Georgian president reviews "most successful" year

Mze TV, Tbilisi
29 Dec 04

President Mikheil Saakashvili has said that 2004 has been the most
successful year for Georgia since it regained independence. Speaking
at a news briefing on 29 December, broadcast live by Mze TV and other
Georgian networks, he said that he was not aware of any other country
that has changed as much in a year as Georgia had. Among his
government's main achievements he listed its success in putting an end
to "separatism" in Ajaria, raising the pay of public sector workers
and reducing corruption. He also said that people who had been
predicting that his alliance with Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and
parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze would be short-lived had been
proved wrong. He announced that 2005 would be a year of major
infrastructure projects, including the construction of roads and the
opening of a new airport in Tbilisi on 23 November, the second
anniversary of the "rose" revolution. He hailed the apparent victory
of Viktor Yushchenko in the Ukrainian presidential election as part of
a new "wave of liberation" for post Soviet republics which began in
Georgia. Touching briefly on the separatist conflicts in Georgia, he
said that the South Ossetian "leadership has changed a lot recently"
and expressed the hope that this "trend" would continue. The following
is an excerpt from the briefing broadcast by Mze TV; subheadings have
been inserted editorially:

[Saakashvili] I would like to sum up in a few words what I believe are
this year's highlights. I think that, for the first time since
independence, this year Georgia has started to develop like a
state. There are certain attributes any state must have. For the first
time this year Georgia has developed a state apparatus that serves not
someone's private interests but the people and society. This can be
measured very simply. Never before had the state paid its employees
enough money for them not think about lining their pockets.

Salary increases, new state symbols

Army officers were paid 50 lari [a month] while policemen were paid 60
lari. You cannot expect a soldier or officer on 50 lari to make a
sacrifice for the motherland. You cannot expect a policeman on 50
lari, especially one who is not paid on time, to reject bribes. You
cannot expect customs officers on 100 lari - in reality their pay was
much lower - to report to work every day and not to steal money. For
the first time this year we have paid these officials salaries that
are higher than what they used to earn by taking bribes and have
forced them to work for the benefit of the people and society.

We have learnt to respect our state symbols. Not only do we have a new
flag and a new anthem but all schoolchildren without exception have
learnt this anthem. People have taken to this anthem. I visited
Akhalkalaki [town in southern Georgian with a large ethnic Armenian
population] yesterday and witnessed a very moving scene when Armenian
children, our citizens, were trying to sing the Georgian anthem. I saw
their happy faces when they listened to our national anthem. This
would have been unimaginable before. It means that a new state
mentality is being formed in Georgia.

Ajaria, foreign policy

We have achieved a lot at home. Ajaria was the main event this year. I
have heard people ask what has changed in Ajaria. I can say that, as
far as Ajaria is concerned, everything has changed in Georgia this
year. Ajaria never accepted the jurisdiction of the central Georgian
authorities after [Georgian] independence. It had its own armed
forces, which were ready to go to war with Georgia. We have resolved
this problem without bloodshed. This was a historic event for Georgia,
which will be remembered for centuries.

We have achieved a lot internationally. Debate will continue for many
years about what the events in Ukraine meant for Georgia. We found
ourselves in a special position after our revolution last
year. However, it would have remained an isolated event and would not
have allowed us to make quick progress had it not been for the events
that have taken place in Ukraine. The Georgian factor has been a very
important one in the Ukrainian revolution. The leaders of the
Ukrainian revolution have themselves acknowledged this. On the other
hand, Ukraine has given us a geopolitical revolution. In practice,
Georgia is no longer in isolation. A strong allied state has emerged
which has clearly embarked on the path of European integration and
which is a very important supporter for us as far as our economic and
political progress is concerned.

Also, Turkey has started talks on EU membership, which means that the
borders of this European organization are moving very close to
Georgia. It opens up completely new prospects for us internationally.

Furthermore, Georgia's reputation has increased immeasurably. You know
that a few days ago our embassy in Brussels received a prize for the
Georgian president. This prize is for someone outside the EU who has
had the biggest influence on EU policy. I am not boasting because I
certainly do not regard it as a personal prize. It is about Georgia
and what happened in Georgia. However, considering how small our
country is and how unimportant it was in international politics until
now - we used to be told that we were the centre of the world but it
certainly was not true - the fact that everyone is talking about
Georgia today is really unprecedented. They have been talking about
Georgia because of what happened here and what happened in
Ukraine. Georgia now always features on the world political
map. Without exaggeration, this never happened before in the many
centuries of our history. That is our main achievement this year.

