Georgia Governance Index, a fresh comprehensive study prepared by the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP), analyzes the country’s 2021 performance in four key governance areas, including democracy and human rights, effective state and state institutions, social and economic policies, and foreign and security policy.
The report assesses Georgia’s performance in all four areas as “suboptimal,” stressing particularly poor records in areas of democratic governance and effective governance. It identifies the provision of justice and judicial reforms as the biggest failures, followed by poor management of the pandemic, contested elections, and failed EU mediation.
The context-specific, country-focused annual report relies on both qualitative and quantitative techniques, including an Expert Survey conducted among forty Georgian experts working in different domains.
- Democracy & Human Rights (Democratic Governance)
The study says that in the area of democratic governance, major challenges in 2021 included continuous political crisis, contested elections, failure of judicial reform, violence against journalists and protesters, political polarization, and radicalization.
In particular, it names the provision of justice and failure of judicial reform as “the most problematic areas among all categories,” while also stressing that, despite some positive electoral reforms, the elections with an uneven playing field and the radicalized pre-and post-election environment remained serious challenges throughout the year.
The report also highlights the usual problems of civil society organizations, which, while remaining impactful non-state actors, still suffer from “donor dependency and lack of trust and communication with the population.” According to the study, the media landscape and some of the CSOs “remained polarized along party-political lines.”
- Effective State & State Institutions (Effective Governance)
The study names informal governance, the fight against political corruption, and the government’s failure to extend the state‘s monopoly of power to all societal segments and to incorporate the occupied regions among major challenges in the area of effective governance.
As a key example of “limited statehood,” the report cites the state’s refusal to apply the right of the monopoly of power to the Georgian Orthodox Church and far-right groups.
“Informal governance remains the major challenge to Georgia’s effective governance and stateness as Bidzina Ivanishvili’s influence on state authorities remains uncontested.”GGI 2021
According to the report, informal governance also fuels political corruption, while anti-corruption reforms were somewhat stalled throughout the reporting period. The study says the provision of public services ranked best in the area of effective governance, but challenges remain there as well.
- Social & Economic Policies (Social and Economic Governance)
The report stresses that Georgia demonstrated a better performance in social and economic governance compared to the first two governance areas, but still points to major challenges and a lack of “holistic long-term reform vision.” As key areas lacking a “comprehensive long-term structural reform agenda,” the study lists education, the social assistance system, and the labor market.
“Political considerations and election campaigns dominate the socio-economic agendas of the state authorities and political parties,” notes the GGI report.
According to the document, insufficient attention is paid to both the attraction of Foreign Direct Investments and export diversification.
- Foreign & Security Policy (External Governance)
In terms of foreign policy, the report finds that problems with democracy and domestic political crisis “negatively impacted” Georgia’s relations with western partners and endangered the country’s European prospects.
According to the study, Russia remains a “major external challenge to Georgia’s national security and domestic political and economic order,” noting the threats coming from Moscow, including disinformation and hybrid warfare “should be taken more seriously.” Regional initiatives with Russia’s participation, such as the 3+3 format, created a new risk to Georgia’s security, the document finds.
The report cites Georgia’s diplomacy during and after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, as well as a new military agreement with the U.S., as core successes in Tbilisi’s foreign policy throughout 2021.
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Challenges for 2022
The study asserts that the authorities need to prioritize judicial reforms in 2022, along with anti-corruption reforms. Also, GGI identifies reforms in healthcare and pharmacy as further priorities in the coming year, in addition to reforms in labor market policies, the introduction of minimum wage and unemployment insurance, reforms of the healthcare and social assistance systems as well as the education system.
A major foreign policy challenge in 2022, the report says, will be restoring “the country’s tarnished image in the eyes of the international community.” Enhancing democratic reforms and recovering from the longstanding political crisis will be necessary to facilitate this process, notes the GGI study.
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