Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Titivating Tbilisi

After this morning's experience in the taxi I have to be very careful with the spelling of the first word in the title!

Mr Sakaashvili, our president (in Georgia, by the black sea) is big on presentation. It reminds me of a certain prime minister who will soon cease his activities. Unlike the latter, however, Sakaashvili is into leaving a visible trace - perhaps a bit like Mitterand of France. Fountains are shooting up everywhere, a golden St George has risen into the sky in Freedom (Tavisupleba) Square, in the countryside whole villages share the same colour of metal garden gates - different colours for different villages, theatres in Tbilisi have been renovated, railway stations have been painted, ditto blocks of flats near main roads.....in the last week or so the bridge across the Mtkvari river was getting much attention, with concrete lumps appearing and then being covered in some nicer stone... then yesterday 4 huge bronze lions appeared, two at either end of the bridge, baring their teeth at the approaching traffic. Rrrrooooaaaarrr!

Meanwhile people say that little has changed in the hospitals, though these are being privatised in a PFI sort of arrangement. Not entirely convinced about that, and also what I hear about the contracts seems a bid dodgy (7 year contracts only?). Already the changes in the health service mean that doctors concentrate on 'sexy' treatments, leaving behind the Alzheimers and other uninteresting conditions. Electricity prices are going up, gas has gone up by 50%, interesting taxes are being introduced here, there and everywhere. It's a bit panem et circenses, but not a lot of panem. Will he win the next election, in 2008? He needs to make the population feel better - not sure that that is the case at the moment.

Oh yes, and on Sunday evening, about a mile from my house, and at the busiest time of the evening, an opposition politician was assassinated in the main street. Tbilisi municipality has its own little ways of suddenly removing property from people because it says they bought it illegally - thus a whole row of restaurants on the left bank was suddenly pulled down; the Green party lost its offices because allegedly the municipal department which rented them their property had also done so illegally. Would you invest in this country? I'm not sure yet....