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Georgia on our Minds

November 6, 2007

Picture by AFP via Al Jazeera

With protesters taking to the streets in the largest numbers since the Rose Revolution of 2003, the durability of Georgia’s reforms are being closely scrutinized. In the Commonwealth of Independent States, where democratic governance is in painfully short supply, Georgia has taken on the role of a test case for the advance democratic reform. As a result, a range of audiences are paying particularly close attention to developments in that country. Despite the considerable hurdles of impoverishment (GNI per capita under $800) and the legacy of Soviet institutional culture, Georgia, a country of less than 5 million, has managed to propel itself to the 18th place (from 112th) on the World Bank Doing Business report and has also made demonstrable progress on corruption in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index. Last month, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services raised its outlook on Georgia to positive from stable on strong economic growth prospects despite a challenging external environment.

An article in the New York Times touches on some of the reforms that distinguish Georgia within what it describes as “a region with a history of corrupt, brutal and autocratic governments.”

[The government] has set new standards for education, increased tax collection and revenue-generation, improved the readiness of the country’s once feeble army and repaired Soviet-era infrastructure to the degree that the country, once plagued by blackouts, now has a reliable electricity supply.

At the same time, the Times piece hits on the criticism that represents a key obstacle to institutionalizing democratic governance, namely that there is no established and credible counterweight to the current leadership: “opponents accuse [President Saakashvili] of hoarding and abusing power, and of running the nation through a clique that will neither tolerate dissent nor engage in dialogue with the opposition.”

Georgia, along with Ukraine, is the only non-Baltic former Soviet republic to achieve a meaningful degree of progress on key governance reforms. As the turmoil of the last days makes abundantly clear, however, bringing about the next, more mature set of reforms will be an enormously difficult task.

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One Comment
  1. Georgia is making its way to recovery after having war with Russia. However, even before the war, there is this village in Georgia called Serenbe wherein they built an extensive recycling facilities for farms and water processing center. The village was even hailed amongst the first eco-focused communities. They produce less waste that means lower costs. It sounds like Serenbe is quite the place to live.

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