Mr. Prime Minister, members of the MCA Board and the Cabinet, ladies and gentlemen:
Georgia starts the New Year facing growing regional security challenges, as well as obstacles at home, that hamper the growth of the economy and the creation of badly needed jobs. The United States, as Georgia’s strategic partner, is determined to work together with others in the international community, including Europe, China and Japan, to do everything we can to support the people and the government of Georgia in addressing these challenges.
One thing is clear: we must not ignore the strong economic component underlying Georgia’s security. The more we can work together to build a strong domestic agricultural and industrial economy, to develop trade and energy links along the New Silk Road, and to bring parties across the domestic political spectrum together to focus on the common tasks at hand – the better Georgia will be able to weather the days ahead. Of course, deterrence and diplomacy will also play their part – but economics is just as important if not more so.
Today’s event signals the critical role that infrastructure and education play in this process. We are marking 10 years of partnership between Georgia and MCC. The first Compact focused on infrastructure, especially the road system in Samske-Javakheti. The second Compact signed last year focuses on education. These projects serve to enhance the fundamentals of Georgia’s economy, to make it stronger and more resilient. Never has this been more important than now, given the uncertain security picture in the region.
Education is an especially critical element. Georgia’s young people are eager to find their place in the global economy and help ensure that Georgia chooses its path forward free of outside pressure or interference. The second MCC compact will serve as a dramatic shot in the arm to Georgia’s education sector, bringing cutting-edge American universities like San Diego State University into partnership with Georgian universities to invest in Science, Technology, Education and Math. With these skills, I have no doubt that young Georgians will find themselves scooped up by companies looking for talent. Some of these companies, I am confident, will be from the United States.
We are honored that the Prime Minister and so many members of his Government and other dignitaries are here today – and we may ask ourselves: why so many VIP’s? Of course developing the economy is important, but what is the big deal about MCC? The answer in part is scale: significant U.S. taxpayer resources have been dedicated to MCC efforts in Georgia over the past decade – nearly 600 million dollars, over a billion lari. Today’s event acknowledges that these are significant sums and that we all together bear a responsibility for ensuring they are spent wisely and accomplish their vital goals.
I also view the high level of representation today as a sign of the deep partnership between the U.S. and Georgia. At this critical time in the nation’s history, we in the United States are honored to be trusted and valued by the proud, ancient culture of Georgia and by those leaders who have been democratically selected to lead the country through its current challenges.
My commitment to you is that we will continue to stand by your side. Gilotsavt and gaumarjos!