Exclusive Interview with Businessman and Politician Bidzina Ivanishvili
11 November, 2011
Exclusive Interview with Businessman and Politician Bidzina Ivanishvili

Izo Rikadze

Georgian public is still “revolving” around billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili who has recently entered politics and offered different rules of the game not only to the politicians but the entire public. 

Palitra Media which incorporates Georgian Journal newspaper, had the pleasure to conduct an extensive exclusive video interview with the businessman-turned-politician. Georgian Journal presents here an abridged version of the interview. We did our best to include all its key moments.Bidzina Ivanishvili has been conducting charitable activities since 1991. By and

large, he spent GEL 1,156,081,151 for various causes in Georgia from 2005 to 2010. It must be noted that Ivanishvili does not have his own media outlet and does not spend money on direct or indirect advertisement. Yet, every word he utters becomes the subject of discussions in the Internet, press, radio or TV.

 

A month-long story after the political statement

A: I’d like to sum up the last month of my political activity. Through me Saakashvili successfully demonstrated how he treats law, how he uses media and how he strangles Georgian people. My example can be the best in this regard because only through quick and numerous violations of law has he managed to terminate Georgian citizenship for me and my wife. In my case, one may somehow find something to cling on. Though, in the case of my wife there was nothing to question or dispute. His actions revealed his real face and his attitude to the law and order. He himself removed the mask from his face. It was good not only for Georgians but for Europe and America as well. The whole civilized world saw how Saakashvili cares for the law. He showed the similar violence regarding the cash transportation vehicle of the Cartu Bank, which was arrested for no apparent reason during its casual daily operation. Next, we witnessed the National Bank of Georgia entering the Cartu Bank for revision instead of supporting the commercial bank. This was another obvious instance of his frivolous attitude toward using State organizations at whim.

The most positive thing I have seen during the last month, occurred in front of the Cartu Bank few days ago. I did not doubt that it would happen. This is a very good example for those who had illusions that people would have naively believed in the boneless plan of Saakashvili. In reality, it was my plan which came true by 95%. Everything took exactly the course which I aimed at analytically. I sized everything up correctly and this fact strengthened and boosted my determination and courage. I forgot that I had been hesitating during the decision-making. It seems it is my job to help my homeland, my country win. We face a problem of one specific person. It is not about defeating Saakashvili. It is about helping our country win.

Saakashvili and his ideological masterminds failed to see the Georgian spirit and performed requiem for it. I knew the mood of the people. The Georgian people showed an excellent example to many skeptics that not everything goes on the way some persons wish to.

Much-talked-about press conference

A: It is understandable that the most of the journalists came “prepared”. It was expected. We did not have any instrument to counter it. These journalists managed to fool only a tiny portion of public. They created an illusion of the badly organized press conference. I do not think so. But we were hosts. So I also want to join Tripolski (the press secretary of the businessman – D.G & I. R.) in his apologies. The situation was further exacerbated by the phone calls to the journalists and the pressure exerted on them in order to fail the press conference. For them, the best outcome would have been the termination of the press-conference. But they failed because journalists were highly mobilized, not because we had a strong team.

No one really searched their note books as someone alleged on TV. We have the tape proving our case. The recordung shows clearly that no security guard had ever harassed any journalist. In my opinion, the press conference went on just fine. Once again I will tell your colleagues: do not alienate yourselves from public! All of us should stand together. They should not feel ashamed to look into the eyes of their sons and daughters. They need to come out freely in the public; not feel embarrassed when they face the Georgian people. There is still time to make correct judgments. The machine of lies is dead. Don’t let them serve the falsehood of others, let them be objective. I don’t demand support; I request objectiveness. Let them mind that if they continue as they are doing now, one day they will find themselves outcasts of Georgian society.

