Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 144

At least ten Georgian cabinet ministers resigned yesterday, following the resignation of State Minister (equivalent of prime minister) Niko Lekishvili. President Eduard Shevardnadze made public yesterday his intention to replace most of the twenty-two ministers. He also announced the creation of a ministry responsible for economic reconstruction in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the establishment of a presidential special commission to combat corruption.

At the same time, Shevardnadze endorsed Finance Minister Mikhail Chkuaseli’s plan to legalize the private capital now hidden in the shadow economy, in order to increase legal internal investment and the state’s tax base. “Even Mkhedrioni [criminally tinged opposition and business group]” capital is eligible for legal and fiscal amnesty, Shevardnadze and Chkuaseli suggested.

Parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania suggested, moreover, that Shevardnadze would offer cabinet posts to “opposition representatives who are prepared to work constructively.” Under the constitution, the president nominates cabinet ministers and the parliament confirms the nominations. Local reports suggest that the incumbent ministers of Defense, Internal Affairs and State Security are likely to remain in their posts. (Prime News, Radio Tbilisi, July 26 and 27)

It was officially announced this morning that Georgia’s ambassador to Russia, Vazha Lortkipanidze, is the new State Minister (equivalent of prime minister) in place of Lekishvili. (Georgian TV, July 28)