A short look at the 25 years of Georgia’s independence

georgiaFor the Republic of Georgia, this year is the special one. After living 70 years in the Soviet Union, Georgia celebrates its 25 years of independence. It was a hard path. But despite this country wants to move forward and it has own strategic plans, like membership process with EU and NATO. Georgia has marked Independence Day on May 26 with festivities and outdoor events in Tbilisi and other parts of the country launched with a ceremony in the capital’s Freedom Square.

98 years ago Georgia declared independence, but three years later, in February 1921, the Red Army of Bolsheviks invaded the country. Georgia declared restoration of its independence on April 9, 1991.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili, in his speech at the ceremony, said that since the restoration of independence twenty-five years ago, Georgia started moving towards freedom.

“This movement towards freedom implies creating a free society of free people. Not only free people themselves are free, but they also defend the freedoms of others. We should build the state in which the freedoms of each and every individual will be protected,” – the President said.

The President also congratulated Georgia’s Independence Day of “Abkhaz and Ossetian compatriots.”

The Prime-Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said in his speech: “Our homeland has seen many victories and pain, but achievements made so far guarantee that we will live in better and united Georgia. Huge successes and victories lay ahead for our country in benefit of our citizens. I am convinced that we will achieve these successes together with our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers; we will overcome pain and continue moving towards better future together.”

Director of Caucasian House Cultural Centre in Tbilisi, political scientist Giorgi Kanashvili says that during that period, independent Georgia had faced so many problems.

“I can say until the middle of 2000s Georgia was a hopeless country for many others. In some books, articles of that time you can see the characteristics of Georgia as a failed state. And now when I compare with that years, of course now Georgia has a much more optimistic situation. In some fields, Georgia became a leader among the post-Soviet countries. I am excluding the Baltic countries. So Georgia is the most democratic country among post-Soviet ones. And this autumn after the parliamentary elections, our parliament will be more pluralistic, so more parties will be presented in the parliament. It means more democracy in the country as well”, – said Kanashvili.

Giorgi Kanashvili evaluated the foreign policy of Georgia. He thinks the relationship with the neighboring countries is more or less stable.

“But of course, we should not forget about 20% of occupied territories and the Georgian-Russian relationship which is pulling Georgia back. I think Georgia couldn’t be an institutional part of NATO or European Union but I think we will have a progress on this way. These steps will influence positively the economy and security of the country. If we look at the Georgian –Russian relationship, after the war in August 2008, we had a status quo and it still keeps on despite such an important and difficult question as an occupation. I think this year a few pro-Russian parties will get sits in parliament, and Russia will become less aggressive towards Georgia”- assumes expert.

According to him, Georgia made many tremendous reforms, if we compare it with Armenia and Azerbaijan.  But it is a pity, despite successful reforms in security and administration, Georgia could not do such a successful transformation and achievement in the economic side.

“Georgia still stays as a poor country, and not developed in the economic meaning. We almost have no industry, and it is, of course, affects the standards of living and migration. The migration keeps going on.  We have lost approximately 15% of the population” – says, expert.

Also, Ph.D. in Economy, Director of the Center for Analysis and Forecast at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University Vakhtang Charaia agree with Kanashvili.

“Rising unemployment, socially oriented budget overlooking the importance of economic growth, permanent political instability, decreased level of national security and its constant exposure to persisting threats as a result of the deployment of the Russian military bases on the occupied territories – this is a humble list of problems, which Georgia has managed to pick up along several wars for the past 25 years”, – says Vakhtang Charaia.

According to Charaia, potential solutions to these problems stand not as much in the political resolution of the conflict, but rather depend on financial technical assistance provided by the international community.

“There are more than enough examples out there which suggest that small and conflict-ridden countries with lasting tensions (Israel, South Korea) have successfully managed to use their geopolitical location for greater benefits through building international relations in a thoughtful manner. Thanks to these tactics, countries who could not boast any distinction or achievement just a few decades ago have managed to re-emerged as powerful and advanced world economies and Georgia has this type of potential”, – said Charaia.

Vakhtnag Charaia is mentioning that the Georgian economy has been progressing for the past 25 years as corroborated by official statistics, World Bank data as well as indicators of various international organizations. As an example, he is bringing Statistic Numbers.  In the nutshell: according to the World Bank data, in 1995 per capita GDP was less than 600 USD to hit 3.7 thousand USD in 2014 while assets of banking sector increased 90 times (from 276 million USD to 24.4 billion USD) within the same period of time (source: National Bank of Georgia). The World Bank estimates that Direct Foreign Investments increased from 10 million USD in 1996 to 1.7 billion USD in 2014. The same source states that an average wage increased 60 times from 13.5 GEL in 1995 to 818 GEL in 2014. The same period saw drastic growth of the volume of export (20 times) from 155 million USD to 2.9 billion USD.

“Georgia’s other achievements are of no less importance:

  1. Combating pervasive corruption: According to Transparency International, in 2003 Georgia was 124th-129th among 133 countries in the rating of perceived corruption alongside with Cameroon, Angola, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan. By 2014 it had moved up to 50th place out of 175 countries;
  2. The unprecedented scale of the fight against crime and 80% of confidence and trust in the police by population (Georgian authorities);
  3. The World Bank’s ranking of economies in their ease of doing business: 24th in 2015;
  4. Georgia hits the list of countries with economic freedom compiled by Heritage Foundation (11th ranking in 43 European countries and 22nd internationally). These and other achievements have contributed to Georgia’s leap to a place drastically different from that of the 1990s.”

Author: Edita BADASYAN / Georgia

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