In addition, I would like to appeal to the traffic police and other law enforcers. Every one of us knows what is going on; and the public clearly demonstrated its formidable ability to consolidate. I am asking with all my heart – please be unbiased, confront unlawfulness with law… Do not look for the people who take to streets and turn the events in this way. We will not allow it! We have to come to power without street actions; by means of elections, in a civilized way. Therefore, I would like to appeal to every Georgian citizen: please, challenge unlawfulness with law; let every one of us achieve evolution in ourselves; overcome fear! Face fear, lies and bias at your jobs, respond to them with law and objectiveness. It is in this way that we are going to win!

 

Once a waste disposer, now a billionaire

Q: We’ve heard that before going into business you used to work as a waste desposer.

A: I came to Tbilisi with 50 Soviet rubles which my mom had borrowed from neighbors. I was not registered in the city as its resident. So, I could get only a second-rate job here. At the time a Mechanical Factory was looking for a waste desposer. The factory workshop was hard to clean and tidy up. It was full of metallic debris that would remain after cutting operations. Still, I accepted the tough job. I was a 17 year boy with a strong character; so I managed to get over it. In the first year I did not even try to apply to an institute. I am proud of all these now. I used to tidy up not only the metal workshop but also the yard of the factory. There was this Kurd by the name of Jimo. He too worked there. I am trying to find him but in vein so far. Maybe he’ll appear after this interview? When I started to take the exams, Jimo frequently replaced me. In other instanses, I would do his job. I love Kurds very much. Godmother of my child is Roza. She is a Kurd. We view her as a member of our family. By the way, I also used take care of public toilettes of the factory. I did not hate the work. I am proud of my work in the factory. It was a huge experience for me. It was there that I learnt to respect the work of others. Saakashvili cannot do it.

Saakashvili torments the entire population of Georgia with his ill-fated reforms. He has not got a slightest feeling of love towards the people. Elementary humanity is also alien to him. No reform is worth the pain of even one man.

All these remined the Bolshevik methods. If Saakashvili had done the things, I have been doing since the age of four in the village, he would not have behaved the way he does. When your family lives in depravity, children too need to do anything whatever they can. When I was five years old, I fulfilled the work of a shepherd together with another boy older than me. The positive point about the village and poor families is that a child learns to love labor, learns to know its value. If you have not tasted labor, it would be hard for you to know the value of other’s labor. That is Saakashvili. He has a big problem because he has not really labored much in his life. To our misfortune, in the past he doped the Georgian people, including me.

 

Expected elections and threat of rigging

Q: You are saying no to street actions and revolutions. Let us take the worst scenario: Imagine the Authorities drag out the solution of your citizenship issue by means of various machinations but you still take part in the elections indirectly and face a massive rigging. What would you do in that case?

A: On 25 November we are going to form a new public movement. I have the right to do it, irrespective of my citizenship. In the same way, we will also found a new political party, even without me. One of my relatives will be there. Take my son, Uta. He can be there with his team to highlight the point that Ivanishvili is in the game. This will be good for the pre-election concentration. Some sort of unity with two parties will be achieved. These are Republicans and Alasania’s movement. On top of it, we will collaborate with the entire range of opposition parties. We do not plan the outright unity with every one of them. I think it is not necessary. The unity would not matter much if the Georgian population and international community would not be able to force Saakashvili return to the lawfulness and give the citizenship back to me. The main thing is to follow the correct orientation. Votes of Georgian population will be distributed fairly. Saakashvili cannot just write another figure ‘5’ next to 5% to make it 55%. Georgian population and international community will not accept it. If you mean that I may hide in a hole somewhere in the case of total rigging then rest assured that it will never happen. We will defend our votes without fail. Yet, I am convinced that the difference will be so striking and the National Movement will be so deeply humiliated that no defensive efforts would be needed any more.

Q: If your citizenship cannot be redeemed, will your son Uta lead the new party?

A: I have already noted earlier that Uta may be joining the new political force. But I do not want him to engage himself in politics too actively because it would harm his studies. He is an innocent man with overly simple views on many things which I can overcome easily thanks to my experience. While Uta may be in politics to help solve the funding issue and resonate the name of Ivanishvili, I and my wife are against the termination of his studies. There will be no need in his full engagement anyway.

