University of Illinois Welcomes Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili
Giorgi Kvirikashvili is an Alumnus of the College of Business at the University of Illinois. He graduated with a Masters of Science in Finance in 1998. Kvirikashvili was already married with three kids when he chose to study at the University of Illinois and in those days it wasn’t easy for Georgians to pursue higher education at leading universities in the United States. Despite these challenges, Kvirikashvili believes it was a significant investment that continues to pay off.
After graduating from the University of Illinois, Kvirikashvili worked as an executive in various banks. Gradually, he rose to become the Director General of Cartu Bank, owned by multi-billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanshvili. Kvirikashvili was appointed as the Vice-Prime Minister in July 2013 and, in December 2015, he was appointed as the new Prime Minister of Georgia.
At his public talk on campus, Kvirikashvili talked about the importance of strengthening the relationship between Georgia and the United States, especially as his country is seen as a bastion of stability, economic development, and democratization in the region. He also spoke addressed students in the audience with some historical lessons he thought they might not aware of, such as Georgia's status during the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and ongoing efforts to minimize tensions in its ongoing territorial disputes with Russia. He explained that his country has tried to be as constructive as possible in its development as a nation, which has been difficult ever since its 2008 war with Russia. Despite those challenges, he said Georgia has shown tremendous progress over the last five years in regard to foreign direct investment, which peaked at $1.3 Billion this past year, largely due to tax reforms that have made investing in Georgia more attractive to outside businesses.
The Prime Minister encouraged Illinois students to visit his country. During the Q&A session, a Russian student asked the Prime Minister about the country's future relationship with Russia in light of current tensions. The Prime Minister expressed his desire to maintain stability and peacewith Russia, without compromising Georgia’s sovereignty. Another student asked the Prime Minister on his views about this year's presidential election in the US to see if he had a favorite candidate--a question he poiltely declined to answer, stating simply that he would cooperate with whoever comes into power here.
At the conclusion of the event, a former professor of Kvirikashvili's asked him whether he would want his own children to attend the University of Illinois. The Prime Minister expressed that the university is a famously great research institution and that he hopes his youngest son will study here.