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.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Who makes political decisions in Georgia: What people think

[Note: This post was written by Tsisana Khundadze, a Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The post was originally published here in partnership with On.ge. The views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia, the National Democratic Institute, or any related entity.]

Bidzina Ivanishvili resigned from the post of prime minister of Georgia on November 20th 2013, and in his own words, “left politics“. Speculation about his continued informal participation in the political decision-making process began even before he resigned and still continues. Some politicians think that Ivanishvili gives orders to the Georgian Dream party from behind-the-scenes, while others believe that he actually distanced himself from politics. Politicians, journalists and experts continue to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, a majority of Georgia’s population thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still involved in the governing process and that his informal participation is unacceptable.

The results of CRRC-Georgia and NDI-Georgia surveys carried out during the last two years indicate that the majority of the population of Georgia thinks that former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili continues to be a decision-maker in the actions of the government. Notably, this is people’s perceptions and may not coincide with reality. In none of the main demographic groups (in terms of sex, age, level of education and settlement type) does the majority indicate otherwise. In total, 56% of the population would prefer that the former prime minister not be involved in the decision-making process at all. About one fourth of the population, on the other hand, thinks that Bidzina Ivanishvili should hold an official position and make political decisions. Only 7% would prefer Bidzina Ivanishvili’s informal involvement in Georgia’s governance.

People who say that the United National Movement is the party closest to them more frequently indicate that Bidzina Ivanishvili is still a decision-maker in politics, compared to Georgian Dream supporters. A majority (86%) of United National Movement supporters say that it is preferable if Bidzina Ivanishvili is not involved in decision making processes, while 43% of Georgian Dream supporters think that the former prime minister should be involved in these processes in an official capacity. It is noteworthy that the share of Georgian Dream supporters who prefer that Bidzina Ivanishvili participate in the political decision-making process in an official capacity decreased during the last two years.



Note: The question about party support was asked as follows: “Which party is closest to you?” People were grouped as supporters of the Georgian Dream or United National Movement based on their answers to this question.

These differences are not entirely unexpected considering the polarized political environment. Though, as we see, even among Georgian Dream supporters, only a small share prefers Bidzina Ivanishvili’s informal participation in political decision-making processes.

The data show that informal governance is unacceptable for the majority of the population of Georgia. No matter an individual’s sex, age, education, place of residence or political orientation, the majority of the population thinks that if a person resigns from politics, s/he should no longer influence the government’s decisions. These results indicate that basic principles of democratic governance, namely transparency of decision-making processes and accountability, are important for people. Politicians should take this into consideration.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Rare evidence: Judges on challenges in the court system of Georgia

Georgia has long faced problems with its court system. On CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey, only about one in four people in Georgia reported trusting the country’s court system. Since 2012, there have been three sets of judicial reforms, yet according to a number of NGOs, there are still important issues to be solved.
We often hear what NGO representatives think about the challenges facing the judiciary system in Georgia. It is, however, rare to have the chance to learn what judges think about the system. In partnership with the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, CRRC-Georgia interviewed 12 current and former judges in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Zugdidi in October-December, 2016. Although 28 judges were sampled originally, others could not be contacted or refused to be interviewed. Importantly, the findings of these interviews cannot be generalized. Still, they provide rather unique insights into what judges think about the problems in the judicial system in Georgia. 
Respondents named several important issues that have a negative impact on the court system. First, judges have large caseloads that might affect the quality of decisions. Thus, more judges are needed to handle cases. Second, judges note a lack of courtrooms. Both problems result in trials being delayed. As one judge noted:
We have a shortage of staff, we need more judges. There are too many cases. We fail to handle them all. We lack judges, <…> so, this may affect the quality of [court] decisions. Trials take too long, because we simply don’t have [enough] courtrooms. (Current judge; male; Tbilisi City Court).
Importantly, both these issues have already been addressed in the draft version of the 2017-2021 Court System Strategy, which calls for an increase in the number of judges as well as courtrooms.
The interviewed judges also noted the lack of trust in the court system as another important issue. The respondents believe that it may be the judges themselves who are sometimes responsible for the lack of trust in the court system. In their opinion, if judges in Georgia consistently issued well-elaborated verdicts, the system would earn more trust, since such verdicts would help avoid any suspicion about the quality of the verdict, particularly from representatives of the party that has lost.  
Respondents also think that the media influences public opinion about the courts. Some of the respondents believe that the media prefers to cover problematic cases, especially when the court competence is to be questioned, rather than the cases when the court came up with a well-reasoned and convincing verdict. Generally, the interviewed judges are not against media coverage of the court proceedings and believe that such coverage increases the transparency of courts. However, some of them believe that journalists should be trained on how to use legal terminology properly.
In spite of the challenges associated with such interviews, it would be valuable to continue to collect these first-hand accounts of the court system from judges. The full report of this study is available here

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rugby: The sport Georgians report the country is most successful at

The Georgian National Rugby Team’s achievements have been many in recent years. From gaining automatic qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in 2015 for the first time to ranking 12th in the world rugby rankings, the team has obtained widespread national support and established a presence on the international rugby scene.

The results of a telephone survey CRRC-Georgia conducted in May 29-30, 2017 suggest that the public recognizes these achievements. According to the survey, a majority (62%) of the Georgian public think that rugby is Georgia’s most successful sport. This attitude is more common in Tbilisi (72%) than in other urban (67%) and rural areas (51%). Notably, more women (67%) than men (57%) consider rugby to be the most successful sport. The public also backs financial support for rugby: after football (38%), Georgians report second most often (27%) that rugby should be supported.

In 2015, Georgia won the right to host the World Rugby under 20 Championship for the first time, one of the highest level juniors’ tournaments in the rugby world. The tournament kicked off on May 31 in Kutaisi and came to an end on June 18, in Tbilisi at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium. Tournament awareness was high. According to the CRRC-Georgia survey results, more than half of the population (55%) was aware that Georgia was about to host the World Rugby under 20 Championship.

