Georgian military budget to surge by 70% next year

The Georgian military budget will be increased by 70 percent next year, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze declared in a traditional Monday interview on national radio. The Georgian 2002 budget envisaged $18m per month for military purposes, while, in fact, only $6m were allocated monthly.

According to the President, this is an unprecedented growth in military expenses for Georgia, as well as for highly developed countries. However, in monetary terms this is not a large sum, he admitted. The increase in the financing of the armed forces will be carried out at the cost of measures aimed at legalizing "the shadow sector" of the Georgian economy, he said. According to experts' estimations, this sector is some 70-80 percent of the Georgian economy.

Shevardnadze stressed that the construction of armed forces was a priority for the country, however the emphasis would be made on the quality of the army and the number of troops would be decreased. In this respect, he pointed to great assistance of the USA in training Georgian servicemen.

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