The Georgian government is betting on privatization to keep the state treasury balance in the black, but transparency issues could muddy the process with the public.
On January 11, final bids were announced for two property sales that could dictate the course of the privatization campaign to come. Both deals rank as Georgia's two largest privatization projects to date together, they could let President Mikheil Saakashvili's administration surpass its 2005 sales target of $200 million. At the same time, controversy surrounds both sales.
The first, the sale of the Georgian Ocean Shipping Company, a heavily indebted Black Sea operation with a 15-ship fleet, was originally expected to bring in $107 million to the treasury, ranking it as Georgia's largest privatization deal since the sell-off of state-owned property began in 1992. The prospective buyer, under the terms of a preliminary sales agreement announced on December 17, was the UK-based Greenoak Group, a collection of companies with major investments in Ajaria's power, textile and energy sectors, including the Batumi Oil Terminal.
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Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNet.orgs regional news coordinator in Tbilisi.