Archil Sikharulidze & Teona Mamukishvili
The Georgian political establishment has already summarized 2017 and given promises to further develop democratic practices on the ground, ensuring economic and social security, equality and, of course, equity. And while members of the Georgian Dream are mainly satisfied with the decision-making, there is an issue that is causing significant alarm. Particularly, there are fears that the ruling party is repeating the mistakes of its predecessor, the United National Movement, by following an old and time-tested policy to solve complex tasks that can be reflected by an abbreviature – KIS. What is more astonishing is that some members of Georgian civil society directly or indirectly play a significant role in this process by pushing the government to pursue the above mentioned policy.
What is KIS policy?
The abbreviature KIS comes from the software developing sphere and means, “Keep it Simple.” The idea behind it is that any complicated programming code should be written in an elegant yet clear way to facilitate other software developers in better understanding the code, the reason it is written in the given manner and, generally the whole program. By doing so, we significantly shorten the time period of further development and integration. And while this general line is applicable to any decision-making process, in Georgian political culture, it overwhelmingly means a scheme containing three policy-making statements: quick, simple and cheap.
To understand what these statements are about, we should analyze them based on two unfortunate cases that happened in Tbilisi this past year. Particularly, on September 25, a 3-year-old child fell from the second floor of the 206th kindergarten of Zemo Ponichala and on December 1 two 16-year-old boys died in a school scuffle.
The first policy-making statement is probably the most common in Georgia: things must be done quickly (especially when it comes to cases that undermine the prestige of the ruling political elite), deal with pretty sensitive issues, or/and enthrall the eye of the mainstream media. This is also where representatives of civil society play a significant role. Local civil society has a tendency to overreact and by doing so (and continuing to hype various topics), they often push political elites to make decisions as fast as possible. The main narrative behind the decision-making process in such cases is not to solve the issue in general but rather to calm and stabilize the situation.
Notably, in the above two cases, the Georgian government decided to, in the case of the kindergarten incident, punish the director, caregivers and, finally, to increase security measures by putting the children behind bars. The same punishment scenario took place in the school and, according to tradition, security forces such as resource officers and patrol police were mobilized to tighten control in public schools.
Quick decisions are not bad when they are followed by in-depth analysis and strategic planning. In the Georgian case, quick decision-making is not immediately or even in the near future accompanied by any such action.
Quick decisions that aim to stabilize a situation are usually simple decisions. Simplicity is frequently a positive happening, but not in those cases needing us to deal with complex issues and challenges.
It is no secret that local kindergartens are not capable of satisfying the existing demand for child spaces. Moreover, there are serious doubts being raised as to the professionalism and skills of the caregivers, and to the quality of services given. This state institution is also experiencing a shortage of pedagogues who are able to ensure the physical safety of the children in their care. Taking into account international standards, according to which caregivers do not belong to “security services” and are devoted to promoting the healthy development of children, it is questionable how simply putting a young generation of Georgians behind security bars can deal with the source of the problem rather than its logical consequence.
The same analysis is applicable to the school incident. Georgian schools do not lack “security” institutions; they lack “healthy,” safe environments and inter-personal communication focused on multidimensional (staff, children, families, community, policy) responsibilities to promote the raising of socially responsible youths. This can be achieved only by involving supportive professionals: social workers, specialist pedagogues, psychologists and other related professionals.
The fact that the Georgian government by default considers using security services as a main tool for handling these issues raises questions as to whether it realizes the necessity of raising a new generation of educated citizens devoted to democratic principles.
The third important statement, of course, deals with finances. It is not only fast to put bars, take punitive measures, and send police officers to schools, but also simple and comparatively pretty cheap. Representatives of the Georgian political establishment might assume that there are not enough financial resources in the country to hire and prepare high-level professionals to eradicate the issues in the Georgian education system. So far, it has been more logical to use the existing resources (the same resource officers and police) or/and cheap techniques (bars) to contain these problems. Such argumentation is not only wrong but also financially unprofitable. A well-managed infusion of money will undoubtedly lead to the development of strong, effective and efficient institutions that, in turn, will create the respective basis for improved financial and social prosperity.
By and large, the Georgian government should abandon the time-tested KIS policy when dealing with complex tasks. The formula “quick-simple-cheap” is not applicable in such cases. Instead, representatives of the local political elite should pursue a logical long-term policy oriented on eradication of the source of the problems rather than containment. We need a policy-making approach that is based on comprehensive strategic planning with an infusion of the respective financial resources.