Saakashvili to dismiss govt, name Bank of Georgia chairman as PM

By bne IntelliNews November 16, 2007

Ben Aris in Berlin -


Chairman of the Bank of George and Prime Minister in waiting Lado Gurgenidze

Unconfirmed reports are coming in that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili will hold an emergency meeting of the government this evening, November 16, and dismiss the government. Interfax is reporting that the cabinet and prime minister will be asked to resign, while the chairman of the Bank of Georgia, Lado Gurgenidze - Georgia's poster boy for reform and Western-style management - will be asked to take over as PM.

The news comes from comments made to Interfax by some leaders of the Georgian parliamentary majority. bne sources close to the Bank of Georgia confirm that Gurgenidze will be offered the PM's job. The current PM, Zurab Nogaideli, will leave to take over as governor of the Georgian National Bank. More news is expected over the weekend, according to bne sources.

Interfax reports that Saakashvili hopes, "to fulfill the 'social order' whilst trying to boost his approval ratings ahead of the presidential elections," one of the leaders of the Right Opposition Manana Nachkebia was quoted as saying.

While this certainly seems to be an election gambit, the appointment of Gurgenidze could be a big boon for Georgia and add to the liberal talent Saakashvili has already assembled in his government. Like Saakashvili, Gurgenidze was also educated in the US and the two men were actually at college together, although only had a passing acquaintance at the time. Since Gurgenidze was head-hunted by owners of the Bank of Georgia to take over the show in 2004, he has kept out of politics and says that while he is on cordial terms with the president, they aren't close friends.

Gurgenidze has done an amazing job with the Bank of Georgia, which is one of the most successful banks in the region, though some point out that the bank started from a low base and the competition has been slow to react to the rise of its business. Even so, Gurgenidze has shown himself to be a good manager and administrator, and the speed with which his bank has grown is dragging the rest of the financial sector along with it.

It remains to be seen how this former investment banker with ABN Amro will perform as a politician, but he is certainly one of the most successful businessmen in the country.

Read bne's exclusive interview with Gurgenidze taken in April: click here


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