In a surprise and rare newspaper interview, former Prime Minister and now business executive Zurab Nogaideli spoke out against the Georgian authorities for, as he put it, their failure to avert war, and warned against anticipated economic “hardship” in the country.
The interview, which was published by the largest-selling Georgian weekly newspaper, Kviris Palitra, on September 15 was conducted on the request of the ex-prime minister, the newspaper said.
A media-shy Nogaideli, who has always been reluctant to speak with journalists, said in the interview that he might return to politics in three or four months, but declined to discuss further details.
“In my opinion, the Georgian authorities could have averted this provocation [by Russia] and they should have averted it,” Nogaideli said. “In the near future, if measures are not taken urgently, tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs; plenty of Georgian families will face great hardship.”
“Much analysis is now being done about how the Russian economy has suffered as a result of this war, but nothing is said about what has happened to the Georgian economy,” Nogaideli said, referring to extensive reports by Georgian television stations on the state of Russia’s economy.
He particularly focused on the real estate sector, saying it had suffered a lot. The consequences for other sectors, he said, would be felt soon.
“Sixty five to seventy thousand people working in the real estate sextor will lose their jobs, but nobody says anything about it and nobody even wants to make any decisions in this respect,” Nogaideli claimed.
Nogaideli in March 2008 became chairman of Kala Capital, a group uniting businesses owned by Georgian AC Milan footballer Kakhi Kaladze. Lexo Alexishvili, who served as finance minister in Nogaideli’s cabinet, is now CEO of Progress Bank, which is part of Kala Capital. Real estate development projects in Tbilisi are hugely important for the group. Nogaideli said the company had to suspend projects following the August events.
Nogaideli, who was mainly in charge of economic policies when prime minister, was widely seen as having had little say in politics. He was replaced by Lado Gurgenidze, chairman and minority shareholder of Bank of Georgia, in November 2007.
“In the face of such great trouble, we have an incompetent and shameful government led by Lado Gurgenidze,” Nogaideli said in the newspaper interview. “I feel awkward when the former prime minister criticizes the present one, but Lado Gurgenidze has not left his own business even for a day and has failed to find time to manage the Georgian economy.”
Nogaideli himself was a frequent target of criticism by the print media and opponents for promoting his own business interests, allegedly mainly in the energy sector, while dealing with the country’s economic policies. The former prime minister, however, said: “I was always separating business from politics.”
Nogaideli also said that he was “starting to think about going back into politics.”
“I am really thinking about it and I have even undertaken the first step by giving this interview,” he said. “I have certain duties and responsibilities towards Kala Capital for the next three or four months. Then I will make a political statement. As far as your question is concerned whether I will be in the opposition, I will respond with one word: let’s see.”
In the newspaper interview, Nogaideli also confirmed that “British investors, who at the same time are investors in Kala Capital” had approached Kazakh state-run KazTransGaz-Tbilisi, a gas distributor company in the capital city, for talks on the purchase of shares. “But I do not know right now what the outcome of these talks will be because of the recent events in the country,” Nogaideli added.