In spite of strong support for rugby, many Georgians don’t know much about the game. The survey shows that only 18% of the population knows what the amount of points for a try without conversion kick is (five points), and only 6% of Georgians know how many players are in the scrum (eight players) for each team. While 21% gave the incorrect answer on this question, 73% responded don’t know. Notably, men (28%) gave the right answer more often than women (10%) to the question on tries.


CRRC-Georgia’s survey results show that Georgians recognize the country’s rugby achievements and support allocating financial resources to it. However, many aren’t so knowledgeable of the game’s rules.

The above results are based on a panel telephone survey carried out between May 29-30, 2017 with 726 completed interviews. The panel was created using random digit dialing. The results are representative of Georgia and have an average margin of error of 2.9%. Want to know what Georgians think about another issue or track attitudes over time? Get in touch with us at crrc-geo@crrccenters.org if your organization has questions about Georgian public opinion.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Nudging Marshrutka Safety

[Note: Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. This article was originally published on Eurasianet. ]

Auto safety is a perennial issue across Eurasia, as the generally poor condition of highways and byways, the proliferation of haphazardly maintained vehicles and a proclivity for reckless driving mean that death is a constant part of life on the road.

Among the most hazardous forms of public transportation are the ubiquitous communal minibuses known as marshrutkas, which ferry passengers around and between cities and towns. Marshrutkas are a mixture of taxi and public bus, and, for passengers, make up in convenience what they lack in comfort. But there is also a significant risk involved in using marshrutkas because many are old and in need of repair, and they are operated by overworked, stressed-out and distracted drivers.

But there is good news for marshrutka users: an experimental project conducted in Georgia suggests that a cost-efficient monitoring program could significantly increase rider safety.

The monitoring format, developed by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers-Georgia, underwent a month-long test, starting last September 20. CRRC recruited paid observers to ride on marshrutkas and monitor the driving behavior of operators. Monitors tracked marshrutka trips in three phases. In the first, they recorded whether a group of drivers engaged in dangerous driving behaviors, including passing in places where it was illegal, and distracted driving behaviors like smoking and talking on a cell phone. This contingent formed the trial’s control group.

For the second phase, monitors followed a different group of drivers, who were told in advance that they were being observed and that if they were judged the safest driver in the survey, they would receive a fuel voucher. The drivers in the second group were also told that an anonymous monitor would at some point in the near future come back to observe their road behaviors.

The last step involved monitors returning to both the control and treatment groups unannounced to observe driving.

By comparing the results of the first phase to the second, it was possible to determine the effect of overt observation on driving patterns. Evaluating participants in the second phase to the same minibuses in the third provided insight into whether those who knew they were monitored, and were told they would be monitored again, maintained safer driving practices. Lastly, by comparing the first-phase drivers to their third-phase performances, it was possible to test for the consistency of driving behaviors by the control group.

The results of the trial indicated that a small, anonymous monitoring program could be effective in improving driver practices. While in the first round of observation, 96 percent of drivers engaged in some form of dangerous driving, among those in the second group, who were told in advance that they were being monitored, the number was 70 percent. And while 79 percent of drivers made illegal passes in first phase, 43 percent from the second group engaged in such behavior.

In the third phase, carried out several weeks after the first two phases, drivers from the second group still engaged in 14 percent fewer dangerous driving behaviors than those from the first group who had not been told in advance that they were being observed.

CRRC-Georgia’s project involved the monitoring of 360 inter-city minibus trips in a randomized control trial (RCT). RCTs are considered the gold standard in social science because they provide firm evidence of cause and effect through randomly giving a treatment to some individuals, and not others and then comparing outcomes.

While the marshrutka safety experiment raises hopes that a monitoring program could encourage changed behaviors, the evidence is not definitive. The experiment did not take weather into account, a factor that can potentially alter driving patterns. It also could not measure precisely for the possibility of contamination of the source pool, i.e. drivers who had been observed later talking about the project with colleagues, and encouraging other drivers to be more careful behind the wheel.

While the experiment was carried out in Georgia, there is no particular reason to suspect that such a policy would not work in other areas and contexts.

Monitoring projects could be conducted either by non-governmental organizations or by municipal government agencies. A government-run project would likely stand a better chance of improving safety, as drivers could be fined for hazardous driving, as well as rewarded for safe driving. This policy would likely have a greater impact since social scientists have repeatedly shown that individuals strive to avoid losses much more intensively than they seek out gains. 

[Note: Dustin Gilbreath is a Policy Analyst at CRRC-Georgia. This article was originally published on Eurasianet. The full report this article is based on is available here: http://bit.ly/2txNQRR. The data and replication code for the analysis in this article is available here: http://bit.ly/2us0tCr. The research presented in this article was funded through the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) Advancing CSO Capacities and Engaging Society for Sustainability (ACCESS) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content of this article is the sole responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflects the views of USAID, the United States Government, or EWMI.]

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some in Georgia fear visa liberalization will lead to more refugees

Visa liberalization with the EU Schengen zone countries has been a much celebrated milestone for Georgia. But with new opportunities for Georgia to move closer to Europe come new opportunities for anti-European sentiment. CRRC data show that some people in Georgia fear that visa liberalization could increase the number of refugees coming to Georgia. To complicate the issues further, Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz made a comment suggesting that there was a need to build refugee camps outside the EU, in countries like Georgia. Such statements could play on fears of an increase in refugees and foreigners more generally in Georgia.

In looking at data from the most recent CRRC/NDI survey, conducted in April 2017, approximately half of the population of Georgia believe that as a result of visa liberalization more refugees will come to Georgia, with a sizable share of the population (20%) responding they don’t know whether this will or will not be the case. While it is true that the visa liberalization process required the Government of Georgia to harmonize their laws in accordance with EU legislation, including making laws on the process of accepting refugees and asylum seekers clearer, the truth is that these laws will not necessarily increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Georgia. CRRC/NDI data, however, suggest that at least part of the population is misinformed about the issue.

