Georgia doesn’t have a ‘poor governance’ problem

Country isn’t crippled by ‘abuse of informal power,’ writes Georgian MP.

By Sophie Katsarava

The normally clear-eyed author of “Eastern Europe’s problem isn’t Russia” (POLITICO, February 20) must have misplaced his spectacles. His assertion that Russia is less of a threat to Georgia than “poor governance and abuse of informal power” is entirely misguided.

This unfortunate argument will please Moscow as much as it undermines Europe. It will astonish the refugees displaced by Russia’s occupation of 20 percent of Georgian sovereign territory, and strike sentient Georgian citizens as divorced from a deep historical reality.

The facts paint a dramatically different picture. Georgia is sixth out of 189 countries in terms of ease of doing business, according to the World Bank Group. We are seventh among 82 countries in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World and 17th in the Heritage Foundation’s index.

The Worldwide Governance Indicators also ranks Georgia among top 20 European countries when it comes to rule of law, control of corruption, government effectiveness and regulatory quality. These results are clearly not the consequence of “poor governance.”

Georgia is a major trading hub, with free-trade agreements with the European Union, China, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Turkey, among others.

Georgia welcomes the global marketplace competition, which, as they say, will be the rising tide of prosperity that lifts all boats.

Yet Thomas de Waal spins an inaccurate theory that the country’s new port at Anaklia on the Black Sea is somehow imperiled by internal politics and “foreign ill-wishers.”

Among them, de Waal notes without irony, is the same Russia whose malign influence he earlier dismissed. Others include competitors for maritime commercial port facilities in the Black Sea. But why would it be otherwise? Georgia welcomes the global marketplace competition, which, as they say, will be the rising tide of prosperity that lifts all boats.

Also, since the publication of de Waal’s article, TBC Bank — one of the Anaklia’s project’s partners —  has agreed to pay a fine of 1 million Georgian lari (about €330,000) for a legal technicality in 2007-2008 involving two principals of the bank. In fact, the National Bank of Georgia’s statement on the issue lauded TBC’s good management, high-quality corporate governance and business acumen.

Anaklia is here to stay, and is sure to prosper thanks to its location, its unprecedented capacity, its access to huge markets, and Georgia’s highly favorable business environment and good governance. That’s why it has been a priority of successive “Georgian Dream” governments.

MP Sophie Katsarava is the chair of the Georgian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee

This opinion first appeared in Politico on February 27, 2019.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian)