Georgia's New Premier Dismisses Bendukidze

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia's new prime minister, Nika Gilauri, has sacked a reformer who played a central role in opening up the economy to investors.

Industrialist Kakha Bendukidze left his business interests in Russia to join the Georgian government five years ago as minister in charge of economic reform. He was moved a year ago to government chief of staff but remained an influential figure in shaping economic policy.

"I can confirm that the prime minister made a decision on the removal of Kakha Bendukidze," Avto Pavlenishvili, spokesman for the Georgian prime minister, said Monday.

"The prime minister ... thinks there is someone other than Bendukidze who is more appropriate for the post of head of the government administration," he said, without saying who would replace Bendukidze.

He said the prime minister may offer Bendukidze a job as an adviser.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili persuaded Bendukidze to leave Russia and join the government soon after the 2004 Rose Revolution.

Bendukidze implemented ultra-liberal economic reforms, which included auctioning off state property and introducing one of the world's lowest rates of income tax. The reforms won praise from the IMF.

Before returning from Russia to his native Tbilisi in 2004, Bendukidze was chief executive of OMZ, one of Russia's largest engineering firms.