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Georgian PM Announces Major Gov’t Reshuffle

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 14
Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced Monday a major reorganization of the national government that will result in decreased number of ministries from 18 to 14, with some of the ministries’ functions merged and several ministers dismissed or transferred to other posts.

Kvirikashvili claimed that the reshuffle will “save administrative resources” and “better serve the welfare of Georgians and the further development of the country.”

According to the changes the Energy Ministry and the natural resources management component of the Environment and Natural Resources Protection Ministry will be incorporated into the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.

First Vice Prime Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili – who also serves as the incumbent finance minister – will be appointed as Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development.

Giorgi Gakharia, who has been Economy Minister since 2016, has been named as the new Internal Affairs Minister and will also serve as a Vice Prime Minister.

The Emergency Management Agency of the Interior Ministry and the State Security and Crisis Management Council will be merged to become a new Emergency Management Center, headed by the current Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Mgebrishvili.

Mamuka Bakhtadze has been named the country’s new Finance Minister. Bakhtadze has been Director General of Georgian Railways, the national railway company of Georgia, since 2013.

The youth affairs component of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs will be merged with the Ministry of Education and Science and led by Mikheil Chkhenkeli, a Deputy Rector of Tbilisi State University.

The Sports Ministry will subsequently be merged with the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection under the stewardship of the current Minister, Mikheil Giorgadze.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection will be split into two, the department handling environmental affairs will be merged with the Ministry of Agriculture, while the natural resources management component will become part of the Ministry of Economy.

The European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ministry will be merged with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with current Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze continuing to lead the agency. Janelidze will also serve asa Vice Prime Minister.

The State Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service will be merged to form one agency.

Minister of Education Alexander Jejelava, Minister of Sport Tariel Khechikashvili, Minister of Environment Gigla Agulashvili and Minister of Energy Ilia Eloshvilihave resigned from their posts, but will remain a part of the current government in an unnamed capacity, according to Kvirikashvili.

The 14 ministers who now need to be approved by the 150-member Parliament include:
1. Dimitri Kumsishvili - Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development;
2. Giorgi Gakharia - Minister of Internal Affairs;
3. Mikheil Janelidze - Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration;
4. Mamuka Bakhtadze - Minister of Finance;
5. Mikheil Chkhenkeli - Minister of Education, Science and Youth Affairs;
6. Mikheil Giorgadze - Minister of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport;
7. Levan Davitashvili - Minister of Environment and Agriculture;
8. David Sergeenko - Minister of Health and Social Protection;
9. Sozar Subari - Minister of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees;
10. Zurab Alavidze - Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure;
11. Levan Izoria - Minister of Defense;
12. Thea Tsulukiani - Minister of Justice;
13. Kakha Kakhishvili - Minister of Corrections and Probation;
14. KetevanTsikhelashvili- Minister of Reconciliation and Civil Equality.

Kvirikashvili said he hopes the new appointees will be confirmed by the Parliament before the end of year.

Members of the political opposition see both positive and negative sides in the dramatic reshuffle.

Sergi Kapanadze, a member of the opposition party European Georgia and a former deputy Foreign Minister under the previous government of exiled ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, stated that the ministries of sport, energy and agriculture needed to be abolished and that Jejelava and Mgebrishvili needed to be fired.

He continues his sharp rebuke of Kvirikashvili’s moves by saying Georgian Railways experienced “unprecedented losses” under Bakhtadze’s watch.

“In 2013-2016, compared to the previous three years, the revenue of Georgian Railway dropped three times to USD 87million,” said Kapanadze.

Kapanadze and other opposition members are sharply critical of the current government’s decision to merge the state security and intelligence services into one centralized authority without proper checks and balances.

Political expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze says that decreasing the state bureaucracy and abolishing some of the ministries was necessary, but warned that the still fledgling private sector in Georgia may not be ready to take on the mantle of managing certain key areas of the country’s industry and infrastructure.

“When the number of ministries decrease this means that part of their job has to be done by the private sector. The question then becomes whether the private sector in this country is ready or not,” said Sakvarelidze.