The messenger logo

Wealth, not civil service leads many in Georgia to enter politics

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, January 22
Georgian society has long held on to the belief that obtaining a high political position paves the way to wealth. One can remember several names when high-ranking political figures have become rich soon after retiring from their posts.

This is exemplified by the recent scandal involving the former Defense Minister of the United National Movement Government, Davit Kezerashvili. During his time as minister, he controled various business activities in Georgia. Soon after retiring from his position, the turnover of the companies controlled by him reached almost a billion. There is a tendency of those who served in the government to become a wealthy rich businessperson afterwards.

After taking office, Mikheil Saakashvili addressed this tendency and achieved visible success in combating corruption on the low level. That means that low-level public servants were severely persecuted. However, elite or high-level corruption remained, as evidenced by the various cases where high-ranking officials were involved in the misuse of budgetary funds.

Current Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili stated recently that Kezerashvili, with the support of the UNM, appropriated up to 1 billion GEL in property from Georgian businessmen. Gharibashvili alleged that overall the UNM had appropriated various types of property from legal owners totaling nearly 7 billion GEL.

He has since asked the Prosecutor’s Office to study these cases.

Analysts and politicians believe that by investigating these cases, they will be able to trace Kezerashvili’s business activities to former President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Former MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze says that if Kezerashvili (currently being held by French officials) is extradited to Georgia, the whole cascade of economic violations will be opened.

Transparency International Georgia’s recent research reveals that around 40 parliament members have direct or indirect links with business. This includes representatives from the majority, as well as the opposition.

The promises made by Georgian Dream coalition leaders to fight corruption are challenged by the fact that certain state officials could not resist the temptation of receiving extra financial benefits from their political positions. Several approaches have been put forth to combat such developments, and to control the financial activities of Georgia’s current political leaders more efficiently.

A popular saying in Georgia goes something like this:

In the West, people get money and then go into politics, whereas, here in Georgia, people go into politics to get money.