New World Bank Report Documents Successful Anti-Corruption Efforts in Georgia
Washington, January 31, 2012 – Georgia’s experience in fighting corruption in public sector has had unique success, and many of its aspects could be adapted and applied in countries facing comparable challenges in tackling pervasive corruption in public services, says a new World Bank report “Fighting Corruption in Public Services: Chronicling Georgia's Reforms,” launched today at the World Bank.
“Corruption is sometimes seen as endemic, a product of traditional local culture, and, as such, inevitable,” said Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Region. “Georgia’s experience shows that the vicious cycle of endemic corruption can be broken and, with appropriate and decisive reforms, can be turned into a virtuous cycle.”
Since the Rose Revolution at the end of 2003, Georgia has had notable achievements in fighting corruption in its public services. Little, however, has been written on how it happened. What were the salient features of Georgia’s anti-corruption efforts in this area? Are the achievements to date sustainable? And can Georgia’s experience be replicated elsewhere?
The report attempts to answer these questions through case studies based on data from selected public services -- patrol police, tax administration, customs, power supply, business regulations, civil and public registries, university entrance exams, and municipal services, as well as interviews with current and former government officials. It also analyzes the accountability framework between the government, public service providers, and service users.
In 2003, corruption permeated nearly every aspect of life in Georgia. Bribes were needed to obtain most of the public services, such as a driver’s license or a passport, to register property, start a business, build a home or gain entrance to state universities. Since then, measures undertaken under the “zero-tolerance” policy of the government have drastically reduced the prevalence of unofficial payments in various public services with most indicators now closer to those of the more advanced EU countries.
“This book takes objective factual case study approach to chronicle how corruption in specific public services was fought,” said Asad Alam, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, and the primary author of the book. “The book places particular emphasis on documenting the design and implementation of these reforms, attempting to shed light on the decision-making process on reform design, the trade-offs policy makers faced, and the sequencing and complementarities among the various reforms.”
From the case studies, 10 factors emerge that help explain Georgia’s achievements to date:
- exercising strong political will;
- establishing credibility early;
- launching a frontal assault;
- attracting new staff;
- limiting the state’s role;
- adopting unconventional methods;
- coordinating closely;
- tailoring international experience to local conditions;
- harnessing technology;
- using communications strategically.
While many of these factors may seem obvious, the comprehensiveness, boldness, pace, and sequencing of the reforms make Georgia's story unique.
The report also lays out the unfinished agenda of institutional reforms, which will be needed to ensure the sustainability of Georgia’s anti-corruption results by putting in place a robust system of checks and balances. It also underscores that while every country has a unique set of initial conditions, nature of the corruption problem, and political economy, there are many elements of Georgia’s story which can be replicated in other countries.
Georgia’s experience destroys the myth that “corruption is culture” and gives hope to all those policy makers, government officials, and concerned citizens in many countries who are aspiring to clean up public services.