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Otar Abesadze : Initiatives and challenges in Georgian Education System

Lecturer OTAR ABESADZE, an advisor to the Georgian Minister of Education and Science talks about reliable partnerships for investors and other opportunities in education system.

“Georgian education system follow the European  and western educational system”- Otar Abesadze

– How would you appraise Georgia’s current economic situation, the current challenges and the fundamental problems before the country? Why does the GEL exchange rate depreciate?

– Today the Georgian economy fully depends on our neighborhood, the region. Our major economic partners Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and so on are our neighboring countries and we are interconnected with each other, especially Georgia, which, in practice, is involved and dependent on the neighboring economic monsters.

Georgia is an imports-dependent country with a negative trade balance. The imports considerably exceed the exports and this is a negative factor in itself. We have lost the last 10 years, in practice, while our neighbors have make benefits from this. They have developed production, while we have lost trade positions in the region. Today we have to make tenfold effort to regain positions and follow the regional economic order.

Since 2008 the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) has been declining in Georgia because of the August war and the regional developments. I have been meeting with many investors and businessmen all over the world and we should not think foreign investors make investments in only Georgia. Our country is a regional hub and this is our advantage to persuade them to make investments in Georgia so as to distribute the investors’ products and services to the whole region. And this region is a very beneficial market. Both the political stability in Georgia and the whole situation in the Region make guarantees for investors and the FDI inflows directly depends on these circumstances.

The year of 2014 has recorded intense activities in this respect. In 2014 the FDI inflows marked over 1.2 billion GEL and this is a record figure since 2008. This is result of the Government’s proper and consecutive policy.

As to the GEL exchange rate devaluation, the process was inspired by regional problems and politically-motivated positions of the National Bank’s management, as well as by ignored government recommendations. The region’s two major economic players such as Ukraine and Russia remain in hostile relations, there is also inflation processes. EU has set sanctions against Russia and so on. All these developments are reflected on Georgia. Therefore, this is the responsibility of the NBG, as an insurer institution, to carry out the correct monetary policy and provide maximal cooperation with the executive power.

I believe the situation will be stabilized. Summertime has come. Tourists inflows will grow. The Authorities have also simplified the visa regime. Georgia will also host Youth Olympic Games and the UEFA Super Cup match. All these events will add a new stimulus to the Georgian economy and I hope the NBG will not miss this chance to cooperate with the Authorities to stabilize the national currency.

The Government should provide maximal efforts to draw FDI and timely sell privatization assets.

– What steps are being taken for drawing investments to Georgia?

– Georgia is a very attractive country in terms of investments. Our country owns seaports, the silk road crosses our territory and we have got ideal geopolitical and strategic location to organize the region’s main economic distributing hub that will be the regional re-exports center. The FDI inflows are growing and the figure exceeded 1.2 billion GEL in 2014. It is also important the Government is working on revision of the tax law to further increase investors’ interest in Georgia.

The Saudi Arabia Prince has also expressed interest in making investments in Georgia. This will be a good signal for many major investors to persuade them the private property and investors are strongly protected in Georgia and the Georgian Authorities provide reliable partnership for them since 2012.

– How would you characterize the current situation in the education system? What would you say about the finished and ongoing reforms and the main challenges before the system?

– I can openly note the Education Ministry is an exceptional institution in terms of reforms starting 2012. Our team at the head of Giorgi Margvelashvili has come to the Ministry. I was an advisor to Margvelashvili. Today he is a president. We started the system reformation. First of all, we started to free the system from politicization. We have carried out fundamental reforms. In Georgia school textbooks are issued to all classes. We have constructed 9 secondary schools, rehabilitated over 1500 secondary schools. We have increased salaries to teachers, organized doctor’s rooms at the schools, reformed the service of resource officers.

We have started financing studies at 21 university faculties and all vocational schools, as well as doctoral studies. We have increased salaries to scientists four times from 150-200 GEL. In this way we have kept the Georgian Dream’s promises for making the education accessible to everyone.

The previous Authorities used to make statements on constructing a technological university in Batumi. The United National Movement (UNM) asserts we have suspended the project, but in reality in 2011 the previous Authorities received a letter from the Millennium Challenge program notifying the selected building could not meet university standards. Therefore, they failed to obtain the grant. We obtained the grant for technological university in 2013. In the second half of 2015 Georgia will build  one of the most modern technological universities in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe with the participation of Cartu Group.

Anyway, major challenges are still relevant, including in the fields of infrastructure, education quality, salaries for teachers and scientists and so on. This is a planned and scheduled process. I believe we will have created preconditions by 2016 so as the Georgian education system follow the European  and western educational system.

– Georgia’s current political reality. What is the current situation in Georgia? What standards are practiced in the country and what does the political renewal mean? All political parties are talking about the renewal.