Q: You said you would defend the votes. How can you do it if such action is the order of the day?

A: I think it is premature to give more details on this issue. I can only say that our reaction will be adequate. Such things always come easy to me. I am capable of swift self-mobilization in critical situations. Our opponents lack such a faculty. I have never said this anywhere before. During the war everyone witnessed failure of their management in the critical situation.

Nothing dramatic will happen. Georgian people is wise. Everything is going to remain within the frames of the law. Through elections we will make them abdicate the power without violence.

 

“NATO has no alternative”

Q: The well-known press conference did not help us see your position on NATO.

A: Cooperation with NATO is of paramount importance to Georgia. As I noted at the press-conference, unfortunately Mikheil Saakashvili cast away the perspective of Georgian integration into NATO into a distant future. The North Atlantic Alliance should be viewed as the cornerstone of our partnership; both as regards military ties and irreversible process of democratic development. However, Georgia made backward steps. Therefore, at the given stage it is Mikheil Saakashvili who thwarted Georgian efforts to join NATO. Partnership with NATO is a priority for us. Our aim is to deepen this partnership in future by means of developing democratic institutions in Georgia. We will work very actively to realize our NATO aspirations. There is no alternative to NATO for us.

 

Constitution of the country and an economic model

Q: You talked about the need to amend the Constitution. What is your favorite Constitutional model?

A: I accept the one which is accepted by the people of Georgia. I do not decide on this topic.  We are going to adopt the type of Constitution based on the wish of Georgian population, not Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Q: The current Government chose Singapore as a model for our country. What is your favorite economic model for Georgia?

A: Civilized country has borders, rule of  law, pluralistic society, fair elections, media freedom, balanced distribution of power and so on. We will have to build our country based on these values. After that the introduction of right economic laws would be an easy job. Georgian experts will help do that. The tax system would be normalized and become acceptable for everybody. Business hates the situation when bureaucrats violate rules of the game. There are numerous options of an economic model out there to choose the most suitable from. Believe me, it would be the easiest part of our efforts to select the relevant option. The main problem is to keep bureaucrats away from interfering in business.

 

Charity

Q: Apart from vast charitable donations, don’t you have a wish to establish a minor enterprise, say, in your home area (Imereti region)?

A: I am not the one who never errs.  Charity and help is not the best option to support the country. In an ideal situation, the number of created businesses should be big enough to employ as much population as possible. I had such an attempt. The first thing I did was to open a commercial bank Cartu. I conceived it as an investment bank. I thought the bank would facilitate attraction of investments. I used to remind previous and current Governments that I wanted to spend my assets and competence entirely on attraction of investments. To my surprise, however, the Georgian market could not utilize more than 150 million. The main problem is the creation of right environment. Investments of a single man won’t make weather. Today investment uptake capacity is restricted in Georgia. One person will not be able to change the status quo. Businesses – be they large or small – equally need management. If I were to set up small businesses, I would have to abandon ongoing large businesses. This is my excuse for not establishing small businesses. Once I offered Saakashvili that I would invest one billion to revive agriculture but the processes were dragged out. Moreover, I became a victim of my own mistakes.

 

Putin and Khodorkovski

Q: I want to ask you a question about Khodorkovski. World over, he is recognized as a personal inmate of Putin. What do you think about it?

A: I was against the so called “zalogovie” auctions where Khodorkovski purchased Yukos absolutely illegally. If we violate law, we cannot ask others to observe it. We can call others to order after we put ourselves in order. I was one of his competitors on that auction. In fact, I intended not to purchase Yukos but thwart the illegality. Unfortunately, I failed. From that point on, a long row of law violations started but Khodorkovski was pinpointed selectively. I do not agree with the situation when the world highlights only the detention of Khodorkovski. Perhaps my opponents would object to me,  saying that I should not remind such things to a man who is in a dire situation. But what can I do? Shall we erase all the history and start everything from the middle? After all, I agree with those who say that Khodorkovski was punished selectively. Even so, I think the issue must be viewed from a greater perspective, in complexity.

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