Monday, December 11, 2017

Evaluation of the Impact of the Agricultural Support Program

CRRC-Georgia carried out a quasi-experimental, post-hoc, mixed methods impact evaluation of the Agricultural Support Program (ASP) between December 2016 and April 2017 in collaboration with the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Agricultural Support Program took place in Georgia between 2010 and 2015. It consisted of two components: 1) Small Scale Infrastructure Rehabilitation and 2) Support for Rural Leasing. For the infrastructure component, the project aimed “to remove infrastructure bottlenecks which inhibit increasing participation of economically active rural poor in enhanced commercialization of the rural economy” according to project documentation. Within the infrastructure component, three types of infrastructure were rehabilitated or built: 1) Rehabilitation of primary and secondary irrigation canals; 2) Rehabilitation of bridges used to bring cattle to pasture; 3) The construction of drinking water infrastructure.


In line with the Internal Office of Evaluation of IFAD’s methodology, impact was assessed across five specific domains. These include: (i) household income and assets; (ii) human and social capital and empowerment; (iii) food security and agricultural productivity; (iv) natural resources, the environment and climate change; and (v) institutions and policies. While the focus of the evaluation is on the rural poverty impact criterion, the performance of the programme has also been evaluated for impact on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The evaluation assessed not only “if”, but also “how” and “why” the programme has or has not had an impact on selected households and communities in the programme area. To this end, the evaluation team adopted a mixed methods approach including a household survey, focus group discussions, in depth interviews, and key informant interviews. The survey consisted of 3190 interviews, with 1778 interviews in control households and 1412 in treatment households.

In order to test for impact, the team used a quasi-experimental survey design. The driving idea behind quasi-experimental analysis is to use counterfactuals to understand what would have happened in the communities which received interventions had the intervention not taken place. Given that ASP did not make use of randomization, a two staged matching procedure was used to achieve balance on observable variables. First, treated communities were matched with non-treated communities on a number of variables. Second, after data collection households were matched using multivariate matching with genetic weights. Finally, when feasible, a differences in differences approach was used, with changes measured rather than only the 2016 outcome. Regression analyses were then used to estimate effects.

The key findings of the impact analysis include:
  • Indirect beneficiaries of the leasing component – individuals who sold grapes to companies that received leases – had substantively large increases in agricultural incomes;
  • Analyses often suggest little if any impact when it comes to rural poverty. However, context is important. During the project period, ASP was a small part of the very large aid inflows to Georgia, much of which was directed to the area where ASP activities took place. Hence, a lack of significant changes suggests that ASP performed on par with, but not better than other aid projects which took place in control communities;
  • Project outreach in the small scale infrastructure communities was inadequate, resulting in less effective project design and missing an opportunity for the development of human and social capital;
  • The project’s main success within the food security and agricultural productivity impact domain is the increase in amount of land irrigated; the project does not appear to have had any detectable impact on food security;
  • ASP does not appear to have contributed to the sustainable development of the agricultural leasing sector in Georgia;

To read more about the impact evaluation, see the full report, which is available here.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Are Georgians as tolerant as they claim to be?

[Note: This article was co-published with OC-Media and written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]


On 15 November, the Ministry of Culture announced it would give ‘Georgian tolerance’ the status of intangible cultural heritage. Historically, Georgia may have exhibited relatively high levels of tolerance, with many pointing to the reign of King David the Builder in the 12th century. David is celebrated for presiding over the start of the country’s golden age, and many point to his encouragement of other ethnicities settling in Georgia as a good example of Georgian tolerance.

Yet, recent events in Georgia like the far-right March of Georgians, numerous incidents targeting Georgia’s Muslim community, and the 2013 riots during International Day Against Homophobia suggest Georgia has a ways to go when it comes to tolerance.

Survey data also consistently suggest modern day Georgia lacks tolerance towards minorities of all stripes, though is more tolerant than neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to Caucasus Barometer data, Georgians generally disapprove of Georgian women marrying other ethnicities, a common proxy for tolerance in international surveys.

The graph below shows the net approval rating of women marrying other ethnicities between 2009 and 2015. Net approval ratings show whether attitudes are more positive or negative towards an individual or subject overall. The only positive net approval rating is for Russians and only in 2015. Every other net approval rating is less than zero suggesting more Georgians disapprove of women of their ethnicity marrying other ethnicities than approve.  This includes many ethnicities which the Ministry of Culture is presumably celebrating the country’s tolerance towards such as Armenians, Azeris, Abkhaz, Jewish people, and Ossetians.


The data also shows a clear religious bias. The chart below shows the average net approval of women in Georgia marrying ethnicities associated with Christianity and other religions. The graph shows that ethnicities traditionally associated with religions besides Christianity are less approved of by about 20 percentage points.


Note: Ethnicities associated with Christianity in the above graph include Russians, Armenians, Armenians living in Georgia, Ossetians, and Abkhaz. Ethnicities not associated with Christianity include Azeris, Azeris living in Georgia, Jewish people, Kurds, and Turks.

While Georgia lacks in tolerance, when compared with its neighbors in Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia is welcoming. The graph below shows the net approvals for each ethnicity on the Caucasus Barometer between 2009 and 2013. The general pattern holds whether or not Armenians and Azerbaijanis attitudes towards each other are taken into account.



Note: Average net approvals were calculated using all ethnicities that were asked about in all three countries as well as the two South Caucasian neighbors of each country. Titular ethnicities were excluded from the calculation. Caucasus Barometer was not carried out in Azerbaijan in 2015.

While Georgia is more tolerant than its neighbors, it still has a long way to go, especially if it wants to match the famed tolerance of King David the Builder.

The data used in this article is available from CRRC-Georgia’s Online Data Analysis Tool.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Perceptions of professionalism, corruption, and nepotism in local government

Professionalism, honesty, and fair competition are important in any institution. Yet, incidents involving corruption, nepotism and/or a lack of professionalism are sometimes reported in the Georgian media when the work of local government bodies is covered. How does the public perceive local government? This blog post describes data from the June 2017 CRRC/NDI survey, which show that a majority of people in Georgia thought that there were problems with nepotism and a lack of professionalism in local government. Moreover, roughly half of the population thought that their local government also faces a problem with corruption.

These assessments vary across different settlement types. The population of Tbilisi and other urban settlements was most likely to think that their local government faces all three problems. A majority of people from rural and ethnic minority settlements agreed that there was a lack of professionalism in their local government, but fewer agreed that there were problems with nepotism and corruption. Notably, as with many other survey questions, a high share of the population of ethnic minority settlements answered “Don’t know”.



People’s perceptions also vary by their level of education. People with higher levels of education agreed more often that their local government has issues with nepotism, professionalism, and corruption.



Note: Answer options to the question “What is the highest level of education you have achieved to date?” were recoded. Answer options “Did not obtain a nine-year certificate”, “Nine-year certificate”, and “Secondary school certificate” were combined into “Secondary or lower”. Answer options “Bachelor’s degree/5-year diploma” and “Any degree above Bachelor’s” were combined into “Higher than secondary”. 

In June 2017, a majority of the population of Georgia agreed that their local government had issues with professionalism and nepotism. Corruption was less often reported to be a problem, though 1/3 of the public (and almost half of the population of Tbilisi) agreed with the statement that there was corruption in their local government.