– This is a very healthy process. Political renewal, promotion of new faces is very important on both regional and central levels. Today we have a different reality. The new generation knows western value and modern political standards, the culture of debates very well. The new generation has got profound knowledge of concrete themes and analytical skills. The society should accept a healthy analysis and information, valuable staff policy based on education, professionalism and modern political standards.

– What would you comment on Georgia’s foreign policy, neighborhood policy, associated membership with EU, NATO integration process and international challenges? What is your opinion on the current developments in Ukraine? What would you comment on appointment of Georgian nationals on the top positions in Ukraine?

– The international political course and orientation is clear and unchanged. We are striving for joining EU and the NATO as soon as possible. The Associated Membership Agreement is also very important and our country will make much benefit from this. We also expect visa regime liberalization in the near future as an additional stimulus for Georgian citizens.

I will not talk much on citizens of our neighboring and friendly Ukraine and high-ranking officials in this country. I just want that the head and other top officials of one of the administrative units of the friendly country, who have obtained Ukrainian citizenship and have got Georgian roots, abstain from interfering in internal political affairs of their neighboring and partner country. This would be at least politically unethical steps.

This is my personal opinion that the concept of a former president does not exist. All presidents, both good and bad ones, represent their countries to a certain extent. There is no precedent in the world the president had refused the citizenship of his own homeland. This is his personal shame. I believe this conduct manifestly shows the attitude the Odessa Region’s Head Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili has got to the national values. I believe the Georgian People realizes everything very well.

-According to the inquiry by the Georgian League for Students Rights, you have been named the 2014 most successful young leader. What has preconditioned this recognition? Students have also highly appraised you as a TSU lecturer.

– This was very interesting. I think this is rather a challenge than a recognition. At the inquiry presentation they named the details for which I was chosen: Employment of about 1700 students during the census, a project for 21 free of charge professions and financing doctoral studies. I have initiated all these projects.

The TSU is my second home. In two month I will defend my thesis to become doctor of sciences of the TSU business and economics faculty.

As to the lecture courses, it is a huge challenge for me. Students’ appraisal encourages me to permanently renew the syllabus and introduce modern standards of education in my lectures. I believe a very good generation is coming that easily responds to all challenges and is ready to receive maximal benefits.

– You are very active in the social network and, in general, in the political context concerning Tkibuli. Is it your way to politics? Do you plan to run for the parliamentary elections in Tkibuli?

– Tkibuli? Tkibuli is a city of life. This case is an absolutely different case. We, Tkibuli young people, have decided to create a Facebook page named as “Tkibuli – the City of Life”, where we would exchange ideas for beautifying our town and assisting it. This idea has united over 1 700 residents of Tkibuli, who have revived the town, in practice. We have created regional internet television OkribaInfo, set up nongovernmental organization Regional Development – Life Generation, founded a fan club for the Tkibuli Coalminer football club and so on. We have been conducting charity events, literary contests and we also plan very good and positive activities.

The main thing is Tkibuli’s young people have gathered and organized a very strong force in the city that is united around the Georgian Idea of the City of Life.

Tkibuli is a city of coalminers. It is a very small city and everybody knows each other. There is no envy and evil in this city. The residents live like a big family and we, Tkibuli young people, students and the new generation are developing a new strategy for the advancement of the region and the city.

As to the politics, I have also noted I am one of the ordinary soldiers in my political organization. I will be there, where my political team needs, either in Tkibuli or in any other city or the structure. I am a team player and I see I must be in this team with my potential.

– You are a member of the Georgian Dream ruling political coalition. Previously, you have led the Georgian Dream youth organization. How would you appraise the Georgia Dream’s chances for the 2016 parliamentary elections?

– The 2016 parliamentary elections will be very important for the development and advancement of Georgia. I believe our citizens recognize the ongoing reforms. Our society makes adequate reaction to our initiatives and we provide maximal efforts to respond to their needs and demands.

The party’s structure and readiness is also very significant. Today the Georgian Dream has carried out internal reorganization to move to the modern political structure with modern views and activities. Moreover, the Georgian Dream has joined the Party of European Socialists. This is a very significant step on the global political arena.

I believe the Georgian Dream will win the 2016 parliamentary elections, because our team has returned the freedom of speech and choice to our citizens, as well as property immunity. The modern democratic society is based on all the mentioned values. We have been providing maximal support to the private sector. We offer considerable social packages to our citizens. I would stress healthcare system reformation, overall insurance, C hepatitis treatment and so on. We have carried out considerable reforms in the education, agriculture sectors. We have ploughed huge spaces that are unprecedented even for the Soviet period. For 2.5 years we have asphalted more space of motorways than the UNM has done for 9 years. We prioritize human rights, education and healthcare. We follow this direction purposefully and we are developing the country.

We know we have to deal with huge challenges and we will definitely reach desirable results. All our efforts will be reflected in the 2016 parliamentary elections. I trust the justice and unbiased position of our citizens.