Georgia: Billionaire Ivanishvili Launches Good-Citizen School
Georgia's ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has found a new calling -- to teach Georgians how to make what Ivanishvili will consider to be informed decisions. And he's got just the tool in mind -- a new foundation, called "Citizen."
“Yes, we need to learn how to hire the government. First of all, we need to learn well who to hire,” Ivanishvili told a capacity-crowd press-conference in Tbilisi on February 4.
This is not the first time that Citizen Ivanishvili has played teacher. During his 2012-2013 stint as prime minister, Ivanishvili famously invited groups of wonks and reporters for discussions/master classes in critical-thinking and journalism.
He plans to expand on this through his new NGO, which, he said, will help train Georgian media and experts in deep, “correct” ways of interpreting news and facts. The organization also will underwrite media research and sponsor a training course for experts.
Deciding that there's no time like the present to start this mission, Ivanishvili, who has no work experience in journalism, took a few reporters to task during his hours-long press conference, lambasting them for their supposed impatience and incompetence. The journalists, for their part, were more interested in his perceived failure to live up to the lavish campaign promises that helped put him in office in 2012.
Some media analysts later agreed that Georgian journalists could use some professional training (despite the huge sums of money already spent by foreign donors on such events), but puffed their cheeks out at the idea of media training offered by a politically involved billionaire.
Another key area of Citizen’s focus will be improving Georgia's economic environment, another constant cause for complaint and a source of criticism for Ivanishvili's policies as prime minister. “The backbone of civil society is an employed citizen, who earns an income to ensure a dignified life for his family,” observed Ivanishvili. To that end, the foundation will give grants to a NGO set up for this purpose.
Politics, of course, also made the agenda, and Ivanishvili was eager to provide the answers here as well, spending hours dismissing critics of the current government led by his protégé, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, and advising the country to laugh off the opposition's so-called intrigues. (This time, however, he spared the audience another of his notably goofy jokes.)
As much as Ivanishvili has insisted that he disengaged himself from politics after stepping down as prime minister late last year, the press-conference left the impression that the billionaire remains the country’s citizen-in-chief.
Some Western analysts, judging from their faraway vantage point, have praised Ivanishvili for ending Georgia's age of political messiahs. But if this press conference is any sign, that age is still upon us.----EurasiaNet.org is funded by the Open Society Foundations, which also provide financing for the Open Society Georgia Foundation, a Georgian non-governmental organization. EurasiaNet.org is operated and financed under the separate auspices of the Open Society Foundation-New York City's Central Eurasia Project.