To explore the data in this blog post more extensively, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Was the population informed about the constitutional reform in Georgia?

[Note: This blog first appeared in OC-Media. The article was written by Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Democratic Institute or any other related entity.]

After 10 months of discussions, the parliament of Georgia adopted amendments to the constitution of the country on September 29th and overrode the president’s veto on October 13th, 2017. The most widely discussed amendments are about rules for electing the president, self-governance principles, the definition of marriage, the sale of agricultural land to foreigners, the minimum age of judges and the country’s foreign policy  orientation. Because of the importance of the amendments, one would expect a high level of awareness among the population. However, despite the public meetings held and media coverage of the issue, according to the CRRC/NDI survey from June 2017, a majority of the population of Georgia was not aware of the constitutional reform process.

Survey fieldwork was conducted before the process of amending the constitution finished. Thus, people were asked whether they were aware or not that the State Constitutional Commission had adopted a Draft Revision of the Constitution. Thirty two percent of the population answered they were aware, while 60% stated that they were not. Of those who said they were aware, only 39% said they felt they had enough information about the proposed changes. Moreover, only 6% of people who were aware of the changes said they thought the changes fully reflected citizens’ opinions, and 47% said they partially reflected citizens’ opinions. A third (32%) said the proposed changes did not reflect people’s opinions at all.

People living in the capital were more informed compared to people living outside the capital. Notably, only 13% of people living in ethnic minority settlements reported being aware of the constitutional reform.


Younger people and those with lower levels of education were less aware of the the constitutional reform. Only 26% of people between the ages of 18 and 35 said they were aware. By comparison, 33% of people between the ages of 36 and 55 and 37% of those 56 and older said the same. Similarly, only 19% of people with secondary or lower education were aware of the changes, while 34% of people with secondary technical and 50% of people with tertiary education said they were aware.

Besides differences by age and the level of education, people naming different political parties as closest to them reported being aware of the process at different frequencies. Those who named Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia and Bakradze-Ugulava - European Georgia were more informed than people who said that the United National Movement (UNM) or Georgian Labor Party were closest to them. The UNM’s and Labour Party’s supporters were least aware of the process surrounding constitutional amendments.



Awareness of the constitutional reform was low even after public meetings were held to discuss the changes. Younger people, people with secondary or lower education and people living outside Tbilisi were less informed about the process compared to older people, people with tertiary education and people living in the capital. The low level of awareness is especially striking in ethnic minority settlements and among people who named the United National Movement as the party closest to them. As for attitudes towards the changes, a majority of those who were aware felt they did not have enough information about the process and thought that the draft constitution either partially reflected, or did not at all reflect citizens’ opinions.

The data used in this blog post and other survey data is available at our Online Data Analysis portal.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Who should own land in Georgia? How attitudes changed between 2015 and 2017

[Note: This article originally appeared on OC-Media. It was written by Kristina Vacharadze, Programmes Director at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in the article are the author’s alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or the Europe Foundation.]

Georgian parliament recently adopted constitutional amendments. Among the many changes were those regulating the sale of agricultural land. According to the amendments, “Agricultural land, as a resource of special importance, can only be owned by the state, a self-governing entity, a citizen of Georgia, or a union of Georgian citizens.” While the constitution allows for exceptions, which should be regulated by a law yet to be written, it is expected that foreigners will not be allowed to buy agricultural land in Georgia as freely as Georgian citizens. This blog post looks at public opinion about foreigners owning land in Georgia.

A majority of the population (64%) think that land should only be owned by Georgian citizens no matter how they use it, according to the EF/CRRC survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes toward the EU in Georgia (EU survey) conducted in May 2017. This share increased by 21 percentage points since 2015.


Note: The original 11-point scale was recoded into a 5-point scale for the charts in this blog post. Codes 0 and 1 were combined into ‘Only citizens of Georgia should own land in Georgia, no matter how they use this land’; 2 and 3 into ‘2’; 4, 5 and 6 into ‘3’; 7 and 8 into ‘4’ and codes 9 and 10 - into ‘Land in Georgia should be owned by those who will use it in the most profitable way, no matter their citizenship’.  

The rural population is least favourable to the idea of foreign ownership of Georgian land. A large majority (74%) strongly believe that only citizens of Georgia should own land.


The younger population (18-35 years old) is more open towards foreigners owing land in Georgia. Approximately one in five believes that land should be owned by those who will use it in the most profitable way, irrespective of their citizenship. Older people are less open to foreign ownership. Still, in 2017 the proportion of young people who are more open towards foreigners owning land in Georgia dropped by seven percentage points compared to 2015, while the proportion of young people who think that the land should be owned only by Georgian citizens increased by 22 percentage points.


The majority of the population of Georgia do not favour foreigners buying land in the country. Younger people and those living in urban settlements appear more open to the idea of foreign ownership of Georgian land. But the number of those opposing foreign ownership of Georgian land is high and has increased in the past two years. 

Explore the data used in this blog post further using our Online Data Analysis tool.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and Georgia

Do voters in less than democratic contexts matter or are elections simply facades used to create a veneer of democratic accountability for domestic and international actors? Within the Autocratic Response to Voter Preferences in Armenia and Georgia project, funded by Academic Swiss Caucasus Net, CRRC-Georgia and CRRC-Armenia aimed to help answer this question, at least for Georgia and Armenia. On October 27, Caucasus Survey published the results of the project in a special issue, available here.

In the introduction of the issue, Koba Turmanidze and Matteo Fummagali ask do voters matter in competitive authoritarian regimes and, if so, how? Do their preferences make any difference in the way in which the regime conceives of policies and goes about policy-making? In their article, they argue that they do, and that incumbents take voters seriously. Crucially, the way the regimes respond to policy demand determines their durability in office. The article explains why, despite strong similarities, the political regime ruling Armenia remained stable over the years (from the mid-1990s), whereas the one in Georgia has been unseated on two occasions (2003–2004 and 2012–2013). Evidence confirms that policy-making and voters’ perceptions thereof also play an important role in determining whether a regime collapses or survives. The incumbents collect information on voter preferences, and devise policies in response to them. Policy-making thus matters and is extremely consequential. Paradoxically, however, policy-making makes a difference in counter-intuitive ways. The article concludes that a regime which refrains from making grand promises, or blatantly contradictory or unrealistic ones, has greater chances of surviving than those that set out to transform society, like Saakashvili’s Georgia. Ultimately, such policies backfire on those who launched them.

In the second article in the issue, Dustin Gilbreath and Koba Turmanidze highlight how state capacity volatility and growth affects political survival. Political science has dedicated extensive attention to the determinants of regime change as well as its relation to state capacity. Less work has focused on incumbent political survival and state capacity. Building on selectorate theory (Bueno De Mesquita et al., 2005), the article suggests that the chance of the party of the incumbent remaining in office is partially a function of the capacity of the state they hold power over. However, the authors also hypothesize that state capacity volatility decreases an incumbent’s chances of winning elections. To empirically test these hypotheses, the article uses a cross country statistical analysis complemented by illustrative case studies of policy making from Armenia and Georgia. The analyses support the above two hypotheses, showing that if the incumbent increases state capacity, it increases their chances of staying in office. However, capacity volatility decreases their chances of survival. While Georgian state capacity developed in fits, jumps, and starts, in Armenia state capacity developed at a slow and steady pace for most of its independence. As the aphorism goes, slow and steady wins the race with politicians being thrown out of office in Georgia and the incumbent in Armenia maintaining its power. Based on the analyses presented in the analyses, the authors suggest that a self-defeating game is at work for reformers.

