Kakha Bendukidze, RIP
By Alberto Mingardi
On November 13, Kakha Bendukidze passed away in London,a result of a cardiac problem. I’d gotten to know Kakha a bit over the years, as he frequently participated in seminars organised by Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy (my colleague Carlo Stagnaro authored a beautiful obituary, alas in Italian), and because he was indeed a larger than life figure in this movement of ours. Kakha was a former Minister and was once described by the Economist as “a different sort of oligarch” .
Indeed Kakha was different. See this passage from that old Economist piece:
As to where investors should put their money, “I don’t know and I don’t care,” he says, and continues: “I have shut down the department of industrial policy. I am shutting down the national investment agency. I don’t want the national innovation agency.” Oh yes, and he plans to shut down the country’s anti-monopoly agency too. “If somebody thinks his rights are being infringed he can go to the courts, not to the ministry.” He plans, as his crowning achievement, to abolish his own ministry in 2007. “In a normal country, you don’t need a ministry of the economy,” he says. “And in three years we can make the backbone of a normal country.”
His motto was: sell everything but your conscience. He enjoyed making bold statements but, different from others, he actually pursued bold policies too. Georgia’s radical libertarian policy choices (from hospital privatisation to unilateral free trade) owes much to Kakha. Future historians of privatization processes will have to devote considerable attention to his endeavours. Anders Aslund wrote a very good piece on his accomplishments here. I may just add that Kakha was great fun, and had a rather dry and most enjoyable sense of humour. Lately, he was trying to help the Ukranian government put together a package of meaningful reform, after having had sharply criticised the way in which Ukranians managed the transition from socialism so far.
He will be sorely missed. I am told that Students for Liberty will celebrate him on November 29-30 in Kyev at the ESFL Ukraine Summit. Rest in peace, Kakha.