Think the Georgian government is hard up for cash? If anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International is correct, you might want to think again.
In a recent statement, the group claimed that officials failed to spend a whopping 150 million lari (roughly $68 million) budgeted for 2014 expenditures. *
It alleged that the finance ministry had attempted to conceal the scale of the underspending by listing 80 million lari (about $36 million) as a sub-item in the government’s Treasury Single Account (defined by the IMF as “a unified structure of government bank accounts”) to make sure it was not reflected in the country’s annual financial statement.
As a result, the group continued, inaccurate budget-deficit calculations were shown to the public, potential investors and international organizations.
Critics claim that the underspending, the second year in a row, shows that government departments did not keep projects on schedule or even get started with them.
“This is a new paradox that the government has money, but cannot spend it,” drily remarked Roman Gotsiridze, a head of the Central Bank under former President Mikheil Saakashvili, local media reported.
Since regaining independence in 1991, Georgia generally has had the opposite problem, he added.
While the recent lifting of the Russian embargo on Georgian wine was a cause for celebration -- both for Russian consumers, who had to go without their favorite bottles of Saperavi for some seven years, and for Georgian winemakers, who had to make due after losing access to a large market with a less-than-discerning wine palette -- questions are being about just how much of an impact this development will have on the Georgian economy.
From a report in the Financial, a Georgian economic news website:
"We do not expect these developments to have a tangible bearing on Georgia's creditworthiness in the near term," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Ana Jelenkovic. "But they could lead to improvements in key economic and external indicators over the medium to longer term."
American real estate tycoon Donald Trump and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili both have a soft spot for a tall building, and, so, could not praise each other enough when Trump dropped by Georgia on April 22 to unveil plans for a Trump Tower in Batumi.
“You’re a big man outside this area, believe me,” Trump told Saakashvili in Batumi, Civil.ge news bulletin service reported. The delighted Saakashvili responded by hailing the mogul as “ the greatest building and developer in the world," and bestowing him with the national Order of Excellence.
Saakashvili, whose Grand Travaux campaign has brought a number of extravagant glass-and-steel structures to Georgia, hopes that the planned 47-story luxury residential building will pave the way for much-needed international investment. Another Trump tower is planned for the capital, Tbilisi.
Tall buildings can earn Georgia points on many fronts, the thinking in Tbilisi seems to go. They will provide some good visual PR to attract investors and tourists (to wit, the Chacha Tower,
dedicated to the national hard liquor, chacha), and to impress the impoverished breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Skyscrapers are expected to help urbanize Georgia’s largely rural society and they could even have a defensive function. “It’s very uncomfortable to bomb skyscrapers. It looks very, very ugly,” Saakashvili told TIME Magazine about a year after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.