Godfather of Georgia's reforms dies at 58

AP News
Posted: Nov 14, 2014 7:06 AM
Godfather of Georgia's reforms dies at 58

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Kakha Bendukidze, the author of liberal reforms that overhauled Georgia's post-Soviet economy, has died in London where he was recovering from heart surgery, the parliament speaker announced Friday. He was 58.

Lawmakers observed a minute of silence in honor of Bendukidze, who died late Thursday.

In May, he was appointed adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko who is pushing for liberal reforms. In his last interview, Bendukidze said Ukraine's economy is in such a deplorable state that overhauling the system is a matter of survival.

"I can only wish for the soonest launch of the reforms. Otherwise, Ukraine will cease to exist," he said in an interview with the Novoye Vremya magazine.

Bendukidze, a bespectacled, overweight Tbilisi native who had a promising career in biology before he set up his first business in Moscow, was remembered as a witty man who never strived for fortune or office.

He ditched his successful industrial ventures in Moscow in 2004 to return to Georgia as the economic minister and oversee the ambitious reforms that saw the post-Soviet country rated as some of the friendliest places to do business.

Bendukidze retired from public service in 2009 to invest in education and found the Free University in Tbilisi which went on to become the country's leading institution.

Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in prison on tax evasion charges before he was pardoned and released last year, knew Bendukidze for decades and saw him a few days before he died.

In an interview with radio station Ekho Moskvy, Khodorkovsky described Bendukidze as a "peacemaker, but with tongue in cheek."

"Kakha was an amazing person in this respect because he had a very subtle sense of humor, and he was a man of compromise. If someone needed to find agreement on a difficult issue, it was much easier to do so in Kakha's presence."

Bendukidze was divorced. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.