Irakli Gharibashvili: “Since 2012, the volume of deposits of [Georgian] citizens increased ten-fold, people are getting richer.”
Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.
Resume: Prior to the change of government in September 2012, the total amount of savings deposited in Georgian commercial banks both in GEL and foreign currency was GEL 8 billion. As of July 2023, it has increased to GEL 49 billion. Therefore, the nominal volume of deposits increased six-fold instead of tenfold in 11 years. The savings deposited by physical persons increased 7.2 times by GEL 3.4 billion to GEL 24.9 billion.
The growth of the deposit volume was affected by at least two factors that are not related with Georgian nationals getting wealthier. These are the change in the currency exchange rate which means that foreign currency deposits increased only technically when converted to GEL (a USD 1 saving in 2012 was hypothetically equal to GEL 1.65 and now USD 1 equals GEL 2.65) and Russian nationals moving their deposits to the Georgian banks in 2022.
Therefore, on the one hand, the Prime Minister provided incorrect figures and, in this manner, he exaggerated the growth rate (claiming a ten-fold growth instead of an actual 6.1-7.2 times growth) and, on the other hand, portrayed the total volume of deposits as people’s savings and linked this to Georgian citizens becoming wealthier whilst the total deposits encompass savings from foreigners, legal entities and the government itself in addition to Georgian nationals. At the same time, he has not emphasised the fact that the growth of deposits is not a novelty or an exceptional occurrence and it was growing in the previous periods as well (in some cases at a higher rate). The Prime Minister also ignored the fact that the massive growth of deposits from Russian nationals amid Russia’s war in Ukraine substantially contributed to the growth of deposits which has nothing to do with Georgian nationals becoming wealthier.
Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.
On 11 September 2023, at the session of the Government of Georgia, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili underlined the growth of deposits when speaking about economic topics and stated (from 12:16): “In 2012, the total deposits of our citizens were over USD 2 billion and the same amount in GEL, if I remember that correctly. Now it is USD 23 billion and the same amount in GEL. The amount of savings deposited in our commercial banks has increased ten-fold. This means that people are getting richer and the country is being developed.”
What did the Prime Minister say?
In order to analyse the statement, it is important to clarify what the Prime Minister had in mind because his text is not understandable based on the terminology and the measurement units he uses whilst understanding it literally means that the figures he provided are absurd. The only thing that is clear from his statement is that he claims that bank deposits made by Georgian nationals increased ten-fold over the course of 11 years and he explains this by stating that people are becoming wealthier. FactCheck sought to understand the Prime Minister’s statement.
Claim N1 – Now (2023) the volume of citizens’ deposits is USD 23 billion and the same amount in GEL.
If we understand the text literally, it turns out that the Prime Minister claims that the total amount of bank deposits made by Georgian nationals is around GEL 120 billion (2*23,000,000,000*2.6292) which is 2.5 times higher as compared to GEL 48.9 billion which is the total amount of bank deposits in Georgia (resident and non-resident physical persons, resident and non-resident legal entities, government) let alone the savings of only Georgian nationals. Since it is unlikely that the Prime Minister made such a massive mistake, it is possible that he means the total amount of foreign currency deposited as savings and converted to GEL (GEL 23 billion) and GEL deposited savings (in the same amount which means GEL 23 billion). Therefore, if his words are interpreted in the Prime Minister’s favour, the total figure would be GEL 46 billion which is closer to the aggregate amount of deposits (GEL 48.9 billion).
Claim N2 – [As compared to 2012] the amount of deposits has increased ten-fold, people are getting richer.
It should be understood from this statement (if we interpret the first claim in the Prime Minister’s favour) that the total amount of deposits in 2012 was ten times less as compared to GEL 46 billion which equals GEL 4.6 billion and this change was caused by people becoming wealthier.
Claim N3 – In 2012 the total amount of deposits made by our citizens was over USD 2 billion and the same amount in GEL.
In fact, as of late September 2012 (the last month before the elections), the total amount of deposits (including those of foreigners, business and government) was GEL 8 billion and the Prime Minister’s words are not even close to that figure under any interpretation. The figure from a literal understanding of the Prime Minister’s statement (2*2,000,000,000*1.6567), which is GEL 6.6 billion, is more or less close to that figure. However, it is unlikely that he used one and the same terminology with a different interpretation in one statement. Therefore, it is likely that he considers the total amount of deposits in 2012 to be above GEL 4 billion which creates a logical chain together with the first and second claims.
Therefore, it is impossible to precisely understand to which data the Prime Minister is referring even by resorting to a professional analysis. For the understanding of the average citizen vis-à-vis the Prime Minister’s claim, let us say, the bank savings of Georgian nationals have increased ten-fold as compared to 2012 and today stand at GEL 46 billion (supposedly) which is attributable to people becoming wealthier.
Does the Prime Minister’s statement correspond to reality?
The website of the National Bank of Georgia publishes statistics about deposits from 1996 onwards. Barring certain exceptions, the curve is always increasing and bank deposits have been growing in this entire period.
In January 1996, the total volume of deposits was GEL 33 million – 1,500 times less than the current level. The economy has not grown to this extent but confidence in the banking sector has increased whilst a greater number of citizens have had the opportunity to save with their income exceeding the level of being sufficient only for current expenses. Prior to the Rose Revolution, the volume of deposits increased to GEL 774 million and reached GEL 8 billion in September 2012. In 2008-2009, against the background of the war, the world economic crisis and the political crisis in Georgia, the growth stopped for 16 months until December 2009, although the system did not collapse.
