TBILISI, DFWatch – During a speech at Georgetown University in Washington, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili said that his first presidential salary was 40 dollars and the state treasury was completely empty when he came to government in what is called the rose revolution in November 2003.
Saakashvili’s remark came as he was explaining how his country had succeeded. The president remarked that during those times officials were so corrupt that people didn’t even see any point in paying fees.
“When I entered my office, can you imagine, even the government officials didn’t have a salary. I received the first envelope two weeks later and this was my first compensation; if you can imagine, 20 USA dollars. I was concerned but they told me that it was my presidential salary,” Saakashvili said, and added that the previous president received the same salary.
To readers not familiar with Georgian history, it should be pointed out that before Saakashvili became an opposition politician, he served first as a member of parliament and then inside the Shevardnadze government as Minister of Justice for years.
Seen on this background, it appears puzzling to many people in Georgia how he as justice minister could not know his president’s salary if it was that low.
“I got interested in my predecessor and they answered that he also had been receiving the same amount for years. I of course said that I couldn’t live on this salary, but it turned out that the treasury was completely empty,” Saakashvili said.
He explains that they appealed to international organizations for financial support. Saakashvili also says that he got an idea about how he could overcome the corruption in the country.
“I thought then that if we increased the public fees by 40 percents, I would consider it a big success. When we doubled the income this way, look where we are now, we decreased the fees by 60%. By this step the indicator of the public fees still increased 20 times. It was exactly an indicator of how much they were stealing before,” the Georgian president said.
Saakashvili is currently touring the U.S. holding meetings with representatives of both government and the rest of American society. On January 30, the president had a meeting with the U.S. president Barack Obama at the Oval Office of the White House. He also met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on February 2.