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Saakashvili carried away by his fancy29.07.2010 | 17:55
Mikhail Saakashvili many times stated that liberal economy is his country's pillar which is going to be still improved when the state machine is switched onto electronic management system and customs officers stop searching tourists and Georgian citizens. How will the electronic government and customs officers influence the economic development? GeorgiaTimes correspondent put this question to Director of Banking Institute of Higher School of Economics Vasiliy Solodkov and President of Georgian Strategic and International Research Foundation Alexander Rondeli.
It looks like Saakashvili decided to combine the role of a president and a laundrywoman: it turns out that during the whole period of his presidency he has been trying to bleach and starch the country's economy so that it would look poor but clean among the European economic cloths. At least, that is what he said during a meeting with the officials of Ministry of Finance. Saakashvili believes he is making a success:
"The main point is that we had Georgian economy bleached... Our state machine is much worse than it should be; however, we are among the first in the post-Soviet space. It is good that the state machine management is going to be switched onto electronic system. It will mean no more rushing for documents and papers, no more forged documents; everyone will use computers... this is important for the system to be clear and efficient and transparent... This is the first time it happened in the post-Soviet space; we have guests from Moldova, Ukraine and other developing countries coming to study our experience; I think we are to be congratulated on that".
The project seems to be good, indeed. The only question is what kind of communication will the electronic state machine imply - G2C, G2B, G2G or G2E? Or, is the author looking too much ahead in the long-term Georgian modernization? For there is neither a general framework of the electronic government, nor even a tool to assess its efficiency; there is just a set of general requirements. Isn't it somehow ridiculous to say that someone is going to adopt Georgia's electronic experience when there is no experience as such?
By the way, the electronic government system has long been functioning within the post-Soviet territory. Strange as it may seem, the system is used in Russia (Republic of Tatarstan and Sverdlovskaya region) and in Kazakhstan. Mikhail Saakashvili, of course, forgot to mention it but let us forgive his ignorance and desire to be the first.
The question is in what way will the innovation encourage the economic growth?
Vasiliy Solodkov does not believe the introduction of information and communication technologies to be the remedy against corruption; just like the author, he does not quite see how the Georgian president is going to keep apples and oranges together:
- If the decision-making process becomes clear, then, the reform is evident. But the introduction of such system may yield a reverse result, fostering corruption and shadow decisions. It is not clear from the Georgian president's statement in what way the elimination of corruption will encourage the economic growth.
Alexander Rondeli seems to feel a bit more at home in the president's stream of verbiage. He has got his own interpretation of Mikhail Saakashvili's words:
- I believe he means that the officials will have less chances of taking decisions in their favor. Thus, corruption will be eliminated and officials will no longer act as mediators, which they often do. The economy level will partially rise, for the government will take rational decisions and no one will cut short the initiative. Besides, officials will stop demanding their share from investors, who often try to avoid them or refuse to come because the crafty civil servants attempt to rob them. I think that was the main point.
Besides, the emphasis was placed on customs officers. Georgian president called upon them to be loyal and advised to stop searching tourists.
"Does anyone search you or your luggage when you travel to Europe? Are we blacks, or what? Why do we behave like savages? The country is not going to develop while such ape-men work at the Georgian customs", - Saakashvili went on, dressing the service down during the meeting at the Ministry of Finance. In the heat of the moment he did not even notice the way he insulted a whole race and the poor hominid. One might imagine the anger of the Afro-American expatriate community in France should it come to know that dark-skinned Europeans are only good for cleaning out pockets, if I may put it this way. Still, how can one put customs search and economy development together?
Here, Alexander Rondeli again helped the author to get the message of the Georgian president's statement: