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Issue no: 1044/127

• MAY 1 - 3, 2018



In this week’s issue... Tbilisi Metro Workers to Strike on May 3 NEWS PAGE 3

Agri Review 2018 ISET PAGE 4

Ministry of Economy Holds Entrepreneurial Market at Meidan



GT meets a CENN expert to discuss the risks and needed regulations


The Hidden Danger of More Streets – Interview with the Organizer of SOS Hippodrome EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY BENJAMIN MUSIC

One Dead, Several Poisoned, Allegedly by New Drug


On Mayor Kaladze - So Far, So Good


bilisi City Hall is pushing forward plans to construct an overpass over the Hippodrome to ease traffic between Saburtalo and Vake, as congestion is now a daily occurrence. However, these plans are encountering a strong opposition in the form of Joseph Alexander Smith, a freelance journalist, politician, and activist in Tbilisi. On the weekend, a massive protest organized by his initiative ‘SOS Hippodrome’ raised awareness and drew attention from media outlets across Georgia. We sat down with him to find out more. Continued on page 10

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MAY 1 - 3, 2018

Georgian Prime Minister Closes NATO Days BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


t the closing event of a week of NATO Days, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili thanked the President, Chairman of the Parliament, Cabinet members, Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, Assistant NATO Secretary General, Tacan Ildem, and other attendees for their participation and support. “It is very gratifying to be hosting today the concluding event of NATO Days, the NATO-Georgia Public Diplomacy Forum which is being held for the third time in Tbilisi, emerging in a way as an important tradition,” the PM began, going on to inform those present that the Government of Georgia had declared 2018 the Year of Universal Engagement and Dialogue. “Our goal is to engage every citizen as an active participant of the country’s development, of both foreign and domestic processes,” he said. The concept of this year’s NATO forum was 360-Degree Communication, said to complement the vision of both the Government of Georgia and NATO, and involving provision of the population with fact-based information about why Euro-Atlantic integration is so important to the country and its future. “NATO membership is the top priority of our country’s foreign and security policy, reflecting the unwavering will of Georgia’s citizens,” the PM noted. “This

is why it is included in the new version of the Constitution of Georgia.” “I would like to single out our unprecedentedly dynamic and active relations with the Alliance in terms of both practical cooperation and political dialogue in the past few years, especially last year. We have proved to be a worthy, active and reliable partner to the Alliance,” he claimed. He told attendees that NATO unequivocally recognizes Georgia’s progress in democratic reforms, modernization of its armed forces and defense institutions, and its contribution to the strengthening of international security. He said it also

appreciates Georgia as “one of its most interoperable and reliable partners.” “Today, we are celebrating the 27th anniversary of the first conscription in the Georgian Armed Forces since the restoration of Georgia’s independence. Over these years, Georgia has been through much. Thousands of soldiers have paid the ultimate price fighting for Georgia’s independence, fighting against Russian occupation, and as part of international peacemaking operations. We honor the memory of Georgia’s heroes on this day and take great pride in the tradition established 27 years ago, and the tradition of fighting side by side

Candoco UK Inclusive Dance Company Back in Tbilisi with 2nd Training


he British Council, in partnership with the Tbilisi Kote Marjanishvili State Drama Theater, organized the second series of a three-day inclusive dance workshop led by the internationally acclaimed Candoco Dance Company from the UK. Candoco’s workshop, held 18 to 20 April, was called Dance Lab and was designed for dancers interested in inclusive dance. The first training was conducted in autumn 2017. Dance Labs are part of the British Council’s ‘Culture&Development: Unlimited’ program, with the Marjanishvili Theater as the program partner in Georgia. The aim of the program is to promote and develop inclusive arts by sharing the UK experience by involving people with disabilities in the arts and by supporting the creation of an accessible environment for them. Jemima Hoadley and Welly O'Brien, Candoco dancers, shared their expertise with a mixed group of disabled and non-disabled participants of the Dance Lab, encouraging them to take the unique opportunity to interact, take risks, experiment, test new ideas and share practice. "We want dancers to be creative and active and to become comfortable trying new and unfamiliar things," Hoadley said. "We want to encourage them to find the capacity to be creative to use all of their movements. We show them how they can use the space and how to design movements in the space in order to move with various dynamics, movement efforts and quality. we also try to make movements authentic and as teachers we should develop trust, responsibility and risk-taking between dancers. Ketevan Zazanashvili, a professional dancer who has been supported by the British Council Georgia in her continued professional development once again assisted the British trainers in the planning and delivery of the Lab. "We sent Keti to the Stopgap for the second UK inclusive dance company last September. We also gave Keti the

opportunity to share her experiences with the participants of international conferences in Kiev and Manchester," said Maia Darchia of the British Council in Georgia. "We are proud with Keti’s latest achievement - the first ever Georgian inclusive show premiered on 14 April." As Keti stated in her comments and posts, the establishment of the inclusive dance company and creation of the first performance was made possible thanks

to the knowledge and experience she gained through the British Council’s Culture & Development: Unlimited program. Training sessions by the UK inclusive dance company organized by the British Council will help the newly established Georgian inclusive dance company as well as all disabled and non-disabled participants to meet, establish new relationships and plan new cooperation.

forged along our cooperation with NATO, especially under the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan carried out jointly with NATO’s troops.” He noted Georgia’s expectation that its partners at the Brussels Summit in July will “duly assess and reflect Georgia’s progress in terms of both democratic development and NATO integration, in the context of open door policy, and that decisions will be made further to cement NATO-Georgia practical cooperation.” The PM spoke of the previous night’s meeting with the US Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, which left him “very optimistic” after hearing his “clearly

articulated opinions on both Georgia’s territorial integrity and Georgia’s accession to NATO.” “It is becoming clearer by the minute that the closer we approach NATO, the more intense anti-Western propaganda grows in the country,” Kvirikashvili said. “This is why timely action is required of the Alliance and us. We are doing our best to assess and counter such threats, and we are actively cooperating with our partners on dealing with these threats.” The PM highlighted the structural changes already implemented in state institutions working, better coordinating responses to such threats. “For several months now, the Georgian Center for Security and Development, with financial support from the US Embassy, has been retraining strategic communications specialists from relevant state institutions in line with the latest standards, which will, in the near future, enhance the effectiveness of action countering anti-Western propaganda,” he said. “I am happy that this forum once again enables us to discuss new challenges, methods, and strategies, and to share with one another the best practices of public diplomacy, and to work together against such challenges, he said. The NATO Days and closing forum were organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, the Information Center on NATO and the EU, the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia, NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division and the Bulgarian Embassy in Georgia.



UN Supports Comprehensive Enactment of Tobacco-Control Legislation in Georgia


he UN Country Team in Georgia has said it welcomes the enactment of tobacco control legislation in the country. From May 1, 2018, the following measures enter into force: - a smoke-free policy introducing a ban of smoking in enclosed public and workplaces as well as some open areas and in public transport; - a ban of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The UN Country Team has announced it welcomes the implementation of this important regulation endorsed by the Parliament of Georgia a year ago. "All national stakeholders are encouraged to secure its implementation and consequently protect present and future generations from catastrophic consequences of tobacco use," the UN Country Team in Georgia says. "Unfortunately, Georgia still belongs to the countries with very high tobacco consumption," the announcement goes on. "Tobacco smoking causes addiction and results in devastating consequences for individuals, their families and all of society." It is reported that in Georgia, the prevalence of smoking among men is among the highest in the world at approximately 57%; the official prevalence rate of smoking among women, despite still being relatively low (about 10%), is said to have almost doubled in the recent years. Every fourth child at the age 13-15 year uses a tobacco product. More than 40% of the Georgian population, among them children and pregnant women, are exposed to secondhand smoke.

"Children have an absolute right to be protected from tobacco exposure, including the effects of adult smoking, which can compromise a child’s health even before birth. The Convention of the Rights of the Child emphasizes the right of the child to enjoy 'the highest attainable standard of health' and includes detailed obligations for States, many of which are relevant to protecting children from the harmful effects of tobacco," the UN Country Team in Georgia notes. In Georgia thousands of smokers and people exposed to tobacco smoke suffer from numerous diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases and cancers. Half of all long-term smokers are expected to be killed early by a smoking-related disease. Approximately 11,000 citizens of Georgia die prematurely every year from diseases caused by tobacco, and among those are more than 2,000 non-smokers. The alarming figures clearly indicate a need for strong and imminent action in the area of tobacco control. Implementation of the mentioned legislation is a significant step forward in saving lives and growing the economy. This law has significant support from Georgians, as more than 79% of the population support smoke free regulations and over 90% support the ban of tobacco advertising. In 2017, the WHO FCTC Secretariat and UNDP estimated the economic burden of tobacco use and the effects of tobacco control measurements in Georgia (The case for investing in FCTC implementation in Georgia). Each year, tobacco costs the Georgian economy GEL 824.9 million, equivalent to 2.43%

Tbilisi Metro Workers to Strike on May 3 BY THEA MORRISON

of Georgia’s GDP in 2016. These costs include: • direct healthcare expenditures totaling GEL 327.3 million, and • economic losses due to premature mortality, disability, and workplace costs totaling GEL 497.5 million. The same study concludes that by full implementation of four major tobacco control measurements (raising taxes, banning of advertising, health warnings and packaging, as well as smoke-free policies) the country can avoid GEL 3.6 billion in cumulative healthcare expenditures and economic losses over 15 years, and at the same time save a minimum of 53,000 lives. "The tobacco industry interferes with all phases of endorsing and implementing tobacco control measures," the UN Country Team claim. "This has been observed in a variety of countries, including Georgia. It can and should be prevented with transparent work of national and international stakeholders." "The UN Country Team is highly committed to continuing its support to the national authorities in strengthening tobacco control in Georgia with the ultimate goal of enabling people in Georgia to reach the highest attainable standard of health."



he trade union of Tbilisi Metro employees, “Unity 2013”, announced at a special press conference today that they will go on strike on May 3, which means the whole metro system will be paralyzed. The members of Unity 2013, which unites around 250 people, request increased salaries, saying their existing remuneration is inconsistent with environmental conditions, working cycle or the responsibilities they have to face on a daily basis.

Earlier this month, metro workers addressed the Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, demanding the appointment of a mediator, which resulted in a mediation process. Last week, they held a meeting at the Mayor’s Office and with their employer company; however, they were refused a raise. The lawyer of the metro employees says the mediation process has been unsuccessful, adding no agreement was reached. "As such, the metro drivers and other staff will stop working." Unity 2013 started a legal dispute at court in March 2016 asking for improved labor and safety conditions and increased salaries but they failed to win the case.




MAY 1 - 3, 2018

Agri Review 2018 S


2017 was a challenging year for Georgian agriculture. There is a decline in the level of sown areas, which decreased by 10.5% in 2017 compared to 2016. 214.9 thousand ha in 2017 is the lowest figure for the last four years. There is a decline in sown areas of both winter and spring crops, and both are at a four-year minimum.

than in the preceding three years. As to perennial crops, production of fruits other than grapes and citrus decreased by 40% on an annual basis, while grape production increased by 4% and citrus production decreased by 12%. During last four years, production of wheat in 2017 almost doubled compared to 2014 (+95%), but it decreased by 26% compared to 2015, and by 27% compared

deciduous fruit trees. The high prices of fruit and grapes might therefore be the result of a bad harvest and decreased production. Consequently, Georgia increased its imports of fruits and grapes to meet demand. According to trade data, in March 2018, imports of fruit and grapes sharply increased by 92%, from 5,045.96 tons to 9,692.69 tons compared to the previous year. In contrast, Georgia’s

to 2016. As for barley, the 2017 production amount is higher than in 2015 and 2014 by 5% and 60%, respectively, but lower by 9% compared to 2016.

exports in this category decreased by 36%, compared to the same period, which also indicates a shortage in supply.

Georgian imports. Year over year (compared to March 2017), agricultural imports increased by 54%. As to the country’s export/import diversification as measured by Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI), which ranges from zero to one, Georgia’s agricultural exports by product and countries are diversified. Both indexes

are low and range from 0.09 to 0.15. For the given period, the highest HHI for agricultural exports by product was observed in June 2017 (0.154), while the lowest (0.086) was observed in April 2017. HHI for agricultural exports by countries was the highest (0.154) in June 2017, and the lowest (0.08) in September 2017.

Source: Geostat, 2018

Average yields decreased for most crops, as well. The largest decreases were observed for sunflower (56%), potatoes (29%), maize (27%) and for the hay of annual grasses (25%), while other crops experienced relatively moderate declines, ranging from 3% to 15%. The only annual crops with increased production are oats (18%) and the hay of perennial grasses (3%). According to the latest plant production data, in 2017 there was a decline in the production of major crops. The production of oats, maize, sunflower, potatoes and annual grasses in 2017 is lower

PRICE HIGHLIGHTS In March 2018, fruit and grapes became more expensive by 25.6% compared to March 2017. According to Geostat data, prices increased mostly for plums (60%), apples (41%), and tangerines (36%). Meanwhile, prices dropped for kiwi (-19%) and pears (-10%). In 2017, a spring frost followed by a summer drought created unfavorable weather conditions for

TRADE HIGHLIGHTS During March 2018, Georgia’s agricultural exports (including food) amounted to 55 mln USD, which is around 23% of total Georgian export value. While comparing this indicator to March 2017, it is 7.8% higher. As to imports, in March 2018, Georgia’s agro import stood at 137 mln USD, which constitutes 19% of total

10 Galaktion Street Source: Geostat, 2018

Source: MoF, 2018

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Number of Tourists in Georgia's Mountain Resorts up by 25%

Iraq Restores Important Diesel “Artery” Cut by the US 14 Years Ago BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE

Photo: Tetnuldi, Svaneti. Source: snowmagazine.com



he Mountain Resorts Development Agency of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia has closed the 2017/2018 mountain ski season on a positive note, comparing it to the 2016-2017 season, noting that the number of visitors in Georgia’s ski resorts increased by 25% this year. The ministry reports that in Gudauri, Bakuriani, Svaneti and Goderdzi mountain resorts, the number of local and international tourists has significantly increased since 2011.

“The number of tourists increased by 491% at all ski resorts in 2017-2018 compared to the number of tourists during 2011-2012 season,” the ministry stated. The statistics of the Mountain Resort Development Agency show that Georgia’s relatively new resorts have attracted more visitors this winter season, of which Goderdzi, on the slopes of the mountainous Adjara region, is the most popular. In the Gudauri resort, 34,5997 visitors were observed in 2017/2018, which is 25% more than last year. Bakuriani, in 2017-2018, saw visitor numbers increase by 15% compared to 2016/2017. A total of 13,2704 visitors spent time at the resort in the 2017/2018 season. In mountainous Adjara, Goderdzi hosted

guests for the third year. According to the winter ski season statistics of 2017/2018, the number of visitors there increased by 129% compared to last year. During the current season, 10,283 visitors chose to ski in the Goderdzi resort. In Svaneti, the Tetnuldi ski resort hosted 122% more visitors this year than in 201617, while in Hatsvali, the number of visitors increased by 119%. Tetnuldi and Hatsvali hosted 35,890 visitors in all. In 2017, Svaneti was upgraded with the Mestia-Hatsvali connecting ropeway, connecting Mestia's town center with the resort of Hatsvali. The ropeway became operational on December 23, 2017, leading to a significant increase in the number of visitors.


raq has restored an important element of oil and gas infrastructure which was destroyed by American troops 14 years ago, allowing diesel to again travel from the Dora Refinery in Baghdad to the south in Basra, by rail rather than road tanker. In 2003, when the US invaded Iraq, the original pipeline was cut. “This achievement will increase the amount of diesel fuel and other products transported from 1,000 to 4,000 cubic meters per day, which will reduce financial costs and environmental damage, as well as the negative impact on roads and bridges. It will also save time and effort," said the Minister of Iraqi Oil, Jabbar al-Laibi. To solve the problem of delivering oil to Basra from the Kirkuk oil fields, Baghdad had to be approached unconventionally. The central government of Iraq did not recognize the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, and

positioned troops in the province of Kirkuk, which was the main source of oil for the Kurds. On leaving, Kurdish oil workers took with them important equipment, so halting production. Experts from Baghdad quickly managed to resume production, but still only one active export oil pipeline left Kirkuk - through Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. The pipeline that goes around the Kurdish territory was destroyed long ago, its restoration necessitating time and a large amount of money, for which Baghdad has already announced a tender. In the meantime, Iraq has been sending “black gold” from Kirkuk to Iran in tanker trucks. Now with the rail line established, at the first stage, the Iranian oil refinery in Kermanshah will send 30,000 barrels a day, later to be expanded to 60 thousand barrels per day. The agreement, signed by the Iraqi oil marketing company SOMO with the Iranian side, also provides that the Iranian side will supply oil in the same volume and of the same quality to Basra.


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MAY 1 - 3, 2018

Ministry of Economy Holds Entrepreneurial Market at Meidan BY THEA MORRISON

Turkey, Ukraine to Start Joint Production of An-188 Aircraft BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


urkey and Ukraine are to begin joint production of military transport aircraft An-188. It is reported that the first prototype aircraft, which is planned to be produced as a joint venture, was presented at the International Exhibition of Civil Aviation Infrastructure and Airports EurAsia Airshow 2018, held in Antalya, Turkey, from April 25 to 28 this year. The exact date of the beginning of joint production of aircraft has yet to be reported. Earlier in Turkey, tests were carried out of a long-range land-to-surface missile. Called KAAN, the new missile was

launched from a test site in Sinop province in northern Turkey and, flying 280 kilometers in the specified direction, fell in the Black Sea. It was noted that these tests are the last, after which the missile will be adopted by the Turkish army. The rocket system KAAN produced by the company Roketsan was presented at the international exhibition of the defense industry IDEF-2017 in Istanbul. Since 2011, in Turkey, as part of the strengthening of the domestic defense industry, there has been an increase in the production of mobile outposts designed for the fight against militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Canik TP9 pistols, ANKA unmanned aerial vehicles, and other military equipment. In recent years, Turkey has invested about $35 billion in the defense industry.


he Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia arranged a two-day entrepreneurial market at Meidan Square, Tbilisi, on April 28-29. Around 30 Georgian companies and entrepreneurs, mainly beneficiaries of the state-led program ‘Produce in Georgia,’ took part in the sale-exhibition. The main goal of the event was to popularize and promote Georgian products made in the country. The visitors to the market were able to see and purchase various kinds of Georgian products, including: tea, wine, accessories, clothes, books, souvenirs and more. The First Vice-Premier and Minister of Economy of Georgia, Dimitry Kumsishvili, visited the market, spoke with the entrepreneurs and even bought Georgian products himself. Kumsishvili stated that the attending companies and entrepreneurs have become popular in Georgia and have created numerous jobs. He highlighted that the state is continuing the Produce in Georgia program to assist more people who need support to start or develop their businesses. “I met all entrepreneurs presented at this market. They are successful, and we

will always help them to promote their production,” the Minister stated, adding that the location of this year’s entrepreneurial market was selected specially to attract more tourists, in order to inform them about Georgian products. Produce in Georgia is a state-funded program which was launched in 2014 but re-structured in April 2017, to make it more effective. It unites three state agencies: the Property Management Agency, Agriculture Projects Management Agency and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency. It consists of three components: Business- supporting micro, small and medium sized companies to allow them easier access to finances for starting new

businesses or expanding existing ones; Export- a moderator between foreign investors and Georgian entrepreneurs that helps Georgian producers to enter foreign markets and establish their brands there; Investment- strengthening relations with investors and offering them specific projects. Since 2014, Produce in Georgia has supported 344 projects, including industrial, rural, hotel and property directions, with a total investment of GEL 850 million. The volume of loans approved by commercial banks within the project has exceeded GEL 436 million. More than 13,000 new jobs have already been created as a result of the implemented projects.




MAY 1 - 3, 2018



he Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) works towards protecting the environment by fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucasus. They specialize in a number of areas, including combating climate change, sustainable management of resources, and building and developing healthy and prosperous climate resilient communities. Ann Inasaridze is the Environmental Resources Management Specialist at CENN. Her work entails areas of policy analysis and guidance to support environmental policy formulation, development of a responsible mining sector, sustainable forest management, climate change, and sustainable transport. Prior to her return to Georgia, Ann worked as a policy research consultant at Gold Mercury Interna-tional, a London-based think tank. She is the author of multiple publications concerning the envi-ronment and development. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Ann to get a better idea of what CENN does and the state of the Georgian mining industry.

TELL US ABOUT CENN’S OPERATIONS AND WHAT YOU DO We deliver modern solutions to the public and business sectors and communities, assisting them in managing their environmental and related risks and helping them to achieve a competitive advantage through improved environmental and social performance. Recently, CENN implemented the project, ‘Promoting Environmental and Social Accountability in the Mining Sector in the Caucasus,’ with financial support provided by Bread for the World (in Germany). The aim of the project is to enhance environmental and social security, establish the best international practices in the mining industry, and promote policy dialogue based on the cooperation of interested parties concerning sustainable natural resources management in Georgia.

WHAT IS THE SITUATION IN THE TKIBULI COAL MINE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SAFETY ISSUES FACED BY WORKERS? In the South Caucasus, rural development is substantially hindered by the effects of irresponsible mining practices. Due to a weak legal and institutional capacity, these countries are highly susceptible to negative consequences from the mining sector. Rural communities that depend heavily on the local environment to maintain their way of life are often victims of unsustainable mining operations implemented near their territories. The issue of safety is taken very seriously in the coal industry. In general, modern underground mines have rigorous safety rules and precautions and mining companies require a great deal of onthe-job safety training. However, even with the best safety standards in place, sometimes mining accidents still occur. Mining explosions are one of the most daunting safety concerns in underground mining, when methane is released from the coal


seam. Ventilation problems occur when the ventilation systems fail. Mines sometimes collapse when the structure of the underground mine is not stable enough to sustain itself. When a mine collapses, there is a danger of trapping the workers inside the mine, resulting in injury or even death. Despite minimum labor standards defined in Georgian legis-lation, mining companies still do not adhere to them. Weak legislation, poor monitoring, and low compensation rates makes companies hesitant to invest in safety technologies and to implement ef-fective occupational health and safety trainings. In addition, workers are not aware of their rights.

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO REMEDY THESE ISSUES AND WHAT STILL NEEDS TO BE DONE? These days, European integration is seen as one way to overcome the shortcomings of the current legislation. In this regard, the EU–Georgia Association Agreement signed in 2013 may lead to important changes in the mineral extraction and processing industry. From the business perspective, companies wouldn’t want to know how much one workplace injury or fatality could cost their business in the long term! Litigation costs, compensations payments, hospital bills, legal fines and indirect costs for injuries can be much higher than the costs to ensure safety measures. Indirect costs also include the lack of productivity, worker replacement, increased insurance premiums and attorney fees.


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with mineral ore exploration, production and reclamation. Each phase of mining is associated with different sets of environmental and social impacts. Unsustainable resource extraction practices may affect the natural environment, agriculture, cultural heritage and human health. The mining industry could contribute to the infrastructural development of regions, create employ-ment and increase the possibilities for the diversification of public revenues. Often, though, wealth quickly accumulates in the hands of a few, at high environmental costs for many. Control over this wealth is a source of contention and accounts for conflict, especially in developing countries. In Georgia, rural communities, who depend heavily on the local environment to maintain their way of life, are often victims of unsustainable mining operations implemented near their territories. The most notable is the Chiatura plateau, where manganese and industrial quartz sands have been mined using open-pit mining. The depth of some sand quarries reaches 40-50 m. After mine closures, empty and abandoned holes are left untreated. Rainwater mixes with extracted manganese waste and flows into the groundwater, which is a source of drinking water in affected villages. In addition, as a result of outdated water filters, the local population receives contaminated drinking water. Furthermore, because of untreated extraction waste discharged from the Chiatura manganese facto-ries, downstream of the main ore processing facility is highly polluted. The black color of the Kvirila River illustrates this problem. Companies do not undertake any reclamation works after mine closure. After the extraction of ore, companies leave villages in black mud. The consequences for the villagers are dire: landslides, col-lapsed houses, and cattle falling into huge open quarries that are left uncovered are a few examples. Some houses with cracked walls are still inhabited, causing fear and frustration among their inhabitants. Landslides continue and there is a risk of the effects spreading to surrounding areas over time.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS THAT HINDER SUSTAINABLE MINING OPERATIONS IN GEORGIA? There are number of factors that define to what extent private companies incorporate social and envi-ronmental issues in their business decisionmaking process. These factors include: - A Strict Environmental Regulation and Monitoring System - some companies find themselves subject to strict regulatory requirements governing one or more areas of their operations. Considering that environmental issues are gaining more attention over time, many companies peruse proactive policy and go beyond local regulation to avoid regulatory risks associated with higher operational standards that might be adopted by the government in the near future. - Reputational Risk – especially when big reputable companies invest more in new production technologies to archive efficiency in production with less social and environmental costs in the long run. Mostly, these kinds of companies have a centralized policy, which means that their subsidiary companies operate under high standards even if local environmental regula-tion is weak. A company’s market value is attributed to its reputation. Thus, if an activity re-sults in the violation of an environmental, product safety, labor or human

rights regulation, you’ll likely pay twice: the fine for noncompliance and the steep drop in sales and funding for breaching the trust of consumers and investors. - Responsible Customers and Supply Chain Monitoring – unfortunately, not all of today’s con-sumers are willing to pay more for products made by companies with sustainable, transparent practices. When products with unsustainable and unethical manufacturing processes stop sell-ing, factories will stop making profits at the expanse of people or the planet. Financial incen-tives will force industry-wide change. - Strong Community-Level Awareness – I should mention here that local communities are highly aware about the adverse impacts of mining, however, capacity building is still neces-sary to strengthen these communities in order to take part in decisionmaking processes. Pub-lic participation and consultations are essential prior to the project development in a particular area. The interconnected factors mentioned above drive the environmental performance of the foreign companies operating in the mining industry in Georgia. Their environmental and social performance today illustrates that these firms have no long-term sustainable strategy and their operations are based on profit maximization in the short run at the expense of local environmental and social costs.

WHAT IS CENN DOING TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION? CENN works on different levels to foster sustainable mining development in the South Caucasus, including a) Community mobilization in target regions to ensure that they are aware of miningrelated regulations and impacts, have access to related public information and exercise public participation mechanisms in the decision-making process; b) Launching a multi-stakeholder issuebased policy dialogue in the South Caucasus countries to promote an environmentally and socially accountable mining sector; and c) Active communication with the business sector via multi-stakeholder meetings and consultations, ensuring that mining companies active in the South Caucasus are aware of European and other efficient international mining practices. Based on comprehensive research and analysis, CENN, in cooperation with international experts and national stakeholders, has drafted major recommendations at policy, business and community levels. Within the project, it has established a number of guidelines for the different phases of mining operations according to international practices, such as: a. Abandoned mining site inventory b. Guidelines for waste management extraction c. Guidelines for mine reclamation d. Transparency and access to information at all stages

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE NEAR FUTURE? On its way to EU approximation, Georgia must introduce relevant changes to current legislation to meet the commitments undertaken by the country in the mining sector. As a result of the project’s lobbying and community advocacy, the mining sector has become a priority issue for the Government of Georgia, which intends to reform the mining sector to be in compliance with EU policies.




MAY 1 - 3, 2018

The Hidden Danger of More Streets – Interview with the Organizer of SOS Hippodrome Continued from page 1

TELL US WHAT ISSUES YOU SEE IN THE POTENTIAL HIPPODROME OVERPASS Our principal objection to the construction of a traffic overpass near the Hippodrome Park is that it is not backed by any professional research. The city government is spending 2.7 million GEL on a significant transport infrastructure project, without any detailed scientific research into existing and projected traffic flows, how these traffic flows might change as a result of this project in the long-term, the effect on nearby residents who live within a few meters of the planned overpass, the effect on an important recreational zone, which it is also only meters away from, and the effect on the environment, particularly air pollution). It’s pretty standard in most cities in Europe to conduct this kind of research before going ahead with such large investments in infrastructure, since the municipality needs to be sure that its interventions will improve the situation, not worsen it. Also, given the fact that both residential buildings and a recreational area lie within 10-15 meters of this planned overpass, a cost-benefit analysis should have been carried out to determine whether similar improvements to traffic flow could be achieved with other, less invasive measures. As it stands, the Tbilisi City Hall has totally ignored the rights of both local residents and park users (with whom no consultation was ever held about this project) and as such has spent nearly 3 million GEL on a project that it can’t be sure will achieve its stated objective.

HOW BIG IS YOUR CAMPAIGN? There are about three or four people actively involved in managing our Facebook page, writing posts and doing other organizational tasks. We have very close to 1000 likes on FB and our online petition expressing concern at this project had 2235 signatures at the time we handed it to the City Hall at the beginning of April, and one of our campaign slogans since then is ‘We Are 2235’. Although we might be few in terms of active organizers, we have gained a lot of interest, especially recently as more local residents have come to us with their concerns.

YOU PUBLISHED A SIMULATION ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE SHOWING THE ISSUES WITH THE OVERPASS. WHAT DOES IT SHOW US EXACTLY? We published the simulation in response to the beautiful fairytale scenario presented to us by City Hall in the first few days after construction began. Their video showed cars zipping over the overpass unimpeded, with the message

that the overpass will ease traffic. Our simulation, by contrast, was based on real data on traffic flows gathered in the city and represents a much more realistic vision of what the roads will look like after the overpass is built. It shows that although traffic will move freely over the overpass itself, traffic may well back on Kartozia Street heading south, as increased car speeds on Cholokashvili mean fewer drivers will yield to traffic from Kartozia Street. The simulation also shows that the increased amount and speed of traffic crossing the overpass in the direction of Tamarashvili Street will lead to immediate major backups at the traffic lights at the Tamarashvili-Cholokashvili junction. This is just one possible outcome and doesn't show the results of an overall rise in the number of cars in the city. In and of itself, the construction of more or wider roads attracts increased traffic to those locations - a process known as 'induced demand' - but in the longer term, road travel becomes seen as the more efficient option and more people move from public transport to private car, and so the long-term effects of this overpass could eventually be much, much worse.

WHO IS FUNDING YOUR CAMPAIGN? We are literally funding it ourselves, using whatever change we have in our pockets. We do all the work on FB, organizational tasks and preparation for protests, without remuneration, and we buy the materials ourselves. We have spent a tiny amount on Facebook promotion, but that’s it. Everyone chips in, offering his or her own time and skills. For example, our next video clip will be made by a volunteer whom I put a call out for on FB. In SOS Hippodrome, between us we have a lot of experience in running a campaign on a budget and we’re quite good at it. That’s not to say campaign donations wouldn’t be welcome! Contact us if you wish to help financially!

HOW DID YOU START THE CAMPAIGN? DID CITIZENS COME TO YOU OR WAS IT YOUR OWN INITIATIVE? We started work on this back in late January this year when some of our friends who work on transport issues came back from a meeting at City Hall where it was announced that this project was back on the cards. We never thought a project dating back to 2015, which had already been rejected by Davit Narmania in 2017, would ever resurface during Kaladze’s period in office. We thought things were supposed to get better! Given the potential impact on the Hippodrome and local residents, we immediately realized we had to fight this project and got to work straight away. I had some meetings with local people, but their opinion was divided and at that stage construction work hadn’t started. It was difficult showing

people technical drawings of the project and trying to explain to them our objections – many locals thought it was actually a fantastic idea.

years, and also in another sense it’s ours: it belongs to the whole city.


No. We’d love to, and we’ve been asking for a meeting since the beginning of March to no effect. The official response I got is that there is a queue for meetings and that the petition text is ‘under consideration’. I think that in reality they have no counterargument to our central objection – that the project isn’t backed up by research – and so they want to save face by dismissing us as a load of tree-huggers and forge ahead with the project, hoping nobody remembers this when it all goes pear-shaped in a few years’ time.

The idea that creating more road space for cars leads to a reduction in congestion is very logical, but actually, the opposite is true. Large cities around the world are waking up to the reality that creating more road space for cars, in the form of wider roads or overpasses, actually attracts more cars to that place, as drivers associate that area with less congestion and start to factor it into their daily routes, and more people decide to take to the roads by car since it seems like the most efficient option. Although a traffic overpass might ease congestion for a few years or so, eventually, the traffic catches up with you and you get exactly the same congestion you had before, only more of it. Countless cities around the world are actually now dismantling overpasses they built ten or more years ago and allowing private cars less space while investing more in public transport, walkability, and cycling. Most large cities have problems with air pollution as a result of their carcentric transport systems and they’re beginning now to get round to tackling this very serious problem. While awareness of this global consensus against overpasses in cities might be low on the street in Tbilisi, these facts are common knowledge in the corridors of City Hall, where there are many well-educated and competent people working behind the scenes. This makes it difficult for us to understand why City Hall, and the Mayor personally, seems so convinced that this overpass is going to do the job.

