By Maureen Marshall
On Wednesday, April 27, 2016, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, gave a public lecture in Deloitte Auditorium in the Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kvirikashvili is an alumnus of Illinois, having earned a Master’s in Finance from the College of Business. After being welcomed by the College of Business Dean Jeffery Brown and introduced by Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson, he briefly reminisced on his time at the University (funded by a U.S. State Department program in the 1990’s), which he said taught him new ways to think about solving problems and gave him the skills to enter the world of finance. The Prime Minister also highlighted the importance of Georgian – American relations and then described a four- point plan for reform within his country that will focus on education, economic “liberalization,” infrastructure, and reorganizing government systems including the pension system and physical spaces. Kvirikashvili also invited audience members not only to visit Georgia, but to invest as well, drawing attention to Georgia’s key geographic position on the “new Silk Road,” tying together economies from Beijing to Brussels.
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili then answered questions from an internationally diverse 200+ person audience. The first question was posed by a Russian student and concerned Georgian – Russian relations. Kvirikashvili reported that Georgia had worked to “cool down” tensions between the countries, while firmly stating that the normalization of relations requires that Russia recognize Georgia’s borders and respect Georgia’s sovereignty. The second question came from an American student who asked who the Prime Minister favored in the U.S. Presidential Election – Kvirikashvili felt it best to refrain from giving his opinion. The third question came from an Armenian student asking the Prime Minister to elaborate on how Georgia had dealt with Soviet legacy of corrupt institutions, while the fourth was voiced by a South Korean student asking what steps the Prime Minister planned on taking to convince people that Georgia is a great place to invest. Professor Mohammed Babadoost asked about developing agriculture in Georgia and training scientists, while the final questions touched on issues relating to the oil market.
Prior to becoming Prime Minister in December 2015, Kvirikashvili served as Vice Prime Minister (2013-2015) while serving as Foreign Minister (2015) and Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development (2012-2015). Kvirikashvili received a Master’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States in 1998. He obtained an undergraduate degree in Economics from Tbilisi State University (1995) and an undergraduate degree in Medicine from Tbilisi State Medical Institute (1991).
Dr. Maureen Marshall is the Associate Director for REEEC. She earned her PhD at the University of Chicago in Anthropology in 2014 with a thesis on “Subject(ed) Bodies: A Bioarchaeological Investigation of Lived Experiences and Mobile Practices in Late Bronze-Early Iron Age (1500-800 B.C.) Armenia.” Her research focuses on the bioarchaeology of early complex polities and empires in the South Caucasus and Eurasia. She is also the Associate Director of Project ArAGATS, the joint American-Armenian project for the Archaeology and Geography for Ancient Transcaucasian Societies.