Remarks by Charles Sethness, Condeleezza Rice and President Mikheil Saakashvili
New York, New York
September 12, 2005
MR. SETHNESS: Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us to celebrate this happy occasion. Today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation will sign a five year, $295 million Compact with the Republic of Georgia. We are truly honored to have the President of Georgia, his Excellency Mikheil Saakashvili and his distinguished delegation here today.
I’d like to extend a welcome to our other distinguished guest and friends. We are especially honored also that Secretary Rice is here to officiate at this ceremony. As the Chair of MCC’s Board, she has given us invaluable guidance as we move forward together towards this new partnership with the government and the people of Georgia.
I think what strikes me most about this Compact, which is focused on rehabilitating infrastructure and on rural business development, is the breadth of its impact. The programs outlined in this Compact have the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of Georgians. And this Compact has depth. It will lead to dramatic improvement in many of the lives that it does touch.
For example, during one of the consultative sessions where the Georgian Government invited people in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region to put forth their ideas for projects. One farmer attending said to an MCC staffer who was also there, It’s nice that you’re talking about all of these ideas but how is what you’re doing going to affect me? And what came out of these sessions were solid and constructive answers to his question.
Roads are being rebuilt so that this farmer can get his product to market. His region will no longer be isolated. He and others like him will have better access to water and cheaper and more reliable supply of energy. As he builds his business, he will have the opportunity to receive technical assistance to improve his production and give him the technology he needs to succeed.
And finally, other projects will be financed that will affect businesses that are bigger than this farmer but are important to his livelihood, like a dairy that will buy milk from the farmer or a plant to process his fruit. The sum of all these things has the potential to make a big difference in his life and in his neighbors’ lives.
I’d like to thank all of those who helped to work to bring this Compact to completion, including President Saakashvili and Foreign Minister Zourabichvili, Ambassador [Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council] Bezhvashvili, Ambassador Mikeladze and Ambassador Miles.
Particular thanks go to the two teams who collaborated so effectively, Lasha Sanidze and his Georgia MCA team; and Gretchen Brevnov and the MCC team. They all worked tirelessly to bring us to this signing ceremony of today.
And now, it is a great honor and a personal pleasure to give the podium to our Chair, Secretary Rice.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Chuck and thank you for your leadership of the organization. Mr. President, Madam Minister, Ambassadors, the members of the team who are here, distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to join you in celebrating the signing of a historic Millennium Challenge Compact with the Republic of Georgia.
This Compact, worth $295 million, is a result of President Bush’s bold Millennium Challenge Initiative. It represents a great achievement for the government and especially for the people of Georgia. And it’s a concrete expression of the vibrant partnership that the United States and Georgia are building together as Georgia continues to develop an independent, secure and unified democracy.
But we also take this opportunity, Mr. President, on behalf of President Bush and the American people to publicly convey our heartfelt thanks for Georgia’s generous assistance in response to Hurricane Katrina. In this difficult time for America, Georgia has been a true friend and we are deeply grateful.
These past few years have witnessed extraordinary advances for freedom around the world. Georgia’s Rose Revolution and the commitment to political and economic reform of the Georgian Government and people have transformed what many people previously thought possible, not only for the people of Georgia but for others as well, who are pressing for peaceful democratic change in their nations.
The Millennium Challenge Compact that we sign today represents America’s long-term commitment to Georgia’s future success, and our partnership will only continue to grow stronger as Georgia continues to establish the rule of law, a vibrant and civil society, an independent media, a free economy and an accountable, effective institutions of government at all levels.
The Georgians themselves have developed this path breaking effort to reduce poverty and spur economic growth. Fifty-four percent of the population outside of the capital of Tbilisi lives in poverty. The projects funded by the MCC will improve roads and basic services for people living in these remote rural areas. This will help more Georgians gain access to new jobs, to new markets, and to the capital they need to start new businesses.
