According to every technique available for measuring corruption levels, Georgia has dramatically improved since 2003; this shows up clearly in most of our tables. Unfortunately, we can only be certain that this point applies to low-level (petty) corruption, as experienced by ordinary citizens and smaller businesses; there is much evidence that high-level (grand) corruption has not declined by anything like the same extent, if at all.
This is one of the reasons that Georgia still does not figure among what are perceived to be the world’s least corrupt countries (Nordic states, Singapore and New Zealand), its marked improvement since 2003 notwithstanding.
This is not the place to elaborate the details of Georgia’s anti-corruption policy. However, two of its salient features that need noting here were that it was radical and that it reflected the strong commitment of President Saakashvili. It was not without problems, however, not least of which was a high level of arbitrariness. While this approach was for some years welcomed by many Georgians, it eventually led more and more citizens to become apprehensive about what they perceived to be the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of their president. This saw his party (the United National Movement) lose office in the October 2012 parliamentary elections.16
Georgia’s anti-corruption reforms are sometimes seen in terms of a two-stage process. The first ran throughout 2004, during which time Saakashvili’s new government prosecuted a number of high-ranking officials from the former government; streamlined licensing procedures; and introduced a new and dramatically reformed police force. However, these measures were basically taken ‘on the run’, seemingly with little planning, and were designed to show the Georgian population that the new government was serious about clamping down on the corruption that had been so rife during the Shevardnadze post-communist era (Shevardnadze was informally then formally president of Georgia 1992-2003). The second stage can be seen to have begun in January 2005, when a working group was established to devise a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. A Strategy was adopted in June 2005, followed by the first version of an Action Plan in September of that year; the latter was subsequently refined in March 2006 and April 2007 (for a critical overview of the Strategy and Action Plans see Karosanidze 2007). While many mistakes were subsequently made in the Georgian anti-corruption drive, and despite resistance to it from parts of the state bureaucracy, the overall story is one of success.17