Donors pledge USD 4.5 billion to Georgia
A global donors meeting on Wednesday pledged billions to help Georgia meet its social and economic needs.23 October 2008
BRUSSELS - A global donors meeting on Wednesday pledged USD 4.55 billion (EUR 3.5 billion) in aid to conflict-stricken Georgia, much higher than anticipated, the EU commission announced.
The sum included EUR 2.8 billion of public funding to meet Georgia's urgent post-conflict "and priority investment needs".
The amount raised at the one-day conference "is more than we had thought and therefore I think it is a day of joy", EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told a news conference.
The meeting, attended by 67 nations and financial institutions, was co-hosted by the EU and the World Bank.
The pledged grants and loans, some of which were made previously, beat most of the predictions amid a global financial crisis.
Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, who attended the conference, told reporters that his country was "deeply moved and humbled by the demonstration of solidarity that we have received".
The United States, pledging USD 1 billion through 2011, was the biggest donor, followed by substantial donations from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and Japan.
"We share a commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity, to its economic and democratic development, and to its integration with neighbouring countries and international institutions", said Henrietta Fore, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The aim was to raise at least USD 3.25 billion in aid through 2011, the sum which a "joint needs assessment" study deemed necessary to rebuild Georgia and boost its economic growth.
The funding will be used first for urgent social needs, including dealing with the 65,000 people displaced within Georgia by the conflict and repairing infrastructure.
Second, there will be funding to deal with Georgia's budgetary shortfall, for paying wages, pensions and other government services.
Donors also pledged funds to support Georgia's commercial banks, through loans, equity and guarantees.
EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said the global community had a "moral imperative" to help conflict-hit Georgia, as he spoke of the commission's pledge of EUR 500 million through 2011 for reconstruction.
Behind the pledges of help, some delegates stressed the need to pull Georgia further towards full democracy and a market economy.
"We must not let the crisis distract Georgia from its political and economic reform efforts", said Barroso.
"We want to ask the Georgian government to put more efforts towards democratisation and to shift towards a market economy", Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told AFP.
Russian troops and tanks rolled into Georgia on 8 August to push back a Georgian military effort to retake South Ossetia from Moscow-backed separatists.
Russia since withdrew from most of Georgia in line with an EU-brokered ceasefire, but Tbilisi is furious at the continued presence of 7,600 Russian troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Georgia accuses Russia of annexing the territories.
[AFP / Expatica]