 

In contrast, when asked about potential threats of visa liberalization more broadly in an earlier, CRRC/CIPDD survey conducted in January/February 2017, far fewer people mentioned refugees, or foreigners more generally, entering Georgia. According to the findings of CRRC/CIPDD survey, 27% said visa liberalization would have no negative consequences and 15% said they didn’t know. Slightly over half (58%) named some negative consequences of the visa liberalization. Rather small shares, though, named the threat of more foreigners (5%), refugees (4%) and terrorists (9%) coming to Georgia.


Note: This was an open-ended question for which each respondent could provide up to two answers.

While the answers to these two survey questions cannot be compared, they give us some understanding of the fears of the population of Georgia about visa liberalization regarding the possible influx of refugees. Although a small share of the population was worried about refugees entering the country even before visa liberalization came into force and saw that possibility as a potential threat, a much bigger threat was associated with Georgian citizens leaving the country.

To explore the CRRC/NDI data presented in this blog post, visit our online data analysis tool. Keep an eye out for the CIPDD dataset in the near future as well.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Visa liberalization: Expectations in Georgia

In March, 2017, after nearly five years of negotiations, a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen zone countries came into force for Georgian citizens. Even though political elites generally perceive this achievement as a step forward for Georgia, the public’s attitudes and expectations about visa liberalization are not solely positive. Using CRRC/NDI April 2017 survey data, this blog post presents some assessments of the EU-Georgia visa liberalization.

Nine in ten people in Georgia report having heard about visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries for Georgian citizens, however, not everyone feels they have enough information about the rules of visa free travel. Importantly, roughly 4 in 10 people disagree with the view that visa free travel will benefit them or people like them.


 


Note: For these two questions, the sample was split equally: half of the respondents were asked the question “Do you agree or disagree that visa free travel will benefit people like you?”, while the other half was asked the question “Do you agree or disagree that visa free travel will benefit you?” 

A number of specific statements about visa liberalization were also assessed during the survey. Overall, attitudes are rather mixed. There is a widespread belief that visa liberalization will not have any negative consequences for the Georgian economy. Approximately 2/3 of the population think it will increase emigration from Georgia. Probably most importantly, 78% think that ordinary people will not be able to afford traveling in the EU, even though visas are not required.


 

To conclude, expectations of the visa liberalization are not uniformly positive in Georgia. To explore the CRRC/NDI survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Municipal Transparency Ratings

In 2014, CRRC-Georgia requested information from Georgian municipalities through the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (MRDI). Only 37 of 63 municipalities responded to our request. 31 of these provided some information. Only 17 provided complete information in response to our request. Based on this experience, CRRC-Georgia decided to rate the municipalities’ responses. While a score of 0 means that the municipality didn't respond at all, municipalities received 1 point for at least responding to the letter. Municipalities which received a score of 2 provided us with some of the information requested, while municipalities that scored 3 provided all requested information.
 

Months later, we repeated our endeavor. However, this time, freedom of information requests were submitted directly to the municipalities. This time around, we asked for data in an Excel file. Almost all the municipalities responded, however, the quality of responses varied. 44 municipalities sent Excel files and 39 contained the requested information. An analogous rating system was used to rate the responses to this round of freedom of information requests.
 

Based on these two rounds of our unintentional rating of municipal transparency, we created an index of municipal FOI transparency, summing up the two scores. Zero corresponds to no response for both rounds of requests while six reflects response with full data provided.

Monday, June 26, 2017

CRRC’s Fifth Annual Methodological Conference: In Search of Methodological Innovation

CRRC’s fifth annual Methodological Conference took place on June 23 and 24, 2017 in Tbilisi. This year the conference’s focus was on policy analysis in the South Caucasus, and the search for methodological innovation. Over 50 participants representing institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, and Canada attended.

Alexis Diamond of the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), San Francisco gave an opening address for the conference titled: Deliberate ignorance: The dangers of knowing too much too soon. The talk covered a wide range of issues in evaluation, however, emphasis was placed on the importance of honest evaluation.
The first day of the conference had four sessions, with papers on a wide variety of subjects from the geographies of polarization and inequality in Tbilisi to a field experiment on marshrutka safety and a machine learning approach to profiling tax awareness in Armenia. 
The opening slide of David Sichinava’s presentation on Spatial Patterns of Emerging Inequalities in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The second day of the conference was dedicated to workshops. Alexey Levinson of the Levada Center, Moscow lead a workshop on open-ended group discussions and Aaron Erlich of McGill University discussed the fundamentals of multiple imputation. The conference also included workshops on case studies in public health, web surveys, and synthetic controls.
Aaron Erlich discussing why and when to use multiple imputation.
For more information, the full conference program can be accessed here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Back to the USSR? How poverty makes people nostalgic for the Soviet Union

A recent CRRC/NDI survey asked whether the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good or bad thing for Georgia. People’s responses were split almost evenly: 48% reported that the dissolution was a good thing, whereas 42% said it was a bad thing for the country. Such a close split raised questions in the media about why people took one view or another.

While it is tempting to explain assessments of a past event, such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, using people’s attitudes towards foreign policy issues, this blog post only looks at respondents’ socio-demographic and economic characteristics and some reported behaviors that could potentially shape their attitudes. Specifically, we look at the impact of gender, age, education, ability to speak English and Russian, frequency of internet use, settlement type and the number of durable goods a household possesses, out of the ten durables the survey asked about: a refrigerator, color TV, smartphone, tablet computer, car, air conditioner, automatic washing machine, personal computer, hot water, and central heating. We interpret the number of durables owned as a measure of the households’ economic status. Surely, this measure is not perfect and gives us only partial information about the household’s economic conditions. However, this is the best available measure from this particular survey, provided that many people do not like reporting their income or expenditures, or do not provide accurate information on these.

The chart below shows the results of a logistic regression model which predicts the odds of a respondent saying that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good thing for Georgia. The dots on the chart indicate point estimates for each independent variable, and the lines show 95% confidence intervals. If a line does not cross the vertical red line, we are 95% confident that the variable has an impact on the dependent variable, i.e. the belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good thing for Georgia. The further a horizontal line from the vertical red line, the larger the effect of the variable.

The model shows that gender and the ability to speak either English or Russian do not influence people’s assessments of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As one might expect, age has a significant, negative impact: the older a person is, the lower is the probability that s/he will express a positive attitude towards the dissolution of the USSR. Education, frequency of internet use and possession of durables have the opposite impact: people with tertiary education are more likely to assess the dissolution positively than people with less than tertiary education. Likewise, people, who use the internet at least once a week assess the dissolution more positively than people who use the internet less often or never. Also, the more durables a household owns, the higher the probability of assessing the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a positive event for Georgia.

As expected, settlement type also matters: the chart shows the effect of living in Tbilisi, other large towns, predominantly Georgian-speaking rural settlements and ethnic minority settlements, which are compared to small towns – the reference category. Large towns include six cities with more than 40 thousand people, whereas smaller urban settlements are grouped into a small town category. We define an ethnic minority settlement as a location in which 40% or more of the inhabitants are ethnic minorities. Normally, these are towns and villages with large Armenian or Azerbaijani populations in the Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kakheti regions.

While residents of large towns and rural settlements have similar opinions about the dissolution of the Soviet Union as residents of small towns, Tbilisi residents are more likely to assess the dissolution positively. In contrast, those living in minority settlements tend to assess the dissolution negatively.
Based on the above, we conclude that age, education, frequency of internet use, possession of durables and settlement type influence an individual’s assessment of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As a next step, we tested whether age, education, frequency of internet use, and possession of durables influence individuals’ attitudes differently in different settlement types.

The analysis shows that the impact of age, education and internet usage does not vary by settlement type. However, we observe a very different picture in the case of household possessions: possessing more durables increases the probability of positive assessment of the dissolution of the USSR in all settlement types except for (non-minority) villages and small towns. Its impact is largest, however, for residents of ethnic minority settlements. If an individual living in such a settlement has no durables, his or her probability of assessing the dissolution of the Soviet Union positively is below 20%. However, as the number of durables in the household increases, the probability of a positive assessment increases nearly linearly, and exceeds 60% when the household owns all ten items asked about on the survey.

Hence, we conclude that age, education, settlement type, and economic conditions significantly influence people’s assessments of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The impact of a household’s economic situation is largest in ethnic minority settlements. Therefore, economic deprivation, arguably caused by and interrelated with a number of other factors, seems to be the most important driver of negative assessments of the dissolution, rather than minority status per se.  

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Most households in Georgia report limiting food consumption, despite economic growth

According to the World Bank, GDP in Georgia increased from USD 10.1 billion to USD 13.9 billion between 2009 and 2015. Despite this growth, according to CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey (CB), the share of those who reported not having enough money to buy food on at least a weekly basis did not decrease between 2011 and 2015. This blog post shows how this finding differs by settlement type and reported household income.

As the chart below shows, the general picture did not change between 2011 and 2015. Only about one third of the population claims it never happened during the 12 month prior to the survey that they did not have enough money to buy food they or their family needed. More than one third report encountering such difficulties periodically and about a quarter monthly or more often.


Note: Answer options “Every day” and “Every week” have been combined for the charts in this blog post.

Taking into account the margin of error, the share of people who reported not having enough money to buy food every week or more often is approximately the same in different settlement types. Importantly, the most common response in Tbilisi and the second most common response in other urban settlements is “Never”. This answer is, however, reported by less than half of the population of these settlement types.

Note: Answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis.
                       
A lack of money for food logically suggests a low income. The chart below shows that the higher the reported household income, the higher the share of the population reporting never being in a situation when they did not have enough money for food. According to CB 2015, 61% of the population reported their household income was less than USD 250 the month prior to the survey.


CB data show that a large share of households in Georgia have financial difficulties supporting their families’ primary needs and a majority struggle with not having enough money for food at least some of the time.

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

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Georgia: Disapproval Rising for NATO Membership

[Note: This piece was originally published on Eurasianet. Dustin Gilbreath is a policy analyst at CRRC-Georgia. Rati Shubladze is a researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of either CRRC-Georgia or the National Democratic Institute.]

NATO recently recognized Georgia’s contributions to peacekeeping missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo by holding a session of the alliance’s parliamentary assembly in Tbilisi in late May. The occasion reinforced the hopes of Georgian leaders that their country can one day soon gain admission to NATO. However, polling in the lead up to NATO’s parliamentary assembly also sheds light on a trend that could potentially hinder its membership bid.

Public support in Georgia for the country’s NATO membership bid remains strong. A recent survey CRRC-Georgia carried out for the National Democratic Institute shows that 68 percent of Georgians support the government’s goal of joining the alliance. If Georgia were a NATO member, this would be the third highest level of support of any member state polled in a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Yet, CRRC and NDI’s data also shows that disapproval with the prospect of membership is rising. Back in 2012, roughly a quarter of the public was uncertain over whether the country should join NATO; since 2015, however, only about one in 10 have reported uncertainty. Over the same period, disapproval of NATO membership doubled from about one in 10 Georgians to roughly one in five.

This trend has at least two potential explanations.

First, people who used to report that they are not sure about membership might have always been opposed to the Alliance. Rather than telling interviewers this, they felt social pressure not to say so, because they perceived NATO support to be popular in Georgia. This phenomenon, being shy about reporting unpopular opinions to survey interviewers, is common, and is known as social desirability bias.

If this explanation is correct, then the shift from uncertainty in response to disapproval is a sign of a trend in Georgian society and its foreign policy discourse: anti-Euro Atlantic views are more widely accepted or at least perceived to be more socially acceptable than in years past. Over the past couple of years, politicians have expressed less confrontational views towards Russia, at least when compared with the virulently anti-Russian rhetoric of former president Mikheil Saakashvili and his United National Movement, which lost its parliamentary majority in 2012. This change in discourse might contribute to the trend, making it more widely acceptable to express views that are not pro-Western. While beyond the scope of this article, Russian propaganda too could be playing some role.