In the third article in the issue, Dustin Gilbreath and Sona Balasanyan take a historic look at election fraud in Armenia and Georgia. In the article they note that elections on unfair playing fields are common, yet election day fraud can result in authoritarians losing office. The freer the environment, the more an authoritarian must rely on means other than election day fraud to retain office, because they are less capable of coercing the population without facing repercussions. Among those other means is cooptation through public policy. A common theme in the special issue is that public policy has been of greater import in Georgia than Armenia. The article makes a contribution to explaining the phenomenon using comparative case studies of election day fraud in Armenia and Georgia over time. To do so, the article uses methods from the field of election forensics to provide a quantitative comparison of the scale of election day fraud in each country’s elections since 2007 using precinct level election results for parliamentary and presidential elections. The test results suggest, as has been widely believed, that Georgia’s elections have had less election day fraud than Armenia’s during this period. This finding provides a theoretical basis to explain why public policy has been a greater concern in Georgia than Armenia.

In the fourth article in the issue, Giorgi Babunashvili argues that while voters are often assumed to be of tertiary importance in less than democratic contexts – the regime can manipulate, buy, or outright steal their votes goes the predominant logic – in reality, voters not only matter but engage in retrospective voting in Georgia, a country with imperfect political competition. Analysis of two waves of nationally representative survey data from 2012 to 2015 supports the retrospective voting theory, with a positive relationship between voter support for the incumbent party and positive assessments of government policies related to socio-economic, democratization, and security issues. Citizens who assess government policies negatively are more prone to voting for opposition candidates or not voting at all compared to those who are more satisfied with the government's performance in Georgia. Notably, these findings are very similar for two governments led by two very different parties in Georgia: the United National Movement (2008–2012) and Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia (since 2012). Hence, the author concludes that disregarding voters’ preferences has negative consequences for the legitimation and survival of the incumbent.

In the fifth article in this issue, Koba Turmanidze asks: Lie a little or promise a lot? This is a question many politicians face when campaigning before elections. The paper examines whether voters support ambiguous pre-election promises in Armenia and Georgia using an experimental design and if so, what it tells us about accountability mechanisms and a potential accountability trap. The accountability trap emerges when voters cannot hold their elected officials accountable for their promises due to their ambiguity and become disillusioned with political participation. The paper looks at how voters’ expected political behaviour changes in response to randomly assigned types of electoral promises from a hypothetical party. The paper shows a positive effect of ambiguity: if a party makes an ambiguous promise, it will do significantly better in Georgia and at least not worse in Armenia than a party promising a specific policy option. The effect of ambiguity partially explains why parties have been poor at putting forward coherent electoral programs in Armenia and Georgia. More broadly, the findings contribute to understanding the problem of accountability in hybrid regimes, which may lead to representation crises.

In the sixth article in the issue, Rati Shubladze and Tsisana Khundadze point out that voters care about policy, and this is true for democracies as well as hybrid regimes. To show how incumbents’ policy choice influences political continuity and change they look at public policies in Armenia and Georgia from 2004 to 2013. The paper is grounded in Gerschewski’s theoretical framework that views legitimation, repression, and co-optation as the three strategies or pillars of stability in less than democratic regimes. The authors describe each pillar as a set of specific policies designed by ruling parties to gain legitimacy in the eyes of voters, as well as policies aimed at co-optation and/or repression of political opponents. Hence, they demonstrate that the key to the incumbent’s electoral survival is the stabilization process between pillars, i.e. complementary application of policies based on available resources. However, the application of different stabilization strategies is not enough and timing, organization, and balance between pillars are also crucial for maintaining voters’ support for the incumbent. Based on secondary statistical evidence and primary qualitative data analysis, they show how the Armenian government managed to balance the pillars of stability by the effective and well-timed application of different policies, while the government of Georgia failed to use relevant pillars of stabilization when one of the pillars did not work to the incumbent’s advantage.

Overall, the issue makes the case that voters - even in less than democratic contexts - matter.  To view the articles, click on the links above or here for the entire issue.



Monday, October 30, 2017

Georgian public increasingly unaware of what the European Union Monitoring Mission does

[Note: This article originally appeared at OC-Media. The article was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or Europe Foundation.]

As much as 81% of the population of Georgia doesn’t know what the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) does, according to the 2017 Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia survey funded by Europe Foundation and implemented by CRRC-Georgia. This lack of knowledge has increased over time, as has the prevalence of incorrect information about the EUMM’s mission. This represents a missed opportunity for the EU’s communications in Georgia.

On the survey, respondents were asked, “What does the European Union Monitoring Mission do in Georgia?” A large plurality of the population (41%) reported they did not know what the EUMM does. The second most common response (25%) was “supports the implementation of democratic and market oriented reforms,” an incorrect answer. The third most common response (19%) was “supports the stabilization of the situation in the areas affected by the August 2008 war,” the EUMM’s actual mission.

The share of the public aware of what the EUMM does has declined over time. While in 2009, 39% of the population knew what the EUMM did, 19% did in 2017. This decline may stem from the relatively high salience of the Monitoring Mission in the years immediately following the 2008 August War with Russia, although no data exists which would confirm this.

Besides the decline in knowledge of what the EUMM does, inaccurate information about the organization has become more prevalent. While only 24% of the public gave an inaccurate answer to the question in 2009, 38% did in 2017. Notably, there was a large increase in don’t know responses in 2015 and a sizable decline in 2017. Rather than an increase in correct responses in 2017, however, the data suggests that a lack of knowledge was replaced by incorrect information.



The lack of knowledge about the EUMM is most pronounced in ethnic minority settlements, with only 2% of individuals in minority communities correctly responding to the question. The lack of knowledge in minority settlements should come as no surprise given that surveys in these communities regularly have high rates of don’t know responses.

In contrast, those living in rural settlements with a predominantly ethnic Georgian population provide the correct response most often. The fact that the rural population is more informed than urban populations may stem from the EUMM’s rural presence. While the organization has offices in four urban settlements – Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Zugdidi, and Gori – they regularly patrol the rural areas surrounding the administrative boundary lines with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Although the public is increasingly unaware of what the EUMM does, about 2/3 of people who provided incorrect answers to the question about the EUMM’s mission would like to have more information about the EU. About a quarter even want information specifically about the EU’s role in resolving Georgia’s territorial conflicts.

The lack of knowledge of what the European Union Monitoring Mission does in Georgia may represent a missed opportunity for the EU. While no data is available about the attitudes of people who have had contact with the EUMM, previous research in Georgia has suggested that individuals contacted by NGOs report greater trust in them. The EUMM, given its public service mission, may receive a comparable boost from contact with the public. Hence, the EU should consider increasing its outreach and communications related to the EUMM.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Survey incentives: When offering nothing is better than offering something

Why do people take the time to respond to surveys in Georgia? A telephone survey experiment CRRC-Georgia carried out in May 2017 suggests that small financial incentives may actually discourage people from participating in surveys. This finding suggests people may respond to surveys for intrinsic (e.g. because they are curious or want to help) rather than extrinsic reasons (e.g. doing something for the money).