Infrastructure projects

What will be the most important things for us next year? Next year we
have to make a lot of progress on major construction projects. We are
starting major development of infrastructure. When we talk about the
economy, we must remember that the economy does not exist without an
infrastructure. Above all, it is road construction. There has been
almost no road construction in Georgia since independence. We will
repair all the main roads in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Zugdidi and other towns
next year. Next year we will build a major road linking Zugdidi,
Chkhorotsqu, Tsalenjikha and Senaki. This road, which will be 91-km
long, will open on 23 November [the second anniversary of President
Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation].

Next year we hope to start another big project - a road between
Tbilisi, Akhalkalaki and Kartsakhi. This is a most important project
both economically and politically because it will help to integrate
Javakheti into Georgia's economic space, which is very important for
Georgia's future.

We will also carry out preparatory work for a major motorway that will
eventually be built between Tbilisi and the [Turkish] border near
Batumi. The first section will be built between Tbilisi and
Khashuri. Preparations will start next year for the subsequent start
of the construction of this road.

Tbilisi will have a new international airport. It will also open on 23
November. Next year all of the world's major airlines will have almost
daily services to Tbilisi. When I came to power, almost none of them
flew to Tbilisi. Next year there will not be a single major airline
that does not serve Tbilisi. This means tourism, this means trade and
this means creating major incentives for the Georgian economy.

Next year we will have a budget three-and-a-half times greater than
last year.

Very important police and education reforms have begun this year. They
will develop on a very large scale next year. Very important military
reforms are under way. In a word, Georgia is rapidly changing.

Naturally, expectations are always higher than the actual changes
taking place. However, I know of no other country in the world which
has undergone changes as rapid and irreversible as the ones that took
place in Georgia last year, or, rather, this year.

Reforms and privatization to continue

Naturally, there is a lot of work to do. For example, when we talk
about police, customs or Chancellery officials getting higher
salaries, it does not mean that the lives of pensioners have also
improved. Even the fact that pensions are increasing two-fold does not
mean, of course, that these problems have been resolved. We will only
say that we have been successful when pensions are not below the
subsistence level, when teachers get as much as police and members of
other such services. However, this will require time. Of course, it
will not happen within a year or even two years. It requires much more

Next year we are planning large-scale privatization. The privatization
proceeds will be invested mainly in the development of infrastructure,
defence structures and social projects that are very important for our

We have adopted a very important tax code. It sets the lowest rates of
tax in the whole of the former Soviet Union and in the whole of the
Black Sea region. It is time now for our business to learn how to use
it. They must show some initiative because no-one will spoon-feed

[Passage omitted]

South Ossetian leadership "changed a lot"

For the first time ever, [ethnic] Armenian and Azerbaijani reservists
have appeared in our reservist camps, which are a unique
phenomenon. Local officers who were made redundant after the closure
of the old Soviet bases have all been offered jobs in the Georgian
armed forces. That is why the idea that we are again a single state is
very important.

We are planning to present a proposal to the Ossetians. By the way,
their leadership has changed a lot recently. I very much hope that
this will become a trend. Also, [the Georgian government will present
proposals] to the Abkhaz. Interesting processes are taking place
there. In a word, the process of Georgia's consolidation is
inevitable. This will require time and a great deal of unity on our
part, but we will do it. [Passage omitted]

Georgia's reputation abroad

[Question] Mr President, I have a question relating to international
support. This year Georgia has had no lack of support from Western
countries, including the USA. I remember that in Washington they have
praised all our government's decisions. However, more recently several
American publications - you probably remember an article in the Los
Angeles Times - have begun to discuss the need to protect democracy in
Georgia. How correct were the government's actions in 2004 in this
regard and what will 2005 be like?

[Saakashvili] I think that Georgia has had a fantastic press. There
have never been as many good articles about Georgia as there are
now. By the way, more is being written now than in the first few
months [of this government]. In the initial months there was
scepticism. I remember articles written in January and February saying
that these people are not what they appear. I remember articles
commissioned by [deposed Ajarian leader] Aslan Abashidze that appeared
last year after the revolution, saying that I was a dictator even
before I was elected president. Of course, there are still some
critical articles, but in general it has been very positive.

