The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) new Dekleptification Guide titled ‘Seizing Windows of Opportunity to Dismantle Kleptocracy,’ published on 7 September, examined anti-corruption reforms carried out in Georgia between 2004-2012, and the current state of affairs in the country’s fight against kleptocracy.
The guide, which is a resource for USAID staff working in countries with severe corruption, focuses on so-called closing and opening windows of opportunity for reform and fighting against kleptocracy.
Rose Revolution and the 2004-2012 Period
The report spends a considerable amount of time discussing the period after the Rose Revolution, positively assessing the fact that within a few months the new government “was already reorganizing the executive branch, enacting legislation, arresting corrupt former officials, and confiscating misappropriated assets,” which led to an 80% decline in bribery by 2005.
It noted within that context, that reforms included “… cutting red tape and right-sizing public institutions to rewriting tax laws and improving public services, which resulted in a dramatic reduction in bribery.”
The report also noted that while the most common citizen experience of corruption is usually extortion by the police, anti-corruption reforms carried out after the Rose Revolution to street policing which were accompanied by a tenfold increase in salaries resulted in an 80% decline in bribery within a year.
The report did emphasize that “while such early wins help establish credibility and generate momentum,” the window of opportunity remains under threat until the population “shows its willingness to return to the streets and ballot boxes… to defend the independence of their anti-corruption institutions.”
Speaking about rekleptification and common methods deployed by the Kremlin to close other countries’ reform windows covertly, the report denoted that Georgia’s Rose Revolution and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution “ended when Russia-backed oligarchs funded pro-Russian candidates who became presidents and rekleptified the two countries.”
The USAID report did highlight that political analysis can provide an essential understanding of how and why antireform elements regain power at such an impasse. It further noted that such assessments inform the U.S. government of how it must adapt its intervention in a country to defend reform gains and hold the regime accountable.
In that context, the USAID guide highlighted the work of Transparency-International Georgia and stressed that “as it became clear over the past decade that the richest oligarch [Bidzina Ivanishvili] in Georgia has captured the state, their research examined the impunity of corrupt officials, Georgia’s growing economic dependence on Russia, and the oligarch’s secret businesses in Russia.”
Read the full report here.