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Opposition fell short in seeking business support

By M. Alkhazashvili
Tuesday, May 20
Georgia’s businesspeople will be watching tomorrow’s election results more closely than ever—some of them are candidates.

In this round of campaign, businessmen have been encouraged to step into the elections, be it as candidates or as donors. When they have done so, it has been for the ruling party.

The government’s campaign message is meant to appeal to the business community as much as the jobless: the elimination of poverty through massive influx of foreign investments, low taxes and state-sponsored development.

But the government is not alone in chasing after the wealthy. The moderate Republican platform includes reform to VAT rules, while the Christian Democratic Party wants to promote development of hydropower in Georgia and pay down state debts.

Opposition campaigners also talk of state racketeering against businesses, promising to free entrepreneurs from government pressure.

But former economy minister Lado Papava, now an outgoing independent MP, dismisses the opposition programs as amateurish, composed more of slogans than substance.

More worrisome for business leaders are the opposition’s promises of increased social welfare: topping government offers of assistance, the nine-party opposition coalition promises to halve utilities payments, while the Labor Party would make water free and every newborn child worth GEL 1000 in a one-off assistance payment to its parents.

Where would that money come from? The plans leave that detail out.

No surprise, then, that businesses have no incentive to risk backing an opposition contender, even a viable one. More compelling fiscal plans could have won over not just voters, but corporate money—and that could have made a difference to the cash-strapped opposition campaigns.