Focus on Merger of Education & Culture Ministries

Georgia’s newly elected Prime Minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze, 36, announced last week that he is carrying out structural changes in the Government of Georgia, which envisages the abolition of one and the merger of several ministries, including the unification of the Ministry of Culture and Sports with the Ministry of Education and Science.

The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Sports were separate bodies until the former PM, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, carried out a government reshuffle last year and reduced the number of ministries from 18 to 14.

After Kvirikashvili stepped down on May 13, 2018, a new PM was elected who decided to further cut the number of ministries from 14 to 11.

Bakhtadze’s statement about the unification of the Culture and Education bodies has been most criticized.

Member of the Republican Party of Georgia and former Deputy Minister of Education Davit Zurabishvili, stated he finds no logic in the unification of the ministries of Education and Culture.

The ex-official believes that these structural changes are a mistake which will lead to serious problems in the next few years.

Zurabishvili says the PM did not provide sufficient explanation why these two ministries should be merged, aside from the claim that the country “needs a smaller and more effective government.”

“A small government does not mean that ministries should be united. The main thing here is to reduce administrative expenses and spending… No one knows what functions the merged ministries will have or how they will be managed. In short, they will be unified, but nobody yet knows how this will be done,” Zurabishvili said.

The politician believes that there are many problems in both the educational and culture fields, adding the merger cannot solve these challenges but will serve to “make them even worse.”

“This is a mechanical unification of two different bodies… In fact, education and culture should be the top priority, because today we need both of them equally…The government has no idea what the real functions of education and culture are in the country,” Zurabishvili claimed.

Dr. Marine Mizandari, who was Deputy Minister of Culture from 2012 to 2014, believes that the Georgian government is not well enough aware of the role of culture.

She believes the merger of the Culture Ministry with the Education Ministry underlines the attitude of the government that culture is not a priority in Georgia.

Mizandari said instead of abolishing the ministry, it should have been developed, which would promote the country's cultural potential.

"Culture not only brings economic benefits but also serves for social development too…We need more cultural departments in the regions but instead, this body is being abolished and merged with the Ministry of Education,” she noted.

Several days ago, famous Georgian artist Gia Bughadze slammed the PM and the government for the decision to merge the Ministry of Culture and Sports with the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.

Bughadze is sure the unification “will bring bad results.”

“This is yet more proof that the current government does not care about education and culture but on the contrary. How can these two essential and precious fields be merged? It is impossible. Both are independent and should function separately," he said.

While meeting locals in the Samegrelo region, western Georgia on June 27, the new Georgian PM talked about the merger of the two ministries, emphasizing that structural changes in government will benefit the country.

“We are planning to unify the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture and Sports. These three directions complete each other. They all need each other to develop,” he stated.

Bakhtadze noted that correlation between these three fields can help Georgian society be educated, culturally more aware and healthy.

“From kindergartens to universities and vocational education, society will not be able to receive education or culture and the important values that our ancestors left them, or establish a healthy lifestyle, if these three directions are not unified under one umbrella,” he explained.

The draft on structural changes has already been submitted to Parliament for approval.

By Thea Morrison

28 June 2018 20:02