Ambassador Degnan's remarks to Media at the National Bank of Georgia
Ambassador Degnan: Well, it is an honor to be here today to mark this important day. We are very proud of the work that the United States has been able to do in support of Governor Gvenetadze’s work over seven years, supporting his efforts to ensure that the central bank functions independently, making courageous decisions, difficult decisions in the best interests of Georgia’s economic stability and growth. The statistics that we saw today make very clear just what an effective, professional, independent, central bank Governor Koba has been over the past seven years. The impact of his time as governor will be felt. We see it in the economic stability and economic growth of Georgia. We see it in so many long-lasting decisions and initiatives that he introduced in accordance with best international practices. Georgia should be very proud to have had a National Bank governor of Koba’s quality: his experience, his professionalism, and his dedication to ensuring that the central bank functioned independently of political or other influence.
Question about the NBG amendment vetoed by President Zourabichvili
Ambassador Degnan: There’s nothing more important to the credibility of a central bank than its independence. We agree with the IMF and the President that these amendments put that in question. They’re not necessary for the functioning of the bank, and they raise real questions about the real intent behind these amendments. When you have a team that has performed so well – and you see that in the statistics for the economy here – why change a team that is working? Why change a structure that has proven to be so effective in keeping Georgia’s economy stable and growing, despite a pandemic, despite an influx of Russian money following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine? This is a time when you need a central bank that is going to provide independence that provides stability and growth, which only comes from independence. I regret that these amendments were rushed through without consulting the stakeholders. They’re contrary to international best practices, and I fear that they put in jeopardy one of the most important independent institutions in ensuring Georgia’s stability during a very turbulent time.
Question about the draft foreign agent laws
Ambassador Degnan: The draft legislation seems to be in search of a problem. Every day, there’s a new reason why this legislation needs to be introduced. First, it was transparency when there’s already plenty of transparency into how foreign assistance is supporting Georgians. The purpose of these laws is completely different from the law in the United States. These laws are aimed at blocking Georgians who are helping other Georgians. These are Georgians who are trying to address problems in their communities and provide services, whether it’s on climate change, or for business associations, or for young people, or people with disabilities, legal assistance to people who are in some cases in desperate need. These laws seem to be clearly in line with Russian law, which is aimed at stigmatizing civil society. It’s aimed at silencing dissenting voices. When you look at what’s going on in Russia right now, you see that Russian law has been very effective in silencing civil society and dissenting voices. Georgia has fought hard to build its democracy, to protect its freedoms. These laws will undermine that progress that Georgia has spent so many years building. That is why you hear concerns from the United Nations, from the European Union, from the United States, from many of Georgia’s long-standing friends, who’ve been working with Georgia for over 30 years, to help improve Georgia’s freedoms, protect Georgia’s freedoms, and build the institutions. So that is why people are very concerned. Georgia does not need this law. That is the question I think that needs to be answered. Why introduce the law?