A second possible explanation is that a significant number of those who were previously undecided are now making up their minds: no longer sitting on the fence, they have decided that the actual or potential costs of NATO membership are too great, or the chance of NATO membership too low, to make the required sacrifices.

Georgia is a small country and, even in absolute terms, it contributed more soldiers to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan than any other non-member state. This contribution has not come without a cost: over 30 Georgian soldiers have died in Afghanistan and hundreds have been wounded.

The potential for NATO membership to incite Russia’s ire weighs heavily in the minds of those who disapprove. When those who reported opposing Georgia’s NATO bid were asked why they disapprove, the most common response was that it will cause conflict with Russia.

Despite Georgia’s sacrifices, membership in the Alliance seems distant to a majority of Georgians. Since the 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration, which stated that Georgia and Ukraine would someday become members of the Alliance, a Membership Action Plan – a first step towards membership – has proven elusive. This is reflected in public opinion about when Georgia will join NATO: 16 percent think the country will never join, and an additional 38 percent are uncertain if or when the country will be offered membership. A majority of those who are uncertain about a membership date favor Georgia’s NATO bid.

Even though disapproval of Georgia’s NATO bid may be rising, the head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has suggested that Georgia is more prepared for membership than even some member states. Notably, Georgian military expenditure has consistently exceeded 2 percent of GDP, the level required of NATO members, despite the fact that only five member states meet this spending target. On top of this, a full 80 percent of those polled think that military spending should either stay the same or increase.

If the Alliance is dedicated to its 2008 Bucharest commitments, it should make its intentions clear to the Georgian public. The lack of a clear signal from the Alliance seems likely to only keep stoking uncertainty and disapproval of members among the Georgian public.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Awareness of EU aid and support for EU membership in Georgia

The EU provides a wide variety of aid to Georgia. Within the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) alone, EUR 452.1 million was allocated for Georgia in 2007-2013. What, if any, role does this aid play in influencing the population’s attitudes towards the European Union? This blog post looks at the awareness of the population of Georgia about the EU’s aid to the country, on the one hand, and support for Georgia’s membership in the EU, on the other hand, using the 2015 CRRC/EF survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia (EU survey). The findings suggest that those who are more aware of EU aid are also more likely to support Georgia’s membership in the EU.

About 1/10th (13%) of the population of Georgia think the EU does not assist Georgia in any way, while about a third (31%) could not or would not answer the question, “In your opinion, what are the main types of aid the EU currently provides to Georgia?” Of the 56% who named a specific type of aid, humanitarian aid and investment in Georgia’s economy were the most frequent answers.

Note: A show card was used. The answers do not add up to 100% since respondents could choose up to three answer options. 

This question was recoded for further analysis. In a new variable, “Does the EU provide any aid to Georgia?”, all answers where a certain type of aid was mentioned were combined into the category “The EU provides aid,” while options “[The EU] does not provide any aid”, “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were combined into the category “Don’t know/Does not provide aid.”

As the 2015 EU Survey report and CRRC’s previous blog posts have highlighted, in 2015, 61% of the population of Georgia reported that they would vote for the country’s membership in the EU, if a referendum was held tomorrow. Seventy-five percent of those saying that the European Union provides any type of aid to Georgia report that they would vote for EU membership. Only 44% of those saying the EU does not provide aid or answered “Don’t know” report the same.


The 56% of the population who named a specific type of aid that, in their opinion, Georgia receives from the EU, were then asked which groups benefit most from this aid. Politicians and high level officials in Georgia were named most often as the group that benefits most from EU aid to the country.


Note: The question was asked only to those who reported that the EU provides aid to Georgia. A show card was used for this question. The answers do not add up to 100% since respondents could choose up to two answer options. 

These findings suggest that awareness about EU aid to Georgia matters when it comes to people’s support for Georgia’s membership in the EU. Those who believe that the EU provides specific types of aid to Georgia tend to report more often that they would vote for Georgia’s membership in the EU.

To learn more about the population’s support for Georgia’s membership in the EU, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool, or take a look at some of CRRC-Georgia’s blog posts on the subject, here.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Who is more intelligent and sincere? CRRC interviewers’ assessments

It has been only about two decades since pollsters started using paradata, including interviewer assessments of the conducted interviews and respondents’ behavior and attitudes. Such assessments are collected in the process of most of CRRC-Georgia’s surveys. Immediately after each interview, interviewers are asked to assess various aspects of the interview, including respondents’ sincerity and intelligence. Using CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) data for Armenia and Georgia, this blog post explores how such assessments differ depending on respondents’ demographic characteristics and their households’ economic situations.

It is important to highlight that these assessments can hardly provide reliable information about the actual intelligence or sincerity of respondents, and there is no doubt that interviewers’ perceptions of intelligence are very subjective, thus they cannot be attributed to any objective characteristics. Still, when analyzed properly, they can tell us a lot about a wide range of issues, from the process of interviews to the dominant stereotypes and biases in a given society.

In the CB 2015 assessment forms, interviewers were asked to rate respondents’ intelligence. In both Armenia and Georgia, interviewers tend to rate the intelligence of people who live in the capital and other urban settlements higher than the intelligence of those who live in villages.


 Note: The original 5-point scale was recoded for the charts in this blog post, with answer options “Intelligent” and “Very intelligent” combined into the category “Intelligent” and answer options “Not at all intelligent” and “Not very intelligent” combined into the category “Not intelligent”. Responses “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis in the charts in this blog post.

Although, overall the respondents are reported to be rather sincere during the interviews, interviewers report the answers of people living in the capital and other urban settlements to be slightly more sincere compared to the answers of people living in villages.

