The first six months of 2018 turned out to be rather difficult for Georgia. The situation in the country was heated to the brink by the series of protests leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister. The new government faced a range of acute issues – from economic and judicial reforms to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
Domestic policy: “Small government” and judicial reform
The resignation of Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili was partially caused by his differences in views with Georgia’s ruling party “Georgian Dream” and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili. “There are certain differences between me and the ruling party, in particular, regarding the efficiency of the economic policy. I would like to point out that recently we have had different opinions with the party leader on a range of fundamental issues”, Kvirikashvili said. However, no explanation relating to specific fundamental differences followed this rather ambitious statement. After a while, Kvirikashvili left the ruling party as well.
Giorgi Kvirikashvili was elected the Prime Minister of Georgia in December 2015. From 2012 to 2015 he held a number of exalted posts: he was Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice Premier and the Minister of Economy. The Prime Minister, whose main focus was economy, was replaced by a young Mamuka Bakhtadze, who also emphasized the importance of economy.
However, despite all the expectations, the first statement of the new head of state was focused on the country’s foreign policy, rather than on its economy. “Our main priority is Georgia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic space”. These were his first words after his nomination by the ruling party.
The concept of “small government” followed. Bakhtadze downsized the government from 14 to 10 ministers and is planning to minimize the administrative budget costs for 100 mln lari ($40.82 mln). He also intends to impart an innovative profile to economic reforms.
Nevertheless, this government faces another important problem, the judicial reform, the minefield of which lies in appointing the chief prosecutor. The government has clearly experienced problems resulting from the underqualified investigation of the two murdered schoolboys case by the prosecutor’s office. The citizens of Tbilisi were outraged by the biased investigation, which shielded the members of the influential prosecutor’s family. Powerful street protests both in and outside of Tbilisi boggled the minds of authorities and encouraged the government to react. Along with the Prime Minister, the attorney general has also resigned. Obviously, it is important now not only who will become theattorney general, but also how he is going to be elected and how efficient his control system is going to be. It is also interesting what the first steps of the newly appointed Prime Minister will be in this rather critical situation.
Economy: Regular pace
As for the economic growth, positive trends can be observed. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the country’s economy grew by 7.5% compared to the same period last year, while its average real growth made up 6.1% during the first 5 months of 2018. “Roughly estimated, May 2018 saw considerable growth in transport, manufacturing, recycling, trade, finances, as well as in hotel and restaurant business compared to the same period last year”, says Geostat report. The positive dynamics that secured Georgia’s economic growth in transportation were mainly achieved by the progress in aviation.
Within the period from January to May 2018 the number of civil flights increased by 10.5%. The situation is also improving in terms of air freight.
Three Georgian airlines have already been authorized by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). According to the data provided by Georgian Civil Aviation Agency of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, within the framework of authorizing airlines of non-EU members states (EU safety authorization for foreign air operators – PART-TCO), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has granted single air clearance to GEO SKY, a Georgian freight airline.
With this authorization, the airline gets the right to operate in 28 EASA member states and four countries of European Free Trade Association based on the centralized clearance.
The citizens of Tbilisi were outraged by the biased investigation, which shielded the members of the influential prosecutor’s family
Currently, the fleet of the airline operator consists of two Boeing B747 aircrafts. The airline is based in Baku airport and provides freight transportation to the Emirates and Afghanistan (supplying the US peacekeeping mission with food). GEO SKY has Georgian aircraft, engineering, and technical staff. Air clearance will significantly increase GEO SKY operation in the European aviation market and will contribute to further development of the airline.
Foreign policy: Georgia heading for NATO
According to the statement made by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell, the USA is building up military assistance for Georgia and Ukraine.
“We are building up the means of self-defense for those states most directly threatened by Russian militarily, Ukraine and Georgia. We have lifted the previous administration’s restrictions on providing lethal aid and helped those states acquire much-needed defensive weapons”, Mitchell noted addressing the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
It is not clear exactly what military assistance and what kind of weapons the USA intends to provide to Georgia. According to the widespread information, in addition to Javelin anti-missile systems, the USA will probably supply Georgia with Stinger air-defense systems.
Addressing the Parliament, the acting Minister of Defence Levan Izoria said: “We have been promised that in the nearest future Georgia will receive modern Stinger air-defense systems ”.
If US Congress approves this decision, Georgia will follow Lithuania and Latvia and become the third country in the post-Soviet space to get an anti-missile system. Getting new weapons is an important component for modernizing Georgia’s army. The summit taking place in July will show exactly how close Georgia really is to NATO.