It is especially positive because events in Ukraine have legitimized
and vindicated our revolution. We are now talking about a third wave
of liberation in Europe, which Georgia began.

The first wave was during World War II, the liberation of Europe from
the Nazis, mostly in Western Europe, and they created the European
Union. The next stage was in eastern Europe, the fall of the Berlin
wall. Eastern Europe has now already joined the European Union. Now
only the former Soviet republics remain, the majority of which are
also European countries, among them Georgia, which appeared to have
been forgotten and everyone had abandoned the hope of anything
happening here.

Georgia has shown that not only is revolution possible but that
revolution can bring about positive changes. Now it has happened in
Ukraine. It is already a trend. Georgia on its own was in part an
anomaly, but with what has happened in Ukraine it is part of a
trend. It is a trend which began in Georgia - the final liberation of
Europe and its final unification. I am certain of this, as are my

In the last few weeks the US Senate has adopted many positive
resolutions, among them one relating to the anniversary of our
revolution. I was even slightly embarrassed. If these resolutions had
been adopted here, people would have thought that a personality cult
was being created or dismissed it as tasteless propaganda. However,
their view is different. It is possible that the shortcomings which
are very visible here are not apparent over there, but it is a fact
that much has improved.

We should not just hope for foreign assistance, and it should not be
an aim itself, nor should membership of any organization. We should
build our lives ourselves. We should not just say that by 2006 our
army should be good enough, under [Defence Minister Irakli]
Okruashvili, to satisfy the criteria to become a candidate for NATO
membership. We will of course do that, but it should not be an end in
itself. The most important thing is that we should have a good army,
not just to meet the criteria of some organization.

The most important thing is not that we meet some formal criteria of
the World Bank or IMF, although for the first time in many years they
are very pleased. The most important thing is that the situation
improves for our own people. That is the aim of our government. Our
aim is not to win applause from a foreign audience. They will applaud
when our people are moving forward. That is our government's main
aim. We will not achieve foreign success without internal success. Our
foreign success is founded on the progress we make within Georgia.

As for democracy, you know that the most recent report from Freedom
House, the most authoritative international democracy NGO, said that
the one former Soviet republic where there is serious progress towards
democracy is Georgia. That was their conclusion, the rest is just
people gossiping. And I think they have the right to do that. I think
that they have that right because we are a democracy and they can
complain and criticize. I am used to this. I have been a politician
for a long time and I am used to insults. In general these insults
come from within the country and internationally we do not have a

Public broadcasting in minority languages

[Question] Mr President, the creation of a successful state depends on
your team, particularly in the regions. How do you rate the work of
governors this year, particularly in Zugdidi, where just recently
criticism has been made of Gigi Ugulava?

I also have a second question, if you allow it. When will you sign the
law on broadcasting, which includes provisions for public
broadcasting? What role do you think public broadcasting should have
in Georgian television?

[Saakashvili] The second question is easier and I will answer it
quickly - I will sign the law as soon as it is brought to me. Public
broadcasting is very important. For example, we have now begun
broadcasting in Abkhaz, Ossetian, Azeri and Armenian. Until now these
people did not feel that the state existed for them. On the one hand
ethnic Azeris and Armenians - although not so much Ossetians as they
already know it - are busy learning Georgian. On the other hand, these
broadcasts are a demonstration of our respect for them. We have a
Georgian language programme, we will bring hundreds of ethnic Azeris
and Armenians to summer schools in Tbilisi with goods stipends. These
people should form a political elite. They, together with Georgians,
will create government bodies. That is what makes a state, that is
[medieval Georgian king] Davit Aghmashenebeli's model for a strong
Georgia. Davit Aghmashenebeli's main achievement was to unite
Georgians and non-Georgians under the idea of a Georgian state. That
is our main recipe for success.

Therefore, public broadcasting has this function. I have just recorded
a New Year address in Ossetian, Abkhaz and Azeri. I spoke to Armenians
when I visited Akhalkalaki [town in southern Georgia]. It also has
many other functions, such as the promotion of Georgian folklore,
which commercial television may not do because it may not be
profitable. But the state should finance this. We have a unique
musical culture, which we should treasure and always preserve as part
of our mentality. The functions of public broadcasting are various and
we should support it.

New regional governors performing well

What about the governors? Yesterday I heard the pathetic statement
made by a few people [reference to three MPs criticizing Samegrelo
governor Gigi Ugulava]. I don't want to be rude, but I hope that it
was a slip of the tongue, because any sane person would not say those
sorts of things. I hope that they don't even think that.

