Former PM of Georgian: "I've exercised public control, but in no way have I informally ruled"
The former prime minister of Georgia and current chairman of the Georgian Dream political party Bidzina Ivanishvili has given his first interview since his return to politics.
The interview aired on the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s Aktualuri Tema programme, and was recorded in Ivanishvili’s home.
In the interview, Ivanishvili touched on several topics, including issues concerning his alleged ‘informal rule of the country’, the resignation of former PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgian Dream party candidates for the presidential election, reforms in the banking sector, poverty, the media, the uprooting of centuries-old trees in Georgia and the creation of a dendrological park in western Georgia.
“They don’t see the difference between public control and informal rule.”
Bidzina Ivanishvili, who recently returned to politics as the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, has categorically denied accusations against him that he has been ‘informally ruling the country’.
“I exercised public control, but in no way was I informally ruling,” he stated. Ivanishvili added that he did not direct or manage former PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili nor did he interfere in his work or function, though he noted that he did on one occasion attempt to exert influence over issues in the banking sphere. Ivanishvili also did not deny that he participated in the prime ministerial elections, the office of which was later taken by Mamuka Bakhtadze.
“Banks have devoured the country. Regulations should have been applied, but I was unable to implement them. I did not address him [Giorgi Kvirikashvili] on any other issues, nor were there any private calls from me to his office. If there were any telephone calls then, as a rule, he called on formal occasions, and I tried to answer his questions as much as possible. What I am being accused of is not called ‘informal rule’, but only of public control; those that are accusing me don’t know what ‘public control’ is, and that I have a right to do this given that I enjoy an amount of public trust. I can use this right at any time, and I have the right to criticise the authorities at any time,” Ivanishvili said.
Ivanishvili said that the reason Giorgi Kvirikashvili resigned as prime minister was that he was unable to govern, and the inefficacy of his work had placed the ‘ruling team’ in a position where it could fall apart. Ivanishvili added that ‘the balance between the interests of the state and business was violated, and Kvirikashvili had no choice but to resign, and that’s just what he did’.
During the interview, Ivanishvili said that the new PM, Mamuka Bakhtadze, had played a more prominent role in the construction of the country’s tax policy than Giorgi Kvirikashvili did in his two years as prime minister and the Minister of Economic Development Dmitri Kumsishvili put together. It was Bakhtadze who raised the issue of debt in the country and the necessity of banking regulations.
“Two banks have devoured the country.”
Ivanishvili said that he had often told Giorgi Kvirikashvili that ‘two banks had devoured the country’, and that the debt of the Georgian population was also an issue. This became especially evident after UNICEF released a report claiming that, during the reign of the Georgian Dream party, the poverty level in the country had risen.
“The lion’s share of this indicator was debt. The population cannot crawl out of bondage, and this is completely abnormal. It is a shame, especially when Sakartvelos Georgia and TBC Bank occupy leading positions in world ratings in terms of profitability – which one can be proud of – but simultaneously, the population spends more than a third of its income on paying off bank debt. These two aspects are not compatible,” Ivanishvili said.
The former PM also touched on the issue of Cartu Bank, which belongs to his family. He noted that the bank is distinguished for its special profitability but that its capital is less today than when it started. Ivanishvili said that he invested 200 million into the creation of Cartu Bank, but that the bank no longer has such funds. He also said that he is considering selling Cartu Bank, but will do this at the appropriate time. Two banks on the market, Ivanishvili said, are not enough, and that a third, equally strong bank is needed.
Ivanishvili is against nominating a candidate from the Georgian Dream party for president
Bidzina Ivanishvili stated that the party had been examining several candidates for the presidential elections. Among them was Ivanishvili himself, the former Minister of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees Sozar Subari, the Special Representative of the Prime Minister for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze, the Minister of Health David Sergeenko and Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani.
However, Ivanishvili said that he is against putting a candidate from the Georgian Dream party forward, and believes that the party must support a more worthy and independent candidate. However, if no such candidate appears, then Ivanishvili said that ‘the opposition should be allowed to take it’, given that, as matters stand, representatives of the Georgian Dream party are represented at all leading levels of administrative positions across the country.
“In parliament we have a parliamentary majority, and for Europe that is rather wild. Unfortunately, just as our economy is poor, so is our political establishment,” Ivanishvili said.
Ivanishvili: “For the transfer of centuries-old trees, I paid the population 12 million lari.”
In an interview with the Public Broadcaster’s First Channel, Bidzina Ivanishvili spoke on the transferring of centuries-old trees to western Georgia to the dendrological park he created. According to him, the opposition accuses him of disrupting the environment of the Adjara and Samegrelo regions, blocking railways, causing power outages and other issues caused by his project.
Ivanishvili stated that he gave GEL 12 million in compensation to the affected local population and that the process of uprooting and transferring trees had brought another 14 million to the state treasury. He also said that he had given rather large sums to Georgian Railways and noted that the transportation of the trees almost never affected railway traffic, and that there were only a few times when delays were caused, but never more than 15 minutes. Ivanishvili also said that establishing the dendrological park was more expensive than planned but that it will always belong to the public.
The former PM is constructing a dendrological park on privately-owned land in Shekvetili, for which he is uprooting and transferring rare and unique trees from western Georgia.