Vice President Joe Biden visited Tbilisi, Georgia this week, meeting with Georgian President Mikhael Saahkashvili, members of Parliament, leaders of the opposition parties, and business leaders. One of the highlights of the visit for the Georgian media was the Vice Presidents visit with children at a center for families displaced by the August war. At each stop on his visit, the Vice President spoke of a U.S.-Georgia partnership based on the ideals of democracy and re-affirmed the U.S. commitment to support the Georgian people as they continue to build the institutions and economy of their country. I especially today call upon the young people of Georgia, Mr. Biden said on the floor of the Parliament, the next generation of Georgian leaders, to continue to contribute their ideas, their voices, and their energy to help create a peaceful, stable, democratic, and economically prosperous Georgia.
As part of the U.S.-Georgia partnership, the Millennium Challenge Georgia Compact, a five year program totaling $395 million in grant funds, has been providing necessary resources for Georgians to invest in their economy and reduce poverty. Georgia is committed to the core MCC philosophy of country ownership and accountability. It has created a strong management team and government oversight board to ensure that U.S. funds are spent efficiently and achieve results for the Georgian people.
Now in its fourth year of implementation, Georgia is beginning to see tangible results. Under MCC funding, the municipal water supply network for Poti, Georgia’s largest port, has been rehabilitated, improving the water supply for the city’s population of 50,000. Georgia’s energy security has been strengthened by the completion of two rounds of priority repairs on the main natural gas pipeline. The pipeline, operated by the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, transports gas from Azerbaijan to Georgia for residential heating and to operate Georgia’s only electricity power plant.
Additional infrastructure improvements are on the way. Another four municipalities are undergoing water system rehabilitations. Construction on the Samstkhe-Javakheti road, connecting Tbilisi with Armenia and Turkey, is currently underway. Georgia also chose to invest in agriculture and to assist the growing number of small and medium size enterprises in Georgia. The Enterprise Development Project has already invested over $25 million in the Georgian economy through a combination of grants and equity investments for farmers and businesses. Much of this total has been mobilized since the August war and since the economic crisis has negatively impacted the Georgian economy.
Millennium Challenge Georgia Fund CEO George Abdushelishvili recognizes that he, his team, and partners have a lot of work ahead to deliver on the promise of the MCC grant. When Georgia has a good partner, and especially when we hear Vice President Biden highlight our countries partnership here in Tbilisi, it makes me want to do more, he says.