Gigi Ugulava is a very good governor. We have a new generation of
governors. We were talking earlier about the revolution in Tbilisi,
but it is no good if the only police patrol force is in Tbilisi, if
only the roads in Tbilisi are repaired, if corruption is only fought
in Tbilisi. For the past two years there has only been power in
Tbilisi, not in the regions. We have appointed new governors with whom
people should communicate, so that things also change for people in
Guria, Samegrelo, Kakheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti.

What was it like before? In the era of [former presidents] Zviad
[Gamsakhurdia] and [Eduard] Shevardnadze it was always the same people
in charge in the regions. It is was the same people devouring the
government's resources. Now new governors have appeared. When a new
governor appears who refuses to appoint someone's cousin or sacks
someone's brother or whatever, these people start complaining.

No-one can say that Ugulava takes bribes, because no-one would believe
them, so these people decided to criticize him by saying that he does
not speak Megrelian. First of all, that is a lie, because I told him
to learn Megrelian, or, rather, to brush it up - he comes from there -
which is what he has been doing. I can only welcome that.

However, if we translate what they were saying yesterday into legal
terms, it would mean the following: in Georgia it would be possible
for someone not to be appointed to a post because they did not know
any language other than Georgian, the state language. That will never
happen while I am president. In Georgia there is one state language
and that language is Georgian. There are many languages in Georgia and
we respect all of them. In the case of Samegrelo this will never
happen because no right-thinking person has ever said that is should
happen and never will.

I am myself Megrelian on my mother's side, but at the same time I am
100-per-cent Georgian. Most of the patriotic fervour of Georgia is in
Samegrelo. My temperament, personality, emotions, come from my
mother's side, I believe. I do not want to offend anyone, but I think
I get a lot of my energy from my Megrelian roots. [Passage omitted]

Next year there will be major energy and road-building projects, both
in Samegrelo and many other areas of Georgia. There will be no more
roads left in a state of disrepair. Every road will be repaired to the
highest standards. The decay of the past years will be stopped.

We must quickly improve the energy situation and we will use most of
the revenue from privatization for that. The rest will come from us
all working together. I repeat that I am satisfied with our new
governors, Zhani Kalandadze, and all the others, I do not want to
single anyone out, Goga Khachidze, and many others.

Ministers should travel around the country

I am also generally satisfied with the work of the government,
although I wish that ministers would travel more to the regions to
meet people and go from village to village.

It is one thing for the energy minister to tell us from Tbilisi about
power rationing in a particular region, but when I go there I check
this by stopping the car, going to someone's flat and asking how many
hours of electricity they have every day. Very often it is not the
same as the figure they give me at the Energy Ministry. If they
travelled themselves - they don't need 100 people to protect them like
I do - they would have much more objective information.

We have a lot more to do in this area, but we have interesting
ministers, such as young [Agriculture Minister Mikheil]
Svimonishvili. In general everyone has a chance and Svimonishvili is
one example. He is not a member of the National Movement, nor has he
ever worked in government. He came from business and was a member of
some party or other, but that is not important. The important thing is
that he has a fresh mind and he is full of ideas. We need lots of
people like him in local government and everywhere. Everyone who is
honest, competent and loves Georgia has a chance. We have provided
this opportunity.

When people accuse someone of not having a local mentality, like
yesterday when they criticized Ugulava, what they really mean by local
mentality is that they should give jobs to cousins, a cut of the pie
when building roads, jobs as tax inspectors and so on. Well, no
longer. Our society us law-abiding and decent.

Government here to stay and will finish reforms

The same groups of people have been bleeding the regions dry for a
long time. Now that the budget has grown, there is more for them to
steal and they want it. Of course, they cannot do it now and of course
they are angry about this. That is why they are saying that our
government will soon go and that in a few months their time will come

They say this everywhere. Old police officers tell new ones: you don't
know how good it was in the old days - we used to stop trucks and we
could get 1,500 dollars from each, the 250 dollars you get now is
nothing, but don't worry, soon they will be gone and we can go back to
the old days.

Thieves sitting in prison are also saying that we will be gone in a
few months. It's good that they have been saying this since
January. Corrupt officials were also hoping that we would not be
around after three months.