During the experiment, 2320 respondents were asked whether they would be willing to participate in future phone surveys. Half were offered a GEL 2 transfer (about US$0.82 at the time of the survey) to their telephone in exchange for doing so. The other half was not offered any incentive. Respondents were randomly assigned whether they were offered an incentive or not.

The difference in responses isn’t impressive, but is statistically significant. Approximately 4% fewer people said they would participate in future surveys when offered the incentive. The chart below displays the effects of different variables on willingness to participate in future surveys in terms of odds ratios. The first model looks at the effect of being offered GEL 2 alone, while the second model controls for age, sex, and settlement type. The odds of someone responding positively when offered the incentive where approximately 0.8 to 1 in both regressions, meaning that the offer made it less likely that individuals would be willing to participate in a future survey. The second model also shows that except for those in the 36-55 age group, demographic characteristics have no effect on people’s likelihood of agreeing to participate in future surveys.


Note: For the regression models presented above, “No” was coded as the base category, “Don’t know” as the second category, and “Yes” as the third category. The logic behind coding “Don’t know” as a middle category is that the person is not refusing to participate in future surveys, but rather is saying they might or might not. 

The results of this experiment show that people in Georgia are slightly less likely to want to participate in future surveys if you offer them a small amount of money compared with offering nothing. This finding may at first seem strange. However, a potential explanation is that GEL 2 may have seemed like a paltry sum, and people may have been offended. In turn, rather than engaging people’s intrinsic motivations like a sense of duty to help others or simple curiosity, the offer of GEL 2 could have activated people’s extrinsic motivations. In turn, the extrinsic incentive wasn’t large enough to counter the loss in the intrinsic value of participation, at least on average.

For a look at a comparable effect in a very different context, this study on attitudes towards having nuclear waste facilities found a similar pattern: when offered money, people were less likely to support having such a facility in their community.

Have other thoughts on what might have encouraged those offered GEL 2 to participate in future surveys to decline participation more frequently? Let’s have a conversation on Facebook or Twitter.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Will an Independent Mayoral Candidate Bring Political Change to Georgia?

[Note: This piece was originally published at New Eastern Europe. It was written by David Sichinava. David is a Senior Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia and Assistant Professor at Tbilisi State University. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, Tbilisi State University, or any other affiliated entity.]

A June 2017 survey CRRC-Georgia carried out for the National Democratic Institute suggests that Aleksandre (Aleko) Elisashvili, an independent candidate and prominent grassroots activist could win the Tbilisi Mayoral elections, if the elections enter  a second round, which the polling also suggests is a possibility. While only election day will tell the ultimate result, if Elisashvili does win, it could be the start of a shake up of Georgian political life.

Local elections are set for October including the election of mayors in several self-governing cities. In Georgian local elections, the Tbilisi Mayoral race is considered the main race, given that the city contains roughly one third of the country’s population. For the ruling Georgian Dream party, former Energy Minister and Vice Premier Kakha Kaladze is running for the post. The United National Movement, which following defections consists of loyalists to Mikheil Saakashvili, has nominated Zaal Udumashvili, a former anchor on Rustavi 2, the country’s largest TV station. European Georgia, a party consisting of defectors from the United National Movement has nominated Elene Khostaria, a former official in the UNM government and currently an MP, for the mayoral race. The race also features Irma Inashvili, the leader of right-wing Alliance of Patriots, and Giorgi Gugava, endorsed by the Labour Party of Georgia.

Besides the party-affiliated candidates, Aleko Elisashvili, an independent who rose to prominence through his engagement with a variety of grassroots movements aimed at preserving Tbilisi’s urban heritage and currently serving on the Tbilisi city council, has thrown his hat into the race.

June 2017 polling CRRC carried out for NDI places Kaladze in the lead with 37% of the vote among likely voters. Elisashvili came in second with 22%, followed by Udumashvili (16%) and Khoshtaria (5%). According to the survey, 16% of likely voters in Tbilisi are undecided or refused to answer who they would vote for.

If undecided voters are distributed equally between parties, a simple but often accurate way of forecasting election outcomes in the absence of a large number of surveys, it suggests that Kaladze would garner about 42% of the vote in the first round of elections. If Kaladze receives less than 50% of the vote, the electoral threshold to win outright in the first round of Georgia’s mayoral elections, it would lead to a runoff. Given the relatively small sample of likely voters in Tbilisi in the survey and the fact that elections were still at least two months away, it is still unclear whether there will be a run-off, though it is a possibility.

Even though Elisashvili is polling 15 points behind Kaladze, in a runoff, Elisashvili could win the race. In a TV interview, both Udumashvili and Khoshtaria expressed their willingness to support any pro-Western opposition candidate against Kaladze in a second round. Assuming those parties supporters would turnout for Elisashvili, the polls suggest he would garner about 54% of the vote. Although Udumashvili is neck-and-neck for the second place, in case of runoff, he does not have Elisashvili’s declared support. Again, keeping in mind the relatively small Tbilisi sample and the level of error associated with it, this places Kaladze and Elisashvili in a neck-and-neck race.

That means that the campaign, and the race for undecided voters matters. While Kaladze has vowed to replace Soviet block flats with modern housing and promises to further invigorate Tbilisi’s lively nightlife, Elisashvili’s campaign has focused on urban politics and policy. He has attacked Tbilisi mayor’s office for corruption and is positioning himself as an anti-establishment candidate. Elisashvili’s negative stances towards large real estate developers and Tbilisi’s investor-induced construction frenzy indeed fit the anti-establishment image he’s cultivating.

A closer look at the NDI survey suggests Elisashvili is doing better than Kaladze among those voters who do not identify themselves with any party, almost 40% of the city’s population. Surprisingly for a grassroots activist, Elisashvili’s supporters are more likely to be older and well-off - two demographic groups who generally turn out to vote. They are also more likely to think that there is corruption, nepotism and a lack of professionalism in Tbilisi mayor’s office. Finally, voters who think that environmental pollution is the most important public goods issue in Tbilisi - which has consistently been viewed as the most important public goods issue in the capital - are also leaning towards Elisashvili, as are those who find recent construction in residential neighborhoods unfit to the area.

These political leanings in combination with support for Elisashvili make sense given his background. He was instrumental in founding Tpilisis Hamkari, an activist group concerned with preservation issues. Since its inception in 2005, Hamkari has led protest rallies to save several landmark buildings across Georgia’s capital from demolition. Started by a handful of activists, the movement climaxed in 2011 and 2012 when it drew hundreds to rallies attempting to save Gudiashvili square, a small pocket of urban green area in old Tbilisi. Apart from his work as an activist, Elisashvili also hosted political talk shows on the opposition-associated Kavkasia TV and served as head of the state parole board.

Elisashvili’s activism has contributed to his past political successes. In the 2014 local elections, he ran as an independent, winning a seat on Tbilisi city council in a narrowly fought race with candidates endorsed by the Georgian Dream and the United National Movement in the affluent Saburtalo district. At the city council, he fiercely criticized legislation the Georgian Dream-dominated city government proposed. Importantly, Elisashvili opposed the Panorama Tbilisi construction project which was endorsed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s former prime minister and the wealthiest man in the country.