For example, Georgia will use some of its MCC funding to rehabilitate a gas pipeline that generates electric power and provides heat to homes and businesses. Reliable access to gas heat will reduce the environmental, health, and safety risk posed by the burning of wood and kerosene in the home risks that are borne out disproportionately by women and by children.
Georgia will also establish a regional development fund to stimulate the growth of small to medium sized enterprises. And the country will rebuild a regional thoroughfare that will cut the average travel time to rural areas to Tbilisi by forty-three percent. This will make it easier for farmers and small business owners to transport their goods to market, and will enable more citizens to gain access to social services.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation and its counterpart organization in Georgia have developed all of these programs through wide ranging consultations with local farmers, small business owners, community leaders, and civic organizations. The support for these efforts has been overwhelming. We estimate that the Compact has the potential to directly benefit half a million Georgians and over one quarter of the entire country will likely receive indirect benefits.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is truly a great day for the U.S.-Georgia partnership. And now, it is my honor to present a leader of vision and our valued partner in democracy and development, His Excellency President Saakashvili.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Thank you. Well, Secretary Rice and all of you, I’d like to begin by thanking all the people, both in the United States and Georgia, who made this day possible.
I’d like, first, to thank President Bush and Secretary Rice for this vision and wisdom established and expressed in this bold program. I’d also like to thank U.S. Congress for generous support. I also want to express my deep grief and understanding of what’s happening now in the United States. We, people in Georgia, have been watching with concern for friend of the country that showed deeply emotion in the world with American people—is so grateful to the American people.
And for countries like Georgia, it’s always so painful and for my country it’s so painful to see whenever this kind of problems do happen here, and I’m sure they’ll overcome in the nearest future.
I’d also like to thank staff in Washington, to thank Gretchen Brevnov and Steve Groff and also Paul Applegarth, John Hewko, Jerry Dutkewych, all the other people that have been involved and not to omit to mention, my friend, the late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania who was working together with us from the very beginning on this program.
I think it’s really one of the most, I think, by far the most efficient tool of help I’d ever seen and I’ve seen many assistance programs in my country for the last decade. And I think this is the most efficient, this is the most targeted one, and this is going to produce most of the results.
Georgia is making progress on its own. We’ve fixed problem with our government bureaucracy, with corruption. I think this problem has been mostly solved. We increased our budget almost five times. That shows the extent of diminished corruption. And the whole country is under reconstruction. I mean, we are building roads all over the place. We are fixing energy systems. We are building hospitals, schools, water sewage systems and all the infrastructure that was so desperately needed. And it’s another example of how a free democratic government can provide basic needs for its citizens because it’s accountable to the people; because it’s under daily scrutiny from our media, from our political organizations, from civil society, from population in general, and that’s producing the results.
That’s also great confirmation of vision by President Bush, expressed in his historic visit to Tbilisi because Georgia showed that the regime change can take place without even breaking a single window. A new accountable government could be produced with all the complexities that democracy involves can be by far more efficient than the authoritarian, corrupt, kleptocratic regimes that we had previously.
So, again, I have to underline how important our programs on the road, how important program is for program on energy; in general, on poverty reduction and on rural infrastructure development because these are all signs of progress. The expectations have been high but for us the main thing is maintain pace of change, pace of movement, and I think that we have been quite successful in that.
And, again, I want to talk about partnership and this Compact, this partnership. It is a partnership between our two countries; its partnership primarily between our two peoples and peoples—who share the same values, who have the same dreams for their children, and to support one another and to believe in supreme value of liberty and freedom.
Indeed, America has always been associated in my country with liberty, with freedom. I grew up in this way. And I think with—for generations that survive the Soviet’s rule, what’s happening today, what happened during President Bush’s visit to Georgia—and Secretary Rice was also there—what’s happening for all these last years is vindication for many years of suffering and their effort to survive, and their effort to develop, and form our own nation state.
Thank you very much, again, Ms. Secretary and thank you for this wonderful occasion. I’m very honored and pleased to be here.