I'm afraid I have bad news for them - we are going to be around for a
very long time and will finally unite Georgia and finish strengthening
it. There is no alternative. Georgia now has not had a chance to
develop like this for many centuries and we will not be stupid enough
to let it pass. We will do everything possible to finish it.

I know how many years I need to repair roads throughout Georgia, how
many years to build the army, how many months to complete police
reforms, how many years to create a truly modern system of European
education, how many years to make sure that pensioners no longer go
hungry in Georgia. All this is achievable but we need to work around
the clock for this.

For example, just after Okruashvili became defence minister several
servicemen deserted, and people were saying what a terrible thing it
was that 40 people deserted. They [the servicemen] said that although
their barracks were renovated to European standards, the hot water
pipe had broken. They are soldiers, servicemen. They should repair the
breakage. It froze and broke, of course, but they should repair it. If
you want a state you should have a state mentality. They are better
dressed and fed than ever, but can't be bothered to mend a pipe? Where
is their state mentality?

Little by little it is growing. The duty of soldiers is to defend the
motherland, the duty of police is to maintain public order. People
should not think that their taxes will be frittered away. [Passage

[Question] Where and how are you going to see in the New Year? There
are reports that you may be planning to go to Ukraine.

[Saakashvili] No, we have not decided anything yet. This will be
decided at a family meeting tomorrow.

Reaffirms unity with Zhvania and Burjanadze

[Question] Radio Fortuna, Natia [name indistinct]. We would like to
wish you a happy New Year and good fortune with all your plans. What
do you think was the best decision of the first year of your
presidency? Is there a decision you are still unhappy about? Also, are
there any individuals you would like to single out? You are being
named this year's top political figure but who would be your own

[Saakashvili] I really did not know I was a figure? However, speaking
figuratively [as heard], my main partners this year have been
[parliament speaker] Nino Burjanadze and [Prime Minister] Zurab
Zhvania. You will remember that at the beginning of the year people
were saying that we would soon start fighting each other and would cut
each other's throats. Where are these people now? How many times are
they allowed to get their apocalyptic predictions wrong?

We have preserved and strengthened our unity. We have formed a united
party. Parliament is working very effectively. That is what we were
talking about. This is not the time to fight each other. We have big
tasks ahead of us. It is not my task to dig in on the 11th floor
[reference to the location of the president's office in the State
Chancellery building], so that I cannot be dislodged from there even
with a crane. It is not our task for Zhvania to dig in in the prime
minister's office and for Burjanadze in parliament. This means
nothing. Our task is to create a great Georgia.

Many idealists have arrived in the civil service. There are many
enthusiastic people of all ages. It is the task of all these people to
join efforts to create a new level of unity in our country. We will
certainly succeed in this. That is what I wanted to say about

As regards events, I think that the main event and the main decision
was not to give in to Aslan Abashidze, complete the restoration of
control over Ajaria and adopt a constitutional model that fully
reflects the interests of the people of Ajaria and the national
interests of Georgia. I did not hesitate for a second in pursuing this
to the end. We were ready to take very strong steps. If we had not
restored control over Ajaria, Georgia would have faced serious
internal discord today.

By the way, it is very interesting that Aslan Abashidze used to say
terrible things about Davit Aghmashenebeli. I have not heard it myself
but I have been told by many people that at various meetings and
parties he often said some nasty things about Davit Aghmashenebeli. I
kept wondering why. The answer is that he identified himself with
Liparit Baghvashi, a rebellious feudal lord [who conspired with
foreign powers to dethrone Davit]. In the end, Abashidze shared the
fate of Liparit Baghvashi as they were both expelled by the Georgian

I am not saying this because there may be another Davit Aghmashenebeli
in Georgia today. That is impossible in a democracy. It was a
completely different time, there were no television stations and the
methods of government were different. Today, the collective unifier of
Georgia is its population, our people. Everyone will be judged by our
people. That is the main thing.

