The anti-corruption campaign announced earlier this year by President Eduard Shevardnadze seems to have made its mark on Georgia’s troubled energy sector. Shevardnadze on April 13 accepted the resignation of Fuel and Energy Minister Davit Zubitashvili, following a “firm resolution” issued by the Georgian Parliament’s Anti-Corruption Committee in late March. (Interfax, April 14)
According to information presented by law enforcement agencies to an open hearing held by the Anti-Corruption Committee, Zubitashvili is implicated in incidents of financial malfeasance by the Ministry and the state-owned “Gruznefteprodukty” oil company. These incidents occurred during the 1994-97 period. They allegedly included the embezzling of $800,000, the mishandling of a $6.3 million Russian loan and the unauthorized sale of crude oil belonging to a Tbilisi power station.
According to presidential spokesman Vahtang Abashidze, Shevardnadze, in accepting Zubitashvili’s resignation, declared that Zubitashvili’s departure reduces neither government nor presidential responsibility for Georgia’s energy problems. Still, the government’s inability to provide much of the country with regular supplies of electricity and hot water has scandalized public opinion. Indeed, given the 11 percent annual GDP growth recorded during 1996-97, not to mention 65 percent increase in fuels production last year, it is difficult to understand why Georgia still suffers from pervasive electricity shortages. Whether Zubitashvili’s departure will remedy this situation remains to be seen.
POWER-SHARING NEGOTIATIONS IN TAJIKISTAN ENTER DECISIVE STAGE.