US House committee approves bill that will withhold 15% of $135 mln in aid to Georgia
The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has passed a bill that will withhold 15% of $135 million in aid to Georgia in 2021 as, the authors of the bill argue, the Georgian government is not taking sufficient measures to combat internal corruption and ensure the independence of the judiciary.
The Georgian authorities, however, consider this decision to be the result of lobbying in Washington by the opposition.
The same assumptions are made about Frontera, an American investment company operating in Georgia which has long accused the Georgian government of discriminating against US investments.
The House Appropriations Committee’s approval of the bill is only an interim decision. The final vote will be held in congress in August 2020.
If the bill is approved, Georgia will receive approximately $20,000,000 less than the total planned aid of $132,025,000.
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What does the US government think is wrong with the administration in Georgia?
In a document published by the US Congress, representatives urge the Georgian government to turn its attention to the following issues:
Strengthening democratic institutions, including the independence of the judiciary, accountability and transparency of government activities, including free access to public information.
Protecting the rights of civil society, political opposition parties, and independent media.
Redoubling efforts against corruption in the government, including the implementation of anti-corruption laws.
Ensuring adherence to the rule of law in the private sector in accordance with internationally recognized standards, including protecting the rights of foreign business and preventing foreign businesses from being prosecuted.
If these conditions are met, the Georgian government will receive the full amount of funding.
However, funding to civil society will still be paid in full
The bill clarifies that this suspension of funding does not apply to programs that support “democracy, the rule of law, civil society, media, or programs aimed at reducing gender-based violence and protecting vulnerable groups.”
“There have been no reforms for years” – non-governmental organizations urge authorities to change their approach immediately
A group of non-governmental organizations note that no significant reforms have been made in Georgia over the past few years, and that the fight against corruption is dwindling every year.
The US decision to reduce funding for Georgia is directly related to poor governance on the part of the ruling Georgian Dream Party and its leader, the shadow ruler of the country, oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili.
A 2019 study by Trace International revealed that over the past three years, the risk of business bribery in Georgia has increased by three percentage points. The prospect of containing this corruption is one of the biggest risk factors in the country, the study reports.
A similar conclusion was conducted in 2019 by the Economic Freedom Index of the Heritage Foundation. Despite successes in the fight against petty corruption, high-level corruption by government officials still remains a problem in Georgia.
High-level corruption in Georgia was also mentioned as an urgent problem in the European Parliament’s 2018 resolution.
No help from the US to those who violate the territorial integrity of other countries
The bill also says that the United States will refuse to help the governments of those countries of the former Soviet Union that “commit any actions that violate the principle of territorial integrity of other countries in the post-Soviet territory.”
In Georgia’s case, this applies to both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These territories declared their independence from Georgia and are recognized as independent by Russia and several third world countries. Georgia and most of the international community insist that they remain part of Georgia.