Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Georgia - 'Aid Lacks Transparency'

According to Transparency International:

Transparency International Georgia today criticised a lack of transparency and local consultation ahead of a conference on 22 October, where decisions on hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid to Georgia will be made. Representatives of donor nations, multilateral institutions and the Georgian government will gather in Brussels for the conference, which is co-chaired by the European Commission and the World Bank and comes in the wake of the Georgian-Russian conflict in August 2008.

Commenting on the opaque decision-making process, Tamuna Karosanidze, Executive Director of Tbilisi-based TI Georgia said, “Aid given behind closed doors lacks accountability, to the taxpayers of donor nations as much as to the citizens of Georgia. The lack of transparency in giving this aid makes it less likely that money will reach those most in need. If donors want aid to support Georgia’s development, they must ensure that this aid is transparent and democratically accountable.”

Decision-making at the conference will be based on a “Joint Needs Assessment”, an extensive document drawn up by a mission coordinated by the World Bank and the United Nations. The Joint Needs Assessment estimates that Georgia will require USD 3.25 billion (€2.38 billion) over the next three years in budget support, social sector support and infrastructure development. This is more than Georgia’s government plans to spend in 2009, and the equivalent of nearly one thousand dollars for every person living in the country.

“Allocating these huge sums behind closed doors on the basis of a secret document does not set a good example for Georgian democracy to follow,” continued Karosanidze. “If Georgia’s citizens can have no say in how this money will be spent, democracy in Georgia will be weakened rather than strengthened. Aid will only be received positively in Georgia if Georgian citizens are confident that it will be well spent, which is something that only wide-spread civic involvement and transparency can achieve.”

Hmmm. Have you read 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein? Perhaps there might be a reprint in the offing with a new chapter on the Georgian scam. Meanwhile:

TBILISI, Georgia — A political opponent of Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, called on Monday for mass protests on Nov. 7, the first anniversary of a government crackdown on demonstrators that left 500 people injured.

The opponent, Levan Gachechiladze, who lost to Mr. Saakashvili in presidential elections in January, urged demonstrators to gather in front of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi, the site of last year’s violence.

Making his announcement about the protest on the Parliament steps, Mr. Gachechiladze said the purpose would be to call Mr. Saakashvili to account for Georgia’s losses in the August war against Russia over the disputed enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He has also accused the government of tainting the results of parliamentary elections and presidential elections.

“The opposition is going to renew the waves of protest and ask President Saakashvili to take responsibility for his actions last year,” Mr. Gachechiladze said.

It will be interesting to see if these protests are as brutally put down. Particularly as there appears to be a new neo-liberal drive. Of course, if there is any trouble, it will be down to Russian interference (notice 'American interference' is almost non-existent). Events on 7th November will be very interesting indeed.