Mr. Prime Minister,
Provost and members of the San Diego State University community,
Georgian students and friends,
I am delighted to be here for the signing of this partnership agreement between the Government of Georgia and San Diego State University.
This is a wonderful day for the U.S.-Georgian partnership. And it is a wonderful day for the students of Georgia, some of whom I’ve had the chance to meet and visit with earlier today.
Ten years ago, the Millennium Challenge Corporation chose Georgia as one of its first partner countries to support in economic development. Together, through the first MCC compact, we built hundreds of kilometers of road connecting rural areas to Tbilisi, created thousands of jobs by helping to modernize the agricultural sector and improved energy reliability and access to water for the Georgian people.
Ten years later, MCC and the American people still stand with Georgia. And today we celebrate a second investment – a $140 million compact between our nations that will focus on improving the quality of education for youth across the country.
This partnership with San Diego State University – signed today – is a key component of MCC’s second compact. The program, which involves three Georgian universities as local partners, will offer young men and women the opportunity to earn internationally accredited degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math, all right here in Georgia.
I want to applaud San Diego State University’s vision for delivering education globally and for seeing the value in teaching students not just in California but also in other key parts of the world. And I want to thank the Georgian government for their continued commitment to fostering economic growth and for partnering with MCC in that effort.
I have no doubt that this partnership will enrich the educational experiences of both Georgian and American students, who will have for the first time the unique opportunity to learn alongside each other.
As we all know, education is a key tool for reducing poverty and increasing global competitiveness.
Georgia has already made tremendous strides in improving the business climate for investors and supporting economic growth.
According to the International Finance Corporation’s Ease of Doing Business Index, Georgia catapulted from 112th to 8th place by overhauling tax and customs administration, business and property registration and its court system.
It is pro-business reforms like these that make Georgia attractive to global companies, including U.S. investors, looking for opportunities to grow and to create jobs.
The program signed today – and others contained in the second compact – will complement these reforms and help Georgia realize its economic growth potential. By improving the link between the skills Georgians possess and what the labor market needs, the MCC compact will help Georgians entering the workforce find good jobs in industries that fuel economic growth.
And with a better qualified workforce, the United States will find a strong partner in Georgia for investment, commerce and trade.
It is also important to note that, as part of this investment, the Georgian government has committed to undertaking specific policy, legal and regulatory reforms that will go a long way to sustain our investment beyond its five years. For example, the compact envisions, as part of our partnership, the development and implementation of an operations and maintenance fund and strategy for the entire public school system. Commitments such as these are vital to achieving economic growth, and I applaud their inclusion in the compact.
Coming on the heels of Georgia’s historic signing of an Association Agreement with the EU on June 27, I am confident that the partnership among MCC, the Government of Georgia, San Diego State University, and Georgian universities will be another critical step in helping to fully integrate Georgia into the global economy, as well as help Georgia to continue to advance its Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations.
Congratulations to all. This partnership is truly a win-win for both our countries.
Thank you so much.