Note: The original 11-point scale was recoded for the charts in this blog post, with codes 0 through 3 combined into the category “Not sincere”, codes 4 through 6 combined into “Average” and codes 7 through 10 combined into the category “Sincere”. 

There are even more pronounced differences by respondents’ level of education. Interviewers rate people with a lower level of formal education both as less intelligent and sincere. In both countries, people who report having secondary technical education or secondary or lower education are twice as likely to be placed in the category “Average” than those with a higher than secondary education.
 Note: Answer options “No primary education”, “Primary education”, “Incomplete secondary education” and “Secondary education” were grouped into the category “Secondary or lower”; “Incomplete higher education”, “Completed higher education” and “Post-graduate degree” were grouped into the category “Higher than secondary”. 

In contrast to the assessments of intelligence, interviewers’ assessments of respondents’ sincerity vary less by the respondents’ level of education. Both these assessments, however, are very similar in Armenia and Georgia.


Interviewers’ assessments of respondents’ intelligence and sincerity also differ according to the reported economic situation of the respondent’s household. Interviewers tend to perceive those who are better-off economically as more intelligent. For example, interviewers report people living in households that can afford to buy expensive durables to be intelligent almost three times more often than people who do not have enough money for food, in both Armenia and Georgia.

Note: Answer options “We can afford to buy some expensive durables [like a refrigerator or washing machine]” and “We can afford to buy anything we need” were grouped into the category “Enough money for expensive durables”.

Those who report being in the best economic situation tend to be rated as sincere more often than people in all other groups.
Further research is needed to find out to what extent interviewer assessments reflect the actual situation, i.e. whether those who are better off, or urban dwellers, are actually more intelligent or sincere, and vice versa. The findings presented in this blog post show that interviewers have rather strong opinions about what groups of respondents are intelligent and sincere, and the assessments are very similar in Armenia and Georgia. Interestingly, there is a high positive correlation between the assessments of respondents’ intelligence and sincerity in both countries, suggesting another interesting topic for further research, namely, to what extent intelligence and sincerity are seen by interviewers as interrelated characteristics.

To find out more about CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer and other surveys, check out our online data analysis tool.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Air Pollution in Tbilisi: What the Data Says

[Note: This is a guest blog post by Dr. Hans Gutbrod, the former Director of CRRC.]

With the recent debate on traffic safety, it may also be a good time to highlight the issue of air pollution in Tbilisi – especially as municipal elections are coming up, and citizens (and candidates) may ask themselves what issues the election should focus on.

The data is clear: citizens care about pollution and the environment. In the June 2016 survey that CRRC conducted for NDI-Georgia, pollution was seen as a key concern for residents of Tbilisi. In the capital, 38% named it as one of the most important infrastructural issues, placing it ahead of all other issues related to infrastructure. In general, all generations care, but the young a bit more. In Tbilisi, about 40% of those under 36 years of age mentioned pollution as an issue compared to 32% of those 56 and older.

Politically, the topic also seems to resonate, though less strongly with voters who tend towards the big parties. Only 33% of Georgian Dream voters and 35% of United National Movement voters reported that pollution was the number one infrastructural issue in Tbilisi (Note: the party landscape has changed since the survey). This may in part be a result of the small sample size once you do crosstabs, but could also suggest that the environment and pollution may be an issue to mobilize and rally voters around. Supporting this contention is the fact that 40% of undecided voters in Tbilisi named the issue as the most important one in Tbilisi.

Yet how bad is the situation really? It is not so easy to find out. The government does collect data at three measuring stations that have been donated by Japan, but it is made available one day late, in PDFs, and even those who have interpreted lots of data will need a significant amount of time to decipher what is going on.

A very quick glance on some random days in February suggests that the pollution in Tbilisi repeatedly exceeds limits that are considered healthy – often by a multiple.


Whatever the policy prescription, one sensible next step for citizens and parties to demand, and for the government to take, is to make this data accessible straightaway, live. Having the data, citizens could decide on what to expose themselves to, when. To have a good debate on policy, we need good data. Thus, a sensible suggestion to politicians whenever and wherever you meet them is to request that public pollution data be made available in real time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Debts and Loans in Georgia (Part 2)

The first part of this blog post showed that people who report being in a worse economic situation are more likely to have debts in Georgia. In the second part of this blog post, a new variable is added to the analysis, “Does anyone owe you any money?”

While 46% of the population of Georgia report having debt, only 20% report that someone owes them money. In the latter, group, there are no differences by gender and settlement type, but there are differences by age. People between 36 and 55 years of age are more likely to say that someone owes them money. As seen in the first part of this blog post, people in this age group are also most likely to report they have personal debts.

The cross tabulation of the questions about having debt and being owed money shows that people who are owed money are slightly more likely to have debts.


A new variable, “Debts and Loans,” was created to group people into four categories based on the two CB questions discussed above.



Forty four percent of the population of Georgia are part of the largest group who report neither having debts nor being owed any money. These people are neither better off nor worse off compared to the population on average. The second largest group has debts but no one owes them money. They appear to be in the worst economic situation, with the greatest share of people saying they do not have enough money for food and for clothes in comparison to other groups. The two smallest groups are people who say someone owes them money. The two groups who have no debts appear to be in a relatively good economic situation, with the largest shares of people saying they can afford expensive durables.


Based on the findings presented in both parts of this blog post, debts are approximately twice as common in Georgia as being owed money. Yet, the largest share of the population of the country are those who report neither having debts, nor being owed money.

To look at these issues in more detail, explore the Caucasus Barometer data at CRRC’s Online Data Analysis platform.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Debts and Loans in Georgia (Part 1)

In Georgia, where, according to the World Bank, a third of the population live on under USD 2.5 per day, poverty and unemployment are consistently considered the most important issues facing the country. For those who are struggling financially, borrowing is a widespread coping mechanism. While access to credit can have benefits, debt can also have psychological costs, such as increased stress and anxiety. CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) data show interesting patterns about having personal debts in Georgia. The first part of this blog post focuses on the characteristics of those who report having personal debts in Georgia, while the second part looks at the money lending patterns, as well as reported well-being of people who are owed money or who borrow it.