Whether or not Elisashvili manages to maintain or increase his support, many care about the causes the independent candidate stands for. Georgians are extremely skeptical towards local government and issues like environmental pollution and urban development have become increasingly salient. Political scientists still argue whether such issues matter for party politics in post-communist societies. However, the polling and movements in different contexts increasingly suggest that activists have the potential to challenge and shake up city politics through focusing on these issues. The recent success of an anti-establishment social activist, Ada Colau, in Barcelona’s mayoral race is yet another example.

While, it is too early to say whether Elisashvili will be able to turn his popularity into a successful bid for the mayor’s office, the fact that an independent candidate with a relatively unusual political platform is polling strongly could suggest the winds of change are afloat on the political scene in Georgia. Whether those winds will lead towards a revival of Georgia’s democracy, or whether the 2017 local elections will be another round of hope followed by disappointment at the lack of the opposition’s political acumen like in the 2010 local elections awaits election day.

The data used in this article is available here. The input output model used to distribute voters is available here.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?

CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.

In May 2017, only about 1% of the population of Georgia reported having not heard of visa liberalization. A majority, 64%, reported being glad to have the possibility to travel to the Schengen zone countries visa free, although only 16% believed they personally would take advantage of the visa-free regime in the next 12 months. About a third of the population said visa liberalization did not matter for them, and a rather small minority (4%) reported not being glad about visa liberalization.

Five major conditions have to be met by Georgian citizens to enjoy visa-free travel: they should be able to provide a return ticket, travel insurance, proof of financial means to cover their trip expenses, the address where they will be staying during the trip (a hotel reservation or the address of people inviting him/her) and hold a biometric passport. The Georgian government has implemented a large-scale information campaign to spread information about the conditions of visa liberalization as widely as possible. In order to learn how effective this campaign was, the survey included an open question, “Which are the documents that a Georgian citizen needs in order to travel to the Schengen zone countries visa-free?”

According to the findings, people best remembered the requirement of having a biometric passport – 78% named this condition of visa-free travel. Much smaller shares remembered the other conditions: 45% named financial means, 40% a return ticket, 34% the address where a traveler will be staying during the trip, and only 24% named travel insurance. Understandably, those planning to travel to the Schengen zone in the next 12 months demonstrated a better knowledge of the conditions of visa-free travel. However, the differences were not impressive, especially taking into consideration the small size of this group and thus a relatively larger margin of error.

Overall, only 12% of the population named all these conditions during the survey. Rather surprisingly, the rural population and those living in urban settlements outside the capital “scored” better in this exercise compared to the population of the capital and ethnic minority settlements. On the other hand, 18% failed to name any of the five conditions of visa-free travel. The population of ethnic minority settlements demonstrated the poorest knowledge.

Importantly, as of May 2017, a quarter of the population of Georgia mistakenly believed that as a result of the visa-free regime, Georgian citizens obtained permission to work in the EU. The share increases to 34% among those who say they will travel to a Schengen zone country in the next 12 months. Thus, a preliminary look at the findings about knowledge of the conditions of visa liberalization for Georgian citizens suggests that the information campaign needs to expand, and become more intense and targeted to potential travelers.

The datasets and findings of all waves of Europe Foundation’s survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia are available on CRRC’s online data analysis platform. A report focused on the 2017 data is available here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Prioritizing the personal: People talk more about personal issues than political events

There is nothing new in the idea that, in general, people would primarily be interested in their own lives, rather than in social or political events. In other words, social and political events will, most probably, be overshadowed by events in one’s personal life. CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey data provides more detailed insights on this. In this blog post, we compare answers to two CB questions: “When you get together with your close relatives and friends, how often do you discuss each other’s private problems?” and “When you get together with your friends and close relatives, how often do you discuss politics / current affairs?” in Armenia and Georgia.

The population of both countries report discussing private problems with much higher frequency than politics and/or current affairs. Interestingly, while the populations of the two countries report rather similar low frequencies of discussing politics and/or current affrairs, the population of Georgia reports discussing private problems frequently almost twice as often as the population of Armenia.


Note: Originally, 10-point scales were used for these questions, with code ‘1’ corresponding to the answer “Never” and code ‘10’ corresponding to the answer “Always”. For the charts in this blog post, the original scales were recoded into 3-point scales, with codes 1, 2 and 3 combined into the category “Rarely”, codes 4 through 7 combined into the category “With average frequency”, and codes 8, 9 and 10 combined into the category “Frequently”. Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% of the cases) were excluded from the analysis. 

When looking only at the most radical answers on the original 10-point scales (“Never” and “Always”, i.e. codes 1 and 10), in both Armenia and Georgia the share of those who report always discussing politics and/or current affairs is much less than the share of those who report never discussing these issues. In Armenia, 8% report always discussing politics and/or current affairs when they get together with close relatives and friends, as opposed to 29% who report never doing so. The respective shares are 11% and 25% in Georgia.

When it comes to the shares of the population recording the most radical answers about the frequency of discussing private problems, the pictures in the two countries are quite different. While practically equal shares report discussing private problems with close relatives and friends in Armenia either always (14%) or never (16%), in Georgia, four times as many report always discussing private problems when they get together with close relatives and friends (29%), compared to 7% who report never doing so.

Even when researchers rely on self-reported information only, as is the case with these CB questions, a high frequency of discussing certain issues reflects people’s interest in them. In Armenia and especially in Georgia, few people spend time talking politics. Not surprisingly, these are mostly older people. While there are no large male-female differences, the reported frequency of discussing politics with close relatives and friends differs for the population of different settlement types. Most surprisingly, the findings in this respect are rather different for the capital cities of Armenia and Georgia.

Thus, although the general patterns of frequency of discussing different issues with close relatives and friends are similar in Armenia and Georgia, there are certain important differences that would merit further research. Specifically, one important question to answer is, are Armenians – especially those living in Yerevan – much more reserved while discussing politics?

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer and other survey data is available at our Online Data Analysis portal.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Get credible! ... Or a modest proposal to implement pre-registration in think tank research

[Note: This post first appeared at On Think Tanks. It was written by Aaron Erlich Assistant Professor of Political Science and Founding Member of the Centre for Social and Cultural Data Science at McGill University and Dustin Gilbreath a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The Caucasus Research Resource Centers in collaboration with Aaron Erlich and Caucasus Survey recently announced a pre-registration competition for articles that will use the 2017 Caucasus Barometer Survey. This post is a reflection on how and why think tanks can and should use pre-registration based on the experience of setting up the competition and a summer workshop on pre-registration hosted at CRRC-Georgia in summer, 2017.]


It’s almost a cliche to say that think tanks operate on the basis of credibility. The media, politicians, and some in the general public have increasingly questioned think tanks’ credibility in recent years, with think tanks and tankers becoming increasingly thought of as lobbyists under a different name. Think tanks are not the only ones experiencing a credibility problem. Social science outside the think tank world is also in the middle of a credibility crisis. This crisis stems from the lack of reproducibility of results, scandals related to data fabrication, reliance on small sample studies, and questionable data analysis practices in the search of statistical significance. In response to this crisis, one proposal that aims to ameliorate the situation is the pre-registration of studies. Pre-registration not only represents an opportunity for social science, but also for think tanks to increase the credibility of their work, lighten workloads, and increase donor independence.

What is pre-registration?
A pre-registered study is one where research design elements like sample size, hypotheses, any experimental protocols, and statistical analyses are defined, justified, and placed in a secure registry prior to actually carrying out data analysis. Usually, this means registering the study prior to data collection. However, in some cases one can pre-register a design while data collection is ongoing or before the data are available to the researcher.

For example, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (Aaron’s former employer and Dustin’s current) is currently holding a competition for papers on foreign policy preferences in the South Caucasus based on the 2017 Caucasus Barometer survey. The survey, at the time of writing, is entering the field and is expected to be complete at the end of October. However, the data itself will not be released until December. To participate in the competition, researchers must register their research design at the Open Science Foundation registry (one of a number of reputable locations to register a study) and then submit their paper based off their pre-registration (without results) to the journal Caucasus Survey. The papers will be reviewed and accepted or rejected without the results of analyses, hence taking away the incentive to find statistical significance.

Like in other studies, analysis commences once an organization has collected data. However, in contrast to an unregistered study, after data collection a researcher need only focus on carrying out the analysis described in their pre-registration plan (or even simply run pre-written code for analysis) and insert the tables and graphs into their report. The bulk of the registration document serves as the report, hence front-loading the writing. Any exploratory data analysis, not described in the pre-registration, is reported as such in the final report.

Why would a think tank pre-register a study?
From the perspective of a think tank, there are reputational advantages as well as more subtle bonuses for managing a think tanks’ workload. The most important advantage of pre-registration will likely be that it increases the credibility of the think tanks’ findings. While in the past, research consumers often simply considered quantitative work robust, today issues surrounding replicability, and statistical modeling like hacking data for statistical significance at the holy 5% level have cast a large shadow over a great deal of quantitative work. Pre-registration precludes statistical hacking among other issues like researcher degrees of freedom, thus leaving fewer avenues of attack for potential critics.

Besides increasing credibility, pre-registration of research design can be particularly valuable for think tanks who work on commissioned studies. While philanthropy is one of the main sources of funding in the United States, in the developing world, think tanks often survive on service contracts and grants for studies on specific issues. Pre-registration is beneficial for both the academic reasons outlined above as well as for the think tank’s work load and independence.

When it comes to workload, a pre-registered study shifts a great deal of effort to project start up, but has the potential to decrease the ultimate workload. Because hypotheses are specified ahead of time, researchers will have to start writing out their expectations instead of focusing solely on design at the start of projects. This means that clients need to agree beforehand on what analyses the think tank will perform, and that agreement can be put into the deliverables of any contract. In this manner, donors who contract research could be constrained in their ability to request more analyses at the end of the project (at least without paying and specifying that these were not pre-registered results). In turn, this prevents researchers from needing to run (potentially hundreds) of additional analyses at the end of a project, when the client is unsatisfied with the results for whatever reason or curious about some other result they had not thought of ahead of time.

When it comes to independence, in the current environment, many donors do not hesitate to pressure researchers to produce results supportive of donors’ positions. With a pre-registered study, researchers have listed out the exact analysis they will implement beforehand along with their expectations about the results of the analysis. Donors who have have been educated in the way this process works can use pre-registration to make stronger arguments. Moreover, the analysis can be built into the deliverables of the project. Hence, donors will be less facilely able to suggest a different analysis or measure in place of the one the researcher chose at the start, thus decreasing the number of avenues through which donors can apply pressure, particularly since changing the analysis would have cost implications.

Many in the think tank community might be skeptical of this proposal. Afterall, donors hold the purse strings. Still, we think that the process will benefit many donors. In many cases, donors want the highest quality study possible, even when motivated by short term goals, because it will help them advance their agenda. While if the donor is so baldly seeking a single result and not willing to accept anything else, we accept the fact that the proposal won’t work. In many case, however, we think donors would take enhanced quality at no cost in exchange for a loss of some control over the final product.

Pre-registration does have limitations and drawbacks. For example, it only works when a researcher can credibly demonstrate that they do not have access to data before pre-registering. Moreover, although it is likely the model could be applied to qualitative research in some form, to date, the model has yet to be implemented widely. Since qualitative research arguably comprises the majority of think tank research, the scope of use is somewhat limited.

While pre-registration is not panacea to the problems of social science or the problems think tanks face, it is a tool for think tanks to consider, which can enhance credibility and potentially decrease workloads and increase independence - three things we don’t think many tankers would be against.

Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia and the Communications Manager at Transparify. 

Aaron Erlich is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Founding Member of the Center for Social and Computations Data Science at McGill University, and previously a Research Consultant at the Caucasus Research Resource Centers in the Tbilisi office.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Why NATO? The main reasons for approving and disapproving of the Government of Georgia’s stated goal of joining NATO

On 1st August, 2017, US Vice President Mike Pence reiterated the United States’ support for the Georgian government’s aim to become a NATO member at a joint press conference in Tbilisi with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Membership in NATO has been a stated aim of successive Georgian governments since 1999. According to CRRC/NDI survey findings from February 2012 to June 2017, this aim enjoys popular support in Georgia. However, less is known about the reasons why people either approve or disapprove of Georgia’s goal of joining NATO. These reasons are explored in this blog post using CRRC/NDI survey data.

Data from the past five years shows a 60%-80% approval rate of Georgia joining NATO. While the share of those who either answered “Don’t know” or refused to answer this question has declined, the share of those who answered “Disapprove” has increased over this period.


Information on the reasons for approval or disapproval of Georgia’s membership in NATO was collected during the April 2017 CRRC/NDI survey. As the chart below shows, a hope for greater security was the main reason for approval, with 71% of the population mentioning it. Expecting improvement in the economic situation in Georgia was the second most frequent reason for approval, which 30% of the population mentioned.


Note: An open question was asked. Up to three responses were accepted. 

About a fifth (21%) of the population reported disapproving of Georgia joining NATO in April 2017. When asked to name up to three reasons for their disapproval, about half of those who disapprove reported doing so, because they believed it will cause conflict with Russia. 


Note: An open question was asked. Up to three responses were accepted. The margin of error is larger for these answers since a very small subsample answered this question. 

The majority of the population of Georgia consistently support the country joining NATO. Quite logically, hopes for increased security are named most often as the reason for support. The strength of approval suggests that the Georgian government has a strong mandate to continue pursuing NATO membership.

To explore the CRRC/NDI data presented in this blog post, please visit our online data analysis tool.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Private tutoring and inequality in Georgia

According to the March 2016 CRRC/TI-Georgia survey, roughly 4 in 10 households with school-aged children reported hiring a private tutor at the time of the survey for at least one subject that a child in their household was studying at school. Since the question was asked about private tutors for only subjects that pupil(s) were studying at school at the time of the fieldwork, the share of households that hire private tutors is likely higher than reported. This expectation is based on the fact that aptitude tests that are a required part of the university entrance exams for all applicants are not related to any specific school subject, yet, create a high demand for private tutoring. While, as has been noted before, private tutoring reflects economic inequalities in Georgian society, it also contributes to furthering these inequalities. This blog post looks at how the frequency of hiring private tutors in Georgia differs by settlement type and level of education of the interviewed household member.

Compared to other settlements, private tutoring is most widespread in Tbilisi. While 47% of Tbilisi households with school-aged children reported hiring a tutor for at least one school subject, only 32% of rural households reported the same.