The increase in the volume of banking assets, including deposits, continued after the 2012 parliamentary elections. During the last 11 years, deposits placed in GEL increased 8.2 times from GEL 2.9 billion to GEL 23.9 billion and deposits in foreign currency increased five times from GEL 5 billion to GEL 25 billion. Deposits increased 6.1 times from GEL 8 billion to GEL 48.9 billion.
Graph 1: Bank Deposits in Total, GEL Million (Total Amount of Deposits Placed in National and Foreign Currencies)
Source: National Bank of Georgia.
At the same time, of important note is that the total deposits are not only the deposits of Georgian nationals but include the deposits of both resident and non-resident individuals (households) as well as legal entities (businesses) and the government. The Prime Minister was talking about the deposits of Georgian nationals and, therefore, it is appropriate to only evaluate the trend of changes in the bank deposits placed by Georgian nationals in order to verify the accuracy of his statement. However, the National Bank does not publish statistical data broken down by citizenship in a publicly available form whilst the data broken down by residency have been available since 2015. Therefore, the deposits of physical persons are the closest to the indicator named by the Prime Minister from all of the publicly available data.
If we separate individuals from the total deposits, we will get approximately the same growth, although the absolute volume naturally would be much smaller. In particular, the volume of deposits placed by individuals increased 7.2 times from GEL 3.4 billion to GEL 24.9 billion from September 2012 to July 2023 and not ten-fold as the Prime Minister claims.
Graph 2: Deposits of Physical Persons (GEL Million)
Source: National Bank of Georgia
At the same time, the deposits of physical persons increased by 18.3% nominally by GEL 3.7 billion GEL only from December 2021 to December 2022. Although, of that GEL 3.7 billion, non-resident physical persons account for GEL 1.6 billion. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the growth in the volume of deposits placed by foreign nationals, in most cases by Russian citizens, also affected the growth of deposits in total. If in December 2021 Russian citizens kept GEL 567 million in Georgian banks, this increased to USD 2.420 billion in December 2022. In December 2021, the share of Russian citizens in deposits was 1.5% whilst it was 5.3% in December 2022.
Prior to the war, non-residents had savings in Georgian banks in the amount equivalent to GEL 5.3 billion which increased to GEL 8.4 billion in July 2023. In the post-war period, the rate of the growth of the deposits of Russian nationals reached such a high level that the Financial Stability Committee of the National Bank increased the liquidity requirement of commercial banks for deposits for Russian nationals from 30%-40% to 80% in May. The reason for the decision was the risk of the outflow of deposits. Deposits of non-residents were growing before the war but at a much lower rate. In the four years prior to the pandemic, the deposits of non-residents increased by 46% and by 58% in less than 1.5 years after the start of the war. In the same period from February 2022 to July 2023, the deposits placed by domestic households increased by only 12%.
Graph 3: Deposits by Their Depositors (GEL Billion)
Source: National Bank of Georgia
As illustrated by the graph, the deposits of physical persons and legal entities are almost equal. At the same time, the government had GEL 4.5 billion placed in deposits as of July 2023 which is a record-high figure and almost two times higher as compared to a year and a half ago.
In his speech, the Prime Minister presented the total bank deposits in the country as deposits of Georgian nationals. At the same time, he named the current total amount of deposits probably more or less accurately, although he made a mistake in naming the data of 2012 - before the change of government where not 4 billion (more than 4) but GEL 8 billion were placed in the form of deposits in banks. Therefore, its volume has increased six times and not ten-fold in the last 11 years.
The part about explaining the total growth by people becoming wealthier is also manipulative. Naturally, the economic well-being of people has been improving in the aforementioned 11-year period, although the amount of deposits was also growing under the Georgian Dream and the United National Movement’s rule as well as under of that of the Union of Citizens of Georgia. Therefore, there is no particular novelty in this growth. In addition, the Prime Minister fully linked the growth of deposits to “people getting richer” and claimed that their deposits increased ten-fold. In fact, the volume of deposits of physical persons has not increased ten-fold since 2012 but only 7.2 times. At the same time, deposits placed from non-resident physical persons, largely those of Russian nationals, has currently affected the growth of deposits.
The detailed data from 2012 between resident and non-resident persons cannot be found on the website of the National Bank (similar statistics have been available since November 2015). However, the volume of deposits of non-residents has increased by 58%, of the government by 96%, of legal entities (except the government) by 22% and by resident households by 12% (which is the closest to the volume of deposits of Georgian nationals) in the last year and a half.
Given all the aforementioned, FactCheck concludes that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.
 For a comprehensive assessment of the exchange rate effect, it is important to analyse flows of deposits and not only the balance. However, an accurate assessment of the exchange rate effect goes beyond the scope of this article. This example serves to clarify the exchange rate effect’s importance and is not a claim about the scale of the currency exchange rate effect.
 Currency exchange rate at the end of August 2023.
 Currency exchange rate at the end of August 2023.
 This includes deposits of foreign nationals, although it does not include the deposits of government and legal entities.
 A possible minor difference between certain values can be caused by use of different types of sources (tables accessible in editable formats and portal of interactive statistics).