In response to the question, “Do you currently have any personal debts?” which asks about all types of debt a person may have, 46% of the population report having debts and 53% say they do not have any. There are no large differences by settlement type. People between 36 and 55 years of age report having debts more frequently than people in other age groups. Men report they have debts slightly more often than women.


Note: The charts in this blog post do not include answer options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer,” which constituted 1% of responses.

People reporting a more difficult economic situation in their household are more likely to say they have debts. While 55% of people who state they do not have enough money for food report having debts, 28% of people who have enough money for durables report the same.


Note: Answer options “We can afford to buy some expensive durables like a refrigerator or washing machine” and “We can afford to buy anything we need” were combined into the category “Can afford to buy expensive durables” on the chart above.

In the second part of this blog post, which will be published on Monday, patterns of both borrowing and lending money will be discussed.

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

Monday, May 01, 2017

Rising expectations: People report more positive expectations about MPs immediately after elections

Research suggests that voters not only become more knowledgeable about political issues, but also more politically engaged during electoral campaigns. CRRC/NDI survey data also suggest that during the periods immediately following elections, there are more positive expectations about elected officials. These, however, do not last long after elections.

A citizen’s knowledge of which Member of Parliament (MP) represents her or him ebbs and flows with election cycles in Georgia. In March 2016, three and a half years after the most recent parliamentary elections in October 2012, only 31% of the population of Georgia answered correctly who their majoritarian member of parliament was at the time. A month after the October 2016 parliamentary elections, in November 2016, the respective share nearly doubled (57%). The findings before and after the 2012 parliamentary elections are similar. In the period between the elections, knowledge of which MP represented a constituent declined.


People’s expectations of their MPs also oscillate with the electoral cycle, with higher expectations immediately after elections. After both the October 2012 and October 2016 elections, the share of those reporting that MPs will serve people’s interests increased almost two-fold compared to early spring of the election year. Expectations that MPs will serve only their own interests have a tendency to decrease immediately after elections. However, they gradually increase later on. The expectations that MPs will do what their political party will tell them to also decrease immediately after the elections, although the gaps are smaller.


Note: In the survey waves from February 2012 through April 2014, the question was asked about majoritarian members of parliament. Since April 2015, the question was asked about members of parliament in general.

Positive expectations also increased after the October 2016 elections in respect to whether the newly elected MPs will take into account the opinions of regular people – “people like you,” as it was worded in the questionnaire. On the November 2016 survey, 63% either completely or somewhat agreed with this opinion, while the respective share was only 28% in March 2016, when the same question was asked about the MPs that were in office at the time.
This evidence suggests that people in Georgia become more optimistic about members of parliament in the months immediately following elections, believing that elected politicians will serve people’s interests. However, as time passes, they become disillusioned and their expectations become more skeptical.

To explore the CRRC/NDI survey findings, visit CRRC’s Online Data Analysis portal.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How many Tetri are in a Lari? The importance of municipal statistics for good governance

[Note: This post was co-published with Eurasianet and authored by Koba Turmanidze, CRRC-Georgia's Director.] 

The government of Georgia committed itself to collect and publish policy-relevant data in a timely manner under the Open Government Partnership. Yet while most ministries and state agencies are happy to provide national-level statistics, they often fail to break them down to the municipal level. 

As a result, if you think about it in monetary terms, the current system means that officials do not know how many tetri are in a lari. 

Reliable municipal statistics can contribute to good governance in several important ways. First, municipal-level data can let citizens assess the quality of state services they receive compared to other municipalities, or to the national average. Second, municipal-level data can help policy makers improve the targeting of programs, and therefore, spend public money more efficiently. Third, it can help both government and citizens evaluate the successes and failures of municipal governance.

The following scenarios highlight the benefits of comprehensive data on a local level: 

Imagine you want to move from one town to another for a better job. You consider moving with your spouse and a child of school age. However, your spouse does not want to move, arguing that your town has much better public schools than the new one. In such cases, it would help if you could look at municipal-level education data to see if schools in the two towns are similar or different in terms of the student-teacher ratio, exam scores, the success rate on national examinations, etc. 

Imagine you are a civil servant and are working with an investor to build a new factory in a municipality. You want the factory to be built in the municipality where its social impact will be highest. To persuade the investor, you use municipal statistics to demonstrate that the municipality of your choice has high unemployment, yet its labor force is younger and better trained than in comparable municipalities. 

Imagine you are an analyst in a think tank and your task is to advise the government on whether to extend a poverty reduction program or not. The government claims the program helped to reduce poverty by two percentage points nationwide, but you have reasons to suspect that the reduction happened in certain settlements, whereas in others the program had a negligible impact. You look at relevant data on the program and poverty statistics, and conclude that the program’s effect across municipalities was truly unequal. Importantly, it made no difference in the most economically deprived communities. Therefore, you advise the government to redesign the program to improve its impact on the communities with the highest poverty rates, before pouring more money into it. 

Unfortunately, we can only imagine the above. These three scenarios remain purely hypothetical, since, in Georgia, reliable municipal data is rarely available on education, employment and poverty. 

CRRC-Georgia’s repeated interactions with a multitude of state agencies over the past three years have uncovered at least three problems regarding municipal data. First, when municipal data of potentially good quality exists, it is often not processed and made available to the public. Second, if municipal data is accessible, its quality is often questionable. Third, municipal data often does not exist at all, since the responsible agency does not recognize its value, or is unable to collect it due to lack of relevant training. 

Below are three concrete cases that correspond to these three problems: 

Case 1: Until recently, the National Assessment and Examination Center (NAEC) maintained detailed and high-quality data on the results of the Unified National Exams (UNE) for many years. The data allowed one to see which municipality’s and even school’s students were most successful in the exams. Such data was not proactively shared on the Center’s website, but was available upon request. The situation changed when the Center introduced electronic applicant registration in 2011. Under the new system, an applicant’s place of residence and school was no longer recorded. However, the Center could still identify the municipality based on an applicant’s ID number. 