Note: All charts in this blog post are based on the sub-sample of households with school-aged children (39% of all households). Thus, margins of error are higher for the reported findings. Answers “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 1% if combined) were excluded from the analysis. 

How the person interviewed was related to the child(ren) of school age living in the same household was not recorded during the interviews. Thus, we do not know his or her role in decisions about the child(ren)’s education, and specifically the hiring of private tutors. Still, we look at their level of education as a proxy for the entire household.

In cases when the household member reported having higher than secondary education, the school-aged children living in his/her household were more likely to have private tutor(s), compared to when the household member reported having secondary technical or secondary and lower education. Higher levels of education are also associated with relatively higher incomes. Hence, households where higher levels of education are reported also are likely to have more resources to cover the costs of private tutoring.


Note: Answer options to the question “What is the highest level of education you have achieved to date?” were recorded in the following way: “Primary education”, “Incomplete secondary education”, and “Completed secondary education” were combined into the category “Secondary education or lower”. “Secondary technical education/vocational education” is labeled “Secondary technical education”. “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education (BA, MA, or Specialist degree)”, and “Post-graduate degree” were combined into the category “Higher than secondary education”. Answers “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” (less than 5% if combined) were excluded from the analysis. 

Reported private tutoring practices differ by a number of variables in Georgia. School children living in Tbilisi and in households where interviewed household members report higher levels of education tend to have private tutors more often compared to other children.

To have a closer look at the CRRC/TIG survey data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Saturday, September 09, 2017

Attitudes towards immigrants in Georgia, and how they differ based on a person’s economic situation

A recent protest in Tbilisi was a reminder of the importance of studying attitudes towards immigrants in Georgia. A previous blog post discussed how these attitudes vary based on whether a person has or has not had personal contact with immigrants. This blog post explores how attitudes towards immigrants differ based on whether people believe or not that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia, and how they describe their households’ economic condition compared to the households around them, using CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey (CB) data. “Immigrants” was operationalized in the questionnaire as “foreigners who come to Georgia and stay here for longer than three months.”

A plurality of the population of Georgia (45%) report that immigrants will sometimes contribute to the country’s economic development and sometimes not. About one in five (22%) think that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia, and 18% think the opposite. Among those who think that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia, 50% report positive attitudes towards them. However, when people think that immigrants sometimes will and sometimes will not contribute to the economic development of Georgia or when they think immigrants will not contribute to it, they generally report neutral attitudes towards immigrants. Notably, among those who believe that immigrants will not contribute to the economic development of Georgia, 17% report negative attitudes towards them, which is the highest share of negative attitudes reported.



Note: For the question, “How would you characterize your attitude towards the foreigners who come to Georgia and stay here for longer than 3 months?” the original 5-point scale (1 – ‘Very bad’, 2 – ‘Bad’, 3 – ‘Neutral’, 4 – ‘Good’, 5 – ‘Very good’) was re-coded into a 3-point scale, with codes 1 and 2 labeled “Bad attitude” and codes 4 and 5 labeled “Good attitude” on the charts in this blog post. Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” are not shown and hence the percentages reported in the charts in this blog post may not sum to 100%.

Interestingly, the better a person’s assessment of their household’s relative economic condition, the better attitudes they report towards immigrants.



Note: For the question, “Relative to most of the households around you, would you describe the current economic condition of your household as …?” the original 5-point scale (1 – ‘Very poor’, 2 – ‘Poor’, 3 – ‘Fair’, 4 – ‘Good’, 5 – ‘Very good’) was re-coded into a 3-point scale, with codes 1 and 2 labeled “Poor” and codes 4 and 5 labeled “Good” on the chart above.

Overall, reported attitudes towards immigrants are rather neutral in Georgia. Importantly though, when people think that immigrants will contribute to the economic development of Georgia or consider the current economic condition of their households to be good, their attitudes tend to be more positive.

To have a closer look at the Caucasus Barometer data, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool.


Monday, September 04, 2017

A generation gap in retirement planning in Georgia

The pension system in Georgia faces challenges. According to the World Bank, in a country with a declining working age population (see slides 6 and 7), a retirement system in which the state is solely responsible for providing pensions – as in Georgia – is unadvisable. The Government of Georgia, with the help of international organizations, has been working to reform the country’s pension system, with the latest pension reform plan approved in spring 2016. The government is set to launch the new system in October 2017. With the new plan, in addition to the basic “universal” pension, still provided by the government, the employee, his/her employer, and the government will each make contributions to the employee’s retirement savings account. Each of the contributors will pay at least 2% of the employee’s monthly salary, totaling a minimum of 6% of his/her salary in a given month. Hence, an individual’s retirement savings will consist of these contributions and the interest accumulated on the retirement account.

According to the March 2016 CRRC/NDI survey, the plurality of the population of Georgia plans to or is supporting themselves in their old age with state pensions (49%) and/or assistance from their children (31%). Roughly a quarter (27%) reported that they have done nothing, have never thought about it, or don’t know what they do or plan to do to support themselves in old age. Younger people, however, plan to rely on sources of income other than state pensions more often than older people.



Note: A show card was used for this question. Up to three answer options were accepted per interview. Answer options “Saved or plan to save money in the bank” and “Rely or plan to rely on support from my relatives (besides my children)” were named very rarely and are thus combined with the answer option “Other.”

The above chart shows the distribution of answers nationwide, but there are important differences by age. The majority (72%) of the population 56 years old and older name government pensions as a means to support themselves in old age. In contrast, only 29% of young people between 18 and 35 years old report planning to rely on government pensions when they get old.


Note: Answer options “Made or plan to make investments”, “Saved or plan to save money, but not in the bank”, “Saved or plan to save money in the bank”, and “Bought or plan to buy a house/apartment for rent or sale” were combined with the answer option “Other”. 

Government should encourage the diversity of options for retirement planning that young people already report they plan on using as it may reduce dependence on state pensions in the long term. Awareness raising campaigns about such options are also important for supporting citizens in making informed decisions, and could be integrated into the campaigns already planned before the launch of the new pension system in 2017.

The data presented in this blog post is available at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis (ODA) tool.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Helping in Georgia: A myth confronted

There are a number of persistent myths about the population of Georgia, with some of the most famous being about hospitality and readiness to help others. As with any myth, it would be quite impossible to say exactly where such beliefs come from. However, relevant survey data often allows for the testing of whether these myths are accurate or not.

CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey findings make it possible to get quite specific information about whether and how people in Georgia help others – from donating money to a church or mosque to helping a neighbor or a friend with some household chores or childcare. This blog post compares how similar or different reported behavior is in the case of non-monetary vs. monetary help (donations), with the latter being asked separately about religious and non-religious charity. As the findings show, there are no drastic differences in the reported level of involvement in these activities.



For a society that praises “helping others” and, according to a widely cited CRRC report, is characterized by an “abundance” of bonding social capital, the share of the population that reported having helped others is unexpectedly small. Even in villages, where, intuitively, mutual help would be expected to be the most widespread, only 63% reported having helped neighbor(s) or friend(s) in the six months prior to the survey. This share is the lowest in urban settlements outside Tbilisi, with just around half of the population reporting having helped neighbor(s) or friend(s). Overall, men report helping others slightly more often than women, as do those in the youngest age group. This share is 67% among those who are between 18 and 29 years old. Among those who are 65 or older, the respective share is almost half of that, at 37%.

