What does a Prime Minister do on leaving office? Go to the Oval for lunch and watch some cricket, in John Major’s case. Georgia’s Nika Gilauri sets up a company to help governments reform, and comes to the World Bank in Bishkek to talk about it.
Sleek black cars sidle by and pull up outside some way ahead. No snow will wreck the polish on their passengers’ shoes. On I traipse. The houses here are vast and old, as are the trees. The expensive part of town.
Through a paved garden and security. A long, low-ceilinged room with a boardroom table. I sit by the only window.
Mr Gilauri talks of how Georgia, post-independence, found itself surrounded by an emerging wealth of natural resources, but none of it within the country’s borders. Power cuts were frequent. Corruption was rife. What could the government do?
He says they did the only thing they could do: make Georgia one of the best places in the world to do business.
The bureaucracy and costs for registering a company, byzantine at the time, were decimated. As were the fees and paperwork for docking shipping in Georgia’s Black Sea ports.
Taxes were slashed. Despite – or because of – this, while Mr Gilauri was Prime Minister (2009-2012), Georgia’s budget deficit decreased from 9% to 3%. Something that current Chancellors of the Exchequer, and future prime ministers, should certainly take a look at.
As energy minister at a time of semi-permanent blackouts, he discovered that Tbilisi’s power stations were owned by Russia. Mr Gilauri soon set about fixing that. The blackouts stopped, and the country started to export energy to its neighbours.
He says in 2005 they sacked 30,000 irredeemably corrupt traffic cops – at this, a ripple of amusement throughout the room. He says he guesses that’s a problem everywhere. Chaos did not ensue on Georgia’s roads. New recruits were trained at a US-sponsored academy.
Ultimately, Georgia’s economic growth increased from -9% in 2009 to 8.1% in 2012, with GDP growing 70% in real terms during the eight years to 2012, and the country jumping from 112th place in 2006, to ninth place six years later in the World Bank’s Doing Business global report. Transparency International also recognised Georgia as one of the least corrupt countries.
Mr Gilauri says since leaving office he’s set up a company, Reformatics, to help other governments learn from Georgia’s reforms. That’s why he’s in Central Asia this week.
Questions over, people stand and start to leave. I overhear Mr Gilauri talking to someone.
He says the company has only just started, and he doesn’t even have a website or a business card yet.
The moment I get back to the office I fire off an email about this to the director of financial PR company I know in London. I’m not sure anything came of it, but Reformatics has since got a website.
It’s at http://www.reformatics.ge
I dare say Mr Gilauri now has a business card, too.