Slowness as a Policy and Habit
02 July, 2015
Slowness as a Policy and Habit
Transactions are slowing down in Georgia. You can feel it in business and all of the administrative acts of life. If you need some paper to make something happen, things just seem to move more slowly. I was leaving Tbilisi recently and there was a long line in the airport to go through passport control.

It was not only that the process was taking a very long time, those who worked there were slow. They would take the passport, look
at it, and wait for a while. Look off into space. Consider their finger nails. It was almost as if they were waiting for something. The flights of most of the people in line had already started boarding. All the flights ended up leaving late and I would guess some people may have missed their flights. Why did this happen? Why did the people processing passports display such a nonchalant attitude? Is this part of the Interior Ministry’s reorganization?
I have seen similar things happen in other places as well. The Hall of Justice seems to be slow. I am guessing the employees, particularly those who worked under the old government, are afraid to lose their jobs. The people who worked under Alasania in the Defense Ministry who got thrown in jail several months ago and quietly let out recently, were very junior. They were put in jail for rigging a tender. That was not the real reason of course, but that was the public reason. Such an action has caused everyone involved in procurement to tread very slowly and carefully. Some of those thrown in jail were more or less just pencil-pushers who signed documents. With things such as these being within the realm of the possible, one can imagine all the other document signers slowing down quite a bit.
Notaries still work with a paper-based system. But they also seem to have slowed down even beyond the impediments such a system sets. Is it fear of prosecution? Or do they fear that if they let through a transaction that might upset one side or another, so they play it safe by slowing things down in order to have time to ponder the circumstances? In most of the world, transactions are moving from paper to computers and everybody is making a great effort to speed them up. Georgia still uses attorneys for everything, though. There are heavy requirements for many tiny administrative acts to become included into the public registry; doing so requires someone to go to to a Hall of Justice, sign things and all that jazz. The only way around that is to allow somebody (namely, an attorney) to do it in your stead. The rest of the world is moving to a system of digital tokens or that of responsibilities to independently register acts online. But not Georgia, apparently.
Georgia is now working on slowing things down even more. It seems like there is not a single new law implemented that doesn’t call for a new administrative barrier or entity to come into existence to take a look at some papers and then pass them on. New visa and labor laws are a stark example of that.
All of this slowness in all the wrong places isn’t making people happy, be they residents, businesspeople, investors or anyone else. So that brings us back to the unhappy customs officer staring off into space at the airport, my passport in hand, with a line of people behind him fearfully looking at their watches and an empty departure lounge in front of him full of frowning airline employees. He was unhappy and frustrated, and he held all the people waiting for him in contempt. He hated us. It is a feeling I have not felt in so many years in Georgia while going through what should have been a simple administrative act. What causes this frustration? Could it be that all these slow transactions come with an emotional cost?

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