reforms

Views from my Stockholm Window

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Georgia’s Reforms

Finally the winter cold came and what a cold! In the remote areas of northern Sweden temperatures below -40 have been registered but in Stockholm the cold is more moderate, between -10 and -15, but still – it is cold! Icy winds are also blowing through the financial markets and today the headline in a large Swedish newspaper shouts: Greece is three days from bankruptcy.

The leaders of Europe are holding one summit after another, with very meagre results so far. The frustration with the Greek leadership’s inability to stick to agreements and timelines is growing and a newly published OSCE report on Greece does not make anyone happier, I presume.

The report on Greece’s central administration is very clear: there is no strategic vision about the route to take; there is a lack of leadership, guidance and no authority taking responsibility for reforms. The complicated administration, with roots in the Ottoman Empire, breed corruption and rent-seekers, people (on higher levels, mainly middle-aged men) are appointed on political, not professional merits, there is a lack of inter-governmental coordination and cooperation, no clear budgetary procedures, no reliable statistics. The administration is hierarchical, formalistic and ineffective.

If the reading of the OSCE report on Greece could make you lose your night sleep, the World Bank report “Fighting Corruption in Public Services: Chronicling Georgia’s Reforms” induces optimism. The report shows what can be done in a country, if the vision, determination and political will are there. Georgia was a failed state at the end of 2003 and in less than 10 years impressive reforms have been carried out. The report tells the story of the reforms in the areas of patrol police, in tax collection, customs, power supply, in deregulating businesses, public and civil registries, the rooting out of corruption in the area of university exams and decentralisation of municipal services. As the report says, with the Rose revolution Georgia entered into a period of “unprecedented anticorruption reform.” And successfully so!

It was a joy to see Mr. Asad Alam, the World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, in Stockholm the other day. He was here to present the report at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to an audience of persons interested in the Georgian experience. Presentations have already been made in Washington and in Brussels and Mr. Alam could probably spend the next two years just travelling and presenting the findings. This demonstrates an healthy interest in finding out how Georgia has reformed itself to combat corruption and, hopefully, a growing insight that corruption is like a cancer in society. And that it can be eradicated, there is no excuse not to do it. Or as the Nike advertisement says: Just Do It!

Tough reforms are a must in Greece. Georgia, lined up for a free trade with the EU has however not much to export. Let me suggest that Georgia start exporting its knowledge and experiences from having heavy-handedly and with determination reformed the administration, introduced e-governance and combated corruption – reforms that have put Georgia among top performers in the EU. Greece and a few other countries could learn a lot from the Georgian experience.

 

This article first appeared in Tabula Georgian Issue # 88, published 20 February 2012.

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