For the 2015 UNE results, NAEC processed the data this way and made the data file available on its website. However, when CRRC-Georgia requested the same data for 2016, the Center turned the request down, arguing it no longer processed data per municipality, and would not do so for our sake. As a result, it is no longer possible to analyze municipal- or school-level performance and map it as we did in this blog post. At the time, this map drew attention to large differences in educational attainment countrywide, including an important fact – that Unified National Exam scores in Upper Ajara were among the worst in the country. In part in response to this fact, AGL, a Norwegian company building a hydro-electric dam in upper Ajara created a tutoring program for students in the region to help them prepare for the exams. If the NAEC withholds such data, it will hinder the ability of interested parties to spot trends and develop remedial policies.

Case 2: The Social Service Agency (SSA) is a leading organization in the country in terms of providing access to comprehensive data on poverty and targeted social assistance at the national and municipal levels. Among other statistics, the Agency reports monthly data on applicants and recipients of social aid. The 2014 census data, however, casts some doubt on whether the SSA poverty statistics are trustworthy. 

The scale of mismatch between the agency’s data and the 2014 census results is evident from the chart below. Using Geostat’s population estimates, the agency calculates the share of the population registered for targeted social assistance in each municipality. The census was conducted in November 2014, so it is possible to re-calculate the share of those registered for targeted social assistance based on the census data and compare it with the agency’s estimates. 

Let’s take the extreme case of Lentekhi. The agency reported that 44 percent of the population applied for targeted social assistance. When the census data is used, the finding is that 89 percent of Lentekhi residents registered for social assistance. Thus, the SSA estimate was 45 percentage points lower than the actual percentage. The chart below plots the differences between the shares of the population registered for targeted social assistance, as calculated and reported by the SSA on the one hand, and updated calculations based on the 2014 census data on the other, for each municipality in November 2014. Overall, the agency underestimated the share of applicants by 14 percentage points, on average. However, publicly available data has yet to be adjusted based on the 2014 census.    



Case 3: In a number of cases municipal statistics do not exist. Measuring the scale of economic activity (level of employment by employment sector, total value added, etc.) in every municipality would require large-scale surveys that are both time-consuming and expensive. Geostat’s periodic Integrated Household Survey cannot provide this information, due to the cost that such a large sample size would entail. 

However, the Revenue Service (RS) under the Ministry of Finance of Georgia could help solve this challenge. Based on taxpayers’ IDs, the agency can provide information about the number of taxpayers, be it individuals or organizations, and amount of taxes collected in each municipality. This information would serve as a good proxy of economic activity by municipality. However, as the RS told CRRC-Georgia, it can only break the data down for regions. Officials claimed that breaking the data down further was not possible. 

Undoubtedly, the collection and analysis of municipal data requires additional resources. However, the three concrete cases highlighted above show that a little increase in awareness regarding municipal data could go a long way toward promoting better municipal governance in important ways. Investors could have clearer insight into the best investment destinations, for one. Civil society groups would also have better ways to assess the successes and failures of government actions. Citizens likewise would have a better idea of where their place of residence stands compared to other parts of the country, or the national average. Government could have better tools to ensure equal access to services in the country, or to achieve efficiencies in the provision of services. 

All of this is possible. Unfortunately, it is not reality. And as a result, the government doesn’t know how many tetri are in a lari.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why the civil service? The civil service as seen by civil servants in Georgia

The civil service plays an important role in the development of a country. Thus the competence and motivation of civil servants matter. An online survey of civil servants conducted by CRRC-Georgia for NATO-PDP in December 2015 – January 2016 was one of the first attempts in Georgia to study civil servants’ perceptions of and attitudes towards their job. This blog post provides a brief overview of some of the findings, focusing on reported reasons for choosing to work in the civil service, the advantages and problems civil servants see with their jobs, as well as general assessments of civil servants’ motivation to work.

Slightly over a half of civil servants (56%) reported that the main reason they chose their job was an interest in working in the public sector. Forty-five percent hoped to improve their professional skills. The third most frequently named reason was a hope to improve the situation in their field. Importantly, a rather small share of civil servants (18%) reported a “stable job” as a reason for choosing to work in the civil service, and only 2% named an “attractive salary”.



About half of civil servants named the opportunity to contribute to the development of the country as the main advantage of working in the civil service. The opportunity to acquire new professional skills was the second most frequent answer, while the opportunity to make new connections, work one’s way up within the organization, and work with competent colleagues were named rarely.



Civil servants most frequently assessed the motivation to work of those in the civil service as average (50%). Positive assessments, though, are much more frequent than negative ones (36% vs 15%).

Note: To a certain extent, in response to most of the questions in this survey, civil servants tended to pick answers that can be considered socially desirable. Hence, social desirability bias is likely to have affected other responses as well, including assessments of other civil servants’ motivation to work. In order to avoid this bias in the case of this question, a very general wording was used: “How would you assess civil servants’ motivation to work?” This question measures civil servants’ reported perceptions of their colleagues’ motivation. To a certain extent, social desirability bias likely still influenced responses. However, this influence should be less than if the question had been asked about the respondent herself. 

Should the 50% of “average” assessments be considered a problem? Probably. The state invests financial resources in the improvement of civil servants’ professional skills, and the country, overall, is interested in a high productivity of their work. Undoubtedly, motivation encourages productivity. Thus, higher motivation will also lead to a more efficient use of public resources.

While trying to increase civil servants’ motivation in Georgia, it is important to consider the problems they face. The most frequently named problem is a lack of professionally competent civil servants. A fear of losing one’s job and poor infrastructure come in second and third, followed by a fair number of other problems.


Addressing these problems may improve civil servants’ motivation to work. As a result, the country would benefit from higher productivity among civil servants.