Expectations may have been too high

Now, what were the mistakes? I think that the main mistake everyone
made was to have too high expectations. People say that there has been
a lot of progress but we expected much more. If someone expected
Georgia to become another Monte Carlo within a year, that's

We have achieved annual economic growth of more than 10 per cent,
which is a very good result. The budget has increased at least
three-fold. We have managed to reduce corruption by the same factor as
the budget has grown. That is the yardstick we use. What does a
three-fold increase in the budget mean? It means that the government
is stealing a third of what it used to and that is why the budget is
three times as big. [Passage omitted]

Such a three-fold increase cannot happen every year because
investments are needed for that. Investments require
infrastructure. Next year we will make major investments in the
development of Borjomi resort. Major reconstruction work has begun in
Ajaria - in Batumi and Kobuleti. We should build a road from Zugdidi
to Anaklia [on the Black Sea coast] and develop this tourist area,
which has a lot of potential. That is what the state can do. The rest
depends on how active and inventive the public is. There are low
taxes. The state is investing in infrastructure. We have put an end to

Now, it is up to an efficient private sector, not the state, to create
jobs. The state can only create jobs by deceiving people, by giving
them low salaries and allowing them to steal. That is not what will
make Georgia a strong country. We need fewer officials. We have
already made cuts this year and I do not expect major cuts in the

What we need is many jobs in the private sector. That is what low
taxes, good infrastructure and Georgia's good reputation abroad will
help create. We have done all we could for that. Now, it is time for
all of us to act together.

[Passage omitted]

President's advice to the opposition

[Question] What is your opinion of the Georgian opposition? Is there a
conspicuous figure in the Georgian opposition?

[Saakashvili] There are quite a few figures and, if you can imagine,
perhaps even more conspicuous than myself. That is simple. Georgia has
a democratic system. The opposition is there to criticize the
authorities. Unfortunately, as far as I know, our opposition is not
yet popular. My advice to them would be, or, rather, the reason for
that is that the opposition says that they do not like anything and
that everything is black, so it is very hard to see any colours. If
everything is black, there is no point living and there is no
truth. If they said that certain things are being done but there is
much more do and that they would do it if they came to power, I am
sure that they would have much more support. I do not want them to see
this as my recipe to help them become popular. It is certainly not my
task to make them popular. However, that is how I would have done it,
that is how I would have tried to win public support.

Praise for the diversity of the Georgian media

On the other hand, the main check the authorities have to deal with is
not a political opposition that constantly complains about things in
parliament. It is, above all, the media - the printed media and
television. I am proud of the fact that during the coverage of the
Ukrainian elections, when revolution leaders, including Yushchenko,
spoke, five of the microphones in front of them were those of Georgian
television stations. The whole world was interested in these events
but there would be five Georgian microphones and only five from the
rest of the world. We currently have a population of between
four-and-a-half and five million in Georgia. We have broken all the
records as regards the number of television stations, newspapers and
journalists per capita.

I beg your pardon? [journalist's remark indistinct] God forbid, I
would not judge the quality of journalism. If I told you what I really
think, I would have to run away quickly before you got
me. Nevertheless, this is unique. Nowhere in eastern Europe are there
news programmes every hour. Here, even if nothing is happening, there
is still a news bulletin. Often nothing is happening at all, but there
is still news. That is why if, on a quiet day, someone goes to the
balcony of their flat and shouts something, it will certainly make the
news on some television channel. If someone says something to someone
else in a dark room, this will also be discussed on television. That
is because we are a small country and things that would make news in
the press and on television abroad do not happen here every day.

But, on the other hand, we are lucky to have it. It is good that we
all know everything. Is it not better to say all this on television
than to spread rumours? It is best to report everything. That is why
there is no cause for alarm. I think that this is part of the
Georgian national character. We like publishing many newspapers. By
the way, when I was a young child, I published a family newspaper. It
had a circulation of one and I was its only reader. By the way, I
published not one but four different titles and read all of them.
Naturally, these newspapers are now heavily censored in order to make
sure that no-one gets hold of them.

This seems to be part of our nature. Regardless of how small the
circulation, we want to publish and we want to publish many titles. We
want to cover things that do not get coverage anywhere else because
there is demand for that. Since such demand does exist, it cannot be

When some people run out of ideas and start complaining about the
quality of our democracy, I think they should be embarrassed given all
I have just said. We have really made a lot of progress in this
respect. I certainly think that the authorities cannot claim credit
for that. It is what society demands.

I think it would be appropriate to finish on this happy note and let
people focus on more pleasant things. We will meet each other next
year, once you have got over the New Year celebrations. I think that
this has been a very successful year, the most successful year since
independence. With God's help, I hope that next year will be even more
successful. I am an eternal optimist. So far, all my wishes, almost
all my resolutions for this year have come true. Since it has worked,
I will have many more resolutions for next year. I suggest that you
join me in making these resolutions and let us ensure that they all
come true. Again, I wish you a happy New Year.