Importantly, helping others with household chores or childcare is an activity that does not require any direct monetary investment, and thus it is very different from the other forms of help CB asked about – donating money to a religious or non-religious cause. In a society like the Georgia’s, where almost 2/3 of the population report they need to borrow money to buy food at least occasionally, the economic situation will inevitably influence the population’s potential to donate money to a cause, even if people strongly support it. Still, and quite surprisingly, the share of those who reported having donated money to a church or mosque in 2015 is not any different from the share of those who reported having helped others with household chores or childcare. The demographic profiles of these two groups are, however, slightly different. For example, there are no obvious gender differences in the case of religious charity, and the population of the capital reported having made such donations more often (62%) than the population of other settlement types. Similar to the case with non-monetary help though, those who are 65 years old or older are the most passive in the case of religious donations.

Only 67% of those who reported having donated money to a church or mosque reported to have also helped others with household chores or childcare. Slightly less, about 2/3, of those who reported having donated money to a church or mosque also reported having made a contribution to a non-religious charity, including donations by sms or giving money to beggars.

With monetary donations, a person’s economic situation does not seem to be solely conditioning whether s/he would actually donate money or not. Even when people report they needed to borrow money for food, some still say they have donated money for either religious or non-religious charity – often at a rate similar to those who report being better off. Of those who said that it happened at least on a monthly basis in the past 12 months that they did not have enough money to buy food, equal shares (49%) reported having donated and not donated money to a church or mosque. As for non-religious monetary donations, however, the situation is rather different. Only 38% of this group reported having made a contribution to a non-religious charity (including donations by sms or giving money to beggars) and a larger share, 60%, reported not having done so. Involvement in non-monetary help was reported at the same level by people of different reported levels of well-being.


 Note: The category “At least every month” combines the original response options “Every day”, “Every week”, and “Every month”.

Leaving aside the relatively low involvement of the population of Georgia in a variety of activities aimed at helping others, there are understandable differences by one’s economic situation when it comes to monetary vs. non-monetary help. People of different levels of well-being report very similar, albeit rather low levels of helping neighbors or friends with household chores or childcare. When it comes to monetary help, however, economic well-being obviously makes a difference, but less so in the case of religious charity. Although the answers may partially be subject to social desirability bias, the behavioral patterns reported in cases of religious and non-religious charity are unlikely to be explained by such a bias alone.

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer and other survey data is available at our Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Statistical Hiccups Cause Georgia to Become Lower-Middle Income Country

[Note: This article originally appeared on Eurasianet. It was written by Dustin Gilbreath, a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any related entity.]

Georgia’s economy appeared to take a step backward earlier this summer when the World Bank demoted the country to “lower-middle-income” status. The demotion, however, has more to do with statistical hiccups than it does with a substantial decline in economic activity.

In 2016, Georgian officials cheered when the World Bank promoted the country into the ranks of “upper-middle-income” states. It was big news in Tbilisi, the capital. But in July, officials didn’t have much to say when the country slipped back into the “lower-middle-income” ranks.

To understand the up-and-down tale of Georgia’s economic status, one needs to know how the World Bank classifies countries into income groups, a bit about Georgia’s 2002 and 2014 censuses, Georgia’s fluctuating exchange rate, and what country classifications are used for in practice.

To start, the World Bank measures economic status primarily by relying on gross national income (GNI) per capita, which is composed of GDP, as well as incomes flowing to the country from abroad, including interest and dividends. To make these calculations, the Bank uses something called the Atlas method, which accounts for fluctuations in the exchange rate using a three-year, inflation-adjusted average of rates.

Thresholds for each income group change slightly every year based on inflation. In the most recent year, countries with less than $1,005 in GNI per capita were designated low-income countries; those with GNIs from $1,006 to $3,955 fell into the lower- middle-income group; $3,956 to $12,235 were upper middle income; and those with $12,236 and above attained high-income status.

Georgia isn’t the only post-Soviet country to experience a downgrade in recent years due to exchange-rate woes and other factors. Russia, for example, moved down to upper-middle-income status in 2016 after three years in the high-income group.  Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, which is grappling with a severe downturn due to the global drop in energy prices, is at risk of demotion to lower-middle-income status next year. And Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan appear poised to slip back into the lower-income category.

GNI per capita is a population-based measure. That means that as the number of people decreases, the figure increases. For this reason, the 2014 census made Georgia an upper-middle income country. This fact stems from Georgia’s population size between 2002 and 2014 being estimated using the 2002 census. In 2002, the Georgian government carried out its first census since the last Soviet census in 1989. The census’s final population count is believed to have heavily overestimated the population at about 4.4 million citizens. Between censuses, the population data is updated using birth and death registries. These too had problems, showing that Georgia’s population was growing steadily.

In contrast to the 2002 census, the 2014 census was more rigorous. It showed a 17% smaller population figure than the Georgian National Statistics Office had estimated for 2014. This meant that the per capita figures for GNI jumped, pushing Georgia into upper-middle income status. Notably, estimates of GNI per capita which use more realistic population figures for the years between 2002 and 2014 suggest that Georgia had likely crossed the upper-middle income threshold in 2013.

Even though the Atlas method takes into account fluctuations in exchange rate, GNI per capita is ultimately denominated in dollars for the World Bank’s calculations. In Georgia’s case, the Lari has dropped from around GEL 1.7 to the dollar in early 2014 to about GEL 2.4 to the dollar at the time of this writing. The value of the Lari was even lower for a time. In practice this has decreased Georgia’s GNI per capita figures to the point of knocking the country into a different income category.

Against the backdrop of population estimate revisions and fluctuating exchange rates, Georgia’s economy has been growing, albeit very slowly for a developing country in recent years. Georgia’s economy grew at an average rate of about 5.9 percent from 1995-2013; since 2014, it has grown at an average rate of 3.4 percent

The exchange rate fluctuation is hampering growth prospects. For one, rate volatility makes it harder for businesses to predict costs. In addition, many Georgians have dollar-denominated loans, while their incomes are in Georgian Lari. Although nominal salaries have slightly outpaced inflation, they have not kept pace with the decline in the Georgian currency’s value. Hence, debt payments consume a rising share of income for those trying to pay off dollar-denominated loans. The Georgian Government and National Bank are addressing this situation via a program that subsidizes the conversion of foreign-currency loans into Georgian Lari at a favorable rate.

While Georgia’s income group status has more to do with how the statistic is calculated than the actual state of Georgia’s economy, the changes have had clear implications. For instance, the Global Fund - an organization that has provided over USD 100 million to Georgia over the years to combat tuberculosis and AIDS - has different rules on aid for lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries. Meanwhile, a Brookings Institution study suggests that upper-middle income countries receive aid more often in the form of credits (i.e. loans) than grants when compared with lower middle income countries.

Some development organizations explicitly change lending terms when a country moves from lower middle to upper middle income status, although the World Bank itself does not. Hence, Georgia’s downgrading may have a silver lining, potentially leading to more aid opportunities.

But downgrading also has significant downsides. In political terms, it’s not good news for incumbents because it fosters an appearance among the population that the country is moving backwards. It also can impact the decisions of potential foreign investors. The demotion in status is unlikely to make Georgia a more attractive investment destination.