial detention facility No. 5 in Ortatchala, central Tbilisi. 
Saakashvili said "The prison in Ortatchala is absolutely unsuitable 
for placement of prisoners and does not meet the minimum 
requirements."  Saakashvili told Gvaramia to transfer all inmates 
from the facility and demolish it within 50 days.  The pre-trial 
detention facility, located in a larger prison complex, currently 
holds 2,650 inmates and according to the Council of Europe's 
Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) 2007 report "in 
pre-trial facility, prison number 5 in Tbilisi, living space per 
prisoner was frequently below 0.5 square meters."   The CPT report 
also pointed out that the provision of health care to prisoners 
remained problematic due to the shortage of staff, facilities, and 
resources. 
 
Georgian Consular Officers Receive TIP Training 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
6. On February 5-6, IOM facilitated a training course for Georgian 
consular officers to raise their understanding of trafficking in 
persons (TIP) and how to assist Georgian victims of trafficking 
abroad.  Georgian anti-trafficking officials provided specific input 
on issues related to Georgian anti-trafficking legislation and 
victim assistance.  The training was attended by fourteen officials 
of the Consular Department of the Georgian MFA, including ten newly 
appointed consuls, who soon will take up consular duties at Georgian 
embassies around the world. Four current Georgian consuls stationed 
in Turkey (Ankara
 and Trabzon), Greece, and Kuwait acted as resource 
persons and shared their experience with the other participants. 
 
Heavy Snow Causes Natural Disaster 
---------------------------------- 
7. Heavy snowfall and strong winds rendered most of western Georgia 
 
TBILISI 00000296  002 OF 002 
 
 
a "natural disaster area" early this week, causing avalanches in 
mountainous parts of the country and leading to at least one 
confirmed death.  Police closed off all roads connecting western 
regions to Tbilisi.  The Georgian Military Highway, which leads 
north from the capital, was also closed February 18-20 because of 
heavy snowfall.  Snow has damaged power lines leaving hundreds of 
households without electricity.  On February 20 a tornado hit the 
port city of Poti, damaging roofs and buildings.  A storm in the 
Black Sea washed ashore a ship carrying fuel oil near the village of 
Makhinjauri, in Adjara.  The government mobilized resources to clear 
the roads and to deliver necessary services to the isolated 
regions. 
 
TEFFT

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