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Kakha Bendukhidze is a founder of Knowledge Fund, the founding organization of the Free University of Tbilisi and Agricultural University of Georgia.
After the Rose Revolution, he served as Georgian Minister of Economy (June–December 2004), Minister for Reform Coordination (December 2004 - January 2008) and Head of the Chancellery of Government of Georgia (February 2008 - February 2009).
Bendukidze graduated from the Department of Biology of Tbilisi State University in 1977 and from the Postgraduate School of the Moscow State University in 1980. From 1981 to 1985, he worked for the Institute of Biology and Physiology of Microorganisms in Puschino. From 1985 to 1988, he worked as the head of the Laboratory for Molecular Genetics at Institute of Biotechnology.
Businessman in Russia
With the onset of Perestroika, Bendukidze organized a small business called Bioprocess. In 1993, during the Voucher Privatization, campaign he bought stock in Uralmash. Bendukidze became a board member, and later, Director-General of this company. After merging Uralmash with Izhora Plants in 1996, he became Chairman and CEO (Director-General) of the merged company, Objedinennie Mashinostroitelnie Zavody (OMZ). Bendukidze had raised to becoming one of Russia's top twenty The influential business leaders, and an influential voice on economic policy.
By 2004 Vladimir Putin's regime tightened its grip on strategic industries. According to Boris Berezovsky: Bendukidze does not belong to Putin's circle of friends and he understood sooner than everyone else that everything would be taken away from him... Bendukidze by far hasn't exhausted his potential but right now the Russian authorities do not need such talented people.. Thus, he decided to move to his native Georgia. In March 2004, he left the position of Chairman of the OMZ and later sold his interest in the company. On June 2, 2004, he became Minister for Economics of Georgia.
Georgian public figure
Bendukidze returned to Georgia after the Rose Revolution victory. After having been appointed Minister of Economy in the new Saakashvili cabiner for a semester, since December 14, 2004 to January 31, 2008, he was State Minister on reforms coordination, coordinating government efforts to liberalize the economy.
The Economist said of Bendukidze: "Mr Bendukidze made his name and fortune as an industrialist in neighboring Russia, putting together the country's biggest heavy-engineering group, OMZ, before returning to his native Georgia in June of this year with a mandate to reverse more than a decade of post-Soviet decay. He insists that he was taken by surprise when Georgia's president, Mikhail Saakashvili, and Prime Minister, Zurab Zhvania, nobbled him for a chat in the course of a private visit he made to Tbilisi in May, and then offered him a ministerial job the same evening. But having said yes, he is cracking ahead, doing everything that businessmen must dream of making governments do. He says that Georgia should be ready to sell 'everything that can be sold, except its conscience, and that is just the start.'"
He is known as a committed libertarian and strong supporter of market economy, deregulation and privatization, stating that the Georgian government should sell everything except its honor. During 2004-2007, under his leadership, Georgia became the top-reforming country in the world, according to the World Bank's Doing Business report. In particular, Georgia jumped from 137 to 11 on the ease of doing business scale, ahead of Germany and France.
Bendukidze was pivotal in the libertarian reforms launched under Saakashvili, including one of the least restrictive labour codes, the lowest flat income tax rates (12%) and some of the lowest customs rates worldwide, along with the drastic reduction of necessary licenses and permits for business.
In the January 2008 cabinet reshuffle, he became Head of the State Chancellery. During his tenure, he was considered one of the most influential Georgian politicians, although he was not popular among opposition in the administration. He was criticized for repealing anti-monopoly legislation and introducing a liberal labor code. The opposition accused him of trying to sell off each of Georgia’s strategic assets, such as sea ports, entire railway system, gas supply network, forests, etc.
On February 1, 2009 he leaves the public service and begins to invest in education, through Knowledge Fund - a non-profit, charity organization.
Knowledge Fund (KF), which is a non-profit, charity organization, was founded by Kakha Bendukidze in 2007. KF is the largest endowment in higher education in Georgia. Knowledge Fund is the founding organization of the Free University of Tbilisi and Agricultural University of Georgia. The Fund's purpose is to ensure provision of world quality higher education to Georgia's young generation and encourage high quality research in the country. With this aim in mind the KF invests in future generations of Georgia, including investment in study and research infrastructure of the Free University of Tbilisi and Agricultural University of Georgia, research and development and student scholarships. Between 2007 and 2012 KF invested over 50 ml USD in higher education. This is an unprecedented volume of private investment in higher education in Georgia.
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