WITH REGARD TO THE RESIDENTIAL AREA, DON'T YOU THINK THAT A QUESTIONNAIRE WITH THE PEOPLE COULD SHED MORE LIGHT ON THE MATTER? We always wanted to involve local residents but knew we had to work on our communication with them and our presentation of the facts, given the above. Once construction started and we held our first protest, a group of local residents from one building wrote to our campaign page and we met with them that very day. Our next protest action, which was held in the Hippodrome Park on April 28, was focused entirely on them and their problems. They were the only ones making speeches, and they coordinated activities for young people, including ‘draw your Hippodrome’, free introductory yoga lessons, a Frisbee competition and more. The message is that the Hippodrome is ours – in the first place it belongs to the local residents who have used it and cared for it for so many


THE MAYOR WANTS TO CURB TRAFFIC IN TBILISI, WHAT DO YOU THINK HE NEEDS TO DO TO ACHIEVE THIS? I’m not an expert in transport issues, so I would hesitate to offer more than a personal opinion, but I believe he needs to do what every other city has had to do – take privileges away from private cars in terms of road-space, parking and speed allowances and make massive investments in public transport in order to create a balanced integrated system that is comfortable, comprehensive and affordable. Tbilisi has a metro system, but given the costs of extending it, money would be better spent on other systems which are integrated with metro lines (ie, don’t run over the same routes and have lots of interconnecting points). This will involve some serious infrastructural investments, like a tram system, passenger train lines or a bus rapid transit system, but Tbilisi is now at a critical point in terms of both mobility and air pollution and something has to be done. Creative financing with international donor help is a good option for a city like Tbilisi.

DOES THE OVERPASS AFFECT NATURE? In terms of biodiversity, not much – there is no river eco-system or particularly rare species found nearby. About 85 trees will need to be cut down for this project. City Hall has claimed it will plant 140 trees to compensate for this, and their promotional clip shows the trees springing up like mushrooms, although there’s no explanation or guarantee that they will plant trees of the same age and size.

THE HIPPODROME IS A BIG RECREATIONAL AREA FOR TBILISI. SOME PEOPLE ARGUE IT SHOULD BE IMPROVED TO ATTRACT MORE PEOPLE FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES. DO YOU AGREE? It depends what you mean by ‘improved’. I believe that in a democratic city, there absolutely MUST be public spaces which are open to all, free to use and easily accessible. Given that there are no other

‘wild’ and relatively untouched public recreational spaces in the center of Tbilisi, I would resist any measures that try to turn the Hippodrome into some sort of attraction – the freedom that one feels being in nature (real nature, not a list of tree-species drawn up in a City Hall office) is one of the best assets of the Hippodrome park and while I think it could be improved in some aspects, I would hate to see it become a ‘park’ like so many others, with security-guards, electric lighting and flowerbeds. It should be an open, wild space where every citizen, from a homeless person to a bank manager can do whatever they want, play sport, sleep, read. A moreor-less self-managing park also attracts different animal species, which is important for urban biodiversity. Cities are waking up to the important of urban biodiversity in creating urban spaces that are resilient to various environmental threats.

IS THIS YOUR POLITICAL CAMPAIGN IN TBILISI? No, I’m not campaigning for any election right now and I’m not a member of any party. I hate when political parties usurp citizen initiatives – I’ve seen them do this all over the city and then they very quickly drop them once the TV cameras stop turning up. I want SOS Hippodrome to be a platform where the voices of local residents and ordinary citizens can be heard, especially those who have never been involved in civil activism before. SOS Hippodrome is not for me, but I will use my experience as a campaigner and all my contacts to help it achieve its objectives, because I deeply believe in it.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE WILL BE THE OUTCOME OF YOUR SOS HIPPODROME CAMPAIGN? I hope that the Mayor will accept the mistake and stop the project. If he doesn’t, it’ll only be worse for him in the long term. We will continue to gather data on levels of noise and air pollution around the overpass, as well as monitor traffic flows around the area to prove that this project has been a waste of money. If we can make that case, the Mayor will have to take political responsibility for this bad decision, it’s inevitable. If they build it, we won’t stop fighting it until it’s torn down. In the long term, we’ll be able to avoid bad urban planning decisions in future, and future city governments will need to be much more responsive to citizen demands. Also, I hope that the sense of community and warmth generated by this campaign will develop into the basis for a sort of Hippodrome Friends Association – a group of local residents who will be informed and organized to fight off future threats to the Hippodrome and also work with City Hall to produce a vision for the Hippodrome’s future based on the principles of democracