After the downfall of the Tsar Empire, Georgia gained her independence on May 26th, 1918 – a dream that lasted only three years, until Stalin’s homeland was again compelled to be part to the new USSR. President Mikhail Saakashvili chose this memorable Georgian day to announce the formal conveyance of Parliament to Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city.
This decision is the result of a double political will, namely decentralisation and institutional protection, quelling potential threats and attacks from pro-Russian separatists. Since rising to power in 2004, President Saakashvili has primarily focused his attention on the economy, in order to break the country out of its dismal economic performance that followed in the post-Soviet period. This reflects just a few of the goals set by Saakashvili’s administration, in addition to the fight against corruption in the business world of Georgia.
In the economic sector, Georgia has committed to liberal reforms, which has resulted in a significant increase in foreign direct investment. In 2011, Georgia received $800 million of foreign direct investment, which is well below foreign direct investment received in 2007 ($2 billion), but that was just before the war with Russia in 2008, which significantly weakened Georgia’s economy.
Corruption is another major obstacle that Saakashvili’s administration promised to fight against. Overall, they have succeeded tremendously, with Georgia exceeding Italy in 2011 when it comes to corruption reported, according to rankings by Transparency International. In 2002, 60% of the firms in Georgia reported that corruption was seen as an obstacle to conduct business, yet in 2005, that percentage was cut down to 39%.
The relocation of Parliament to Kutaisi is also a strategic move, keeping in mind other Georgian cities beyond the capital, and new project cities such as Lazika, with its proximity to the Black Sea, as well as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan’s pipeline.
Indeed, improving business environment remains a long-term goal for the country, especially since it has continuously suffered from destabilisation attempts. The latent conflict with Russia and political tensions in breakaway regions continues to affect the whole economy and the country’s stability.
Moving the location of Parliament is also a way to regionally scatter the economic and political points of power. Indeed, the political context is tense, and it is not a matter of merely moving people. In October, the parliamentary elections will he held, and Saakashvili will face a new opponent in the Georgian political landscape: Bidzina Ivanishvili. However, this man’s past is more than just questionable.
Ivanishvili amassed his fortune in Russia, after the breakup of the Soviet power. Now that he has an estimated worth of more than $4 billion, he is after the Presidential seat in Georgia. This prospect should worry the people of Georgia even more than his outward pro-Russian tropisms, as the future of Georgia is at stake, as well as the sovereignty of Georgia as a country without strings being pulled by Moscow.