Liberalism and Democracy in Georgia
11 November, 2010
Liberalism and Democracy in Georgia

‘Assessment of situation by the UN  Development Program is much more adequate’


Events abounded last week. If anything, exposing of espionage network on the Day of Russian Intelligence looked rather impressive.

The point is, to this day we cannot let go the habit of showy performances. The Authorities turned a potentially big issue into an object of irony through the documentary aired on a private TV channel. The issue initiated an interview with expert Iago  Kachkachishvili:

Q: The arrest of

Russian agents generated a lot of rumors. Russia ascribed everything to the fantasy of Saakashvili, stating that it would defend its citizens everywhere and with all its means. Meanwhile, in Georgia a televised film caused certain discontent. Why  was  the material offered to only one specific private TV channel? How worthy is this sort of propaganda? Whose interests does it serve?
A: The hype about the arrest of Russian spies so far has only two assessors. These are the Georgian Authorities, who honor themselves and their prowess for exposing of Russian spies, and Russian Authorities, who call everything fruits of Saakashvili’s fantasy and its anti-Russian campaign. The public has not received alternative information from additional sources which are supposed to control self-infatuation of Georgian Authorities.
These sources are courts, independent journalists, non-governmental organizations (local or international) and so on. It can be expected that the Russian espionage network does operate in Georgia but the public first needs to be persuaded that the Georgian Authorities did indeed catch a cat in the dark room. Perhaps, the cat was there actually.

Q: Three years passed since the November events when the Authorities heavy-handedly cracked down on the protesters who were expressing their opinion freely. Given the current situation, what could you say about Georgian social-political formation? Is it democracy without liberalism or liberalism without democracy?
A: I’d say Georgia still has little to do with democracy, especially liberal democracy. For instance, democracy pivots on the principle of fair election environment and free elections. Both tenets remain illusive in Georgia.
The ruling team always takes advantage of its majority position and adopts unilateral decisions ignoring alternative opinions that formally could be even legal (the Parliament passed last constitutional amendments in accordance with all rules).
Businessmen do not risk to air ads on opposition TV channels because they know that their private interests would suffer a fatal blow from the enraged majority. A commercial space owner is afraid of renting its property to an opposition party because here too formal or informal censure of the majority is an order of the day. So, democracy may even grow into a source of violence, if not merged with liberal values. By the way, as early as in the antique Greece, Plato used to say that. Our society has a long way to go till liberal consciousness is formed.

Q: According to the UN human development index, Georgia holds 74th place in the world. To compare, Belarus stands in the 61st place, Russia at 65th and Ukraine at 69th. At the bottom of the list of 169 countries is Zimbabwe. The study covered social security, health, education level, cultural development, criminal situation, environmental protection and human participation in decision making. Are these data undoing the exaltation of the Authorities about the Georgian rating “scratching the sky”?
A: It’s a fact that the assessment of the country’s situation made by the UN Development Program is much more complex and adequate then country’s rating by any particular characteristics (e.g. doing business). No one questions improvements in administrative and legal procedures for businesses (i.e. registration of a business and other bureaucratic mechanisms). Though, easiness of business startup and legalization is in no way a guarantee or even a pre-condition of its maintenance. For example, there is a hindering factor such as high tariffs for bank credits. However, most problematic is the fact that the economic activity in Georgia is not still free of political interests and influence. Unfortunately, political affiliation is a significant barrier to economic egalitarianism (equal distribution of private property among individual enterprises). That is why the number of people frustrated with their failed businesses is higher than the number of successful businessmen. One more thing: mass (i.e. small) business in Georgia serves the need to escape poverty rather than to accumulate wealth. Probably, every fourth car in Tbilisi is a private taxi. It is so simple to think that taxi business is easiest to start in Georgia. Nevertheless, does it mean that taxi business ensures decent social welfare?

Q: “They will need a lot of food product and hotels. Besides, it will create huge interest in the Indian population towards Georgia. Accordingly, it will be a very important project for us in terms of employment boost and tourism development,” – said Minister of Economy Vera Kobalia on her return from India, when she commented on her meeting in Bollywood. How adequate is the attempt to tie Georgian economy to Indian movie industry or how serious would it be to expect Indian population to boost the Georgian tourism?
A: Nobody argues that tourism may become one of the serious sources of income in Georgia and that the tourism potential is one of the country’s development pre-conditions. Contribution of the world movie industries would be more than welcomed. But it is also obvious that development of tourism infrastructure and - most importantly – inducing foreigners to get interested in this infrastructure will take years. This process will bring fruits only after a number of years (and not in 1-2 years as promised by the Authorities).
Second, it is necessary to select tourism destinations with care and sensibility. And well checked tourism concept must precede all the actions. Otherwise we won’t be able to avoid negative effects. We have to choose certain places for tourist attractions. Those must be places which can dissimilate the Georgian image from other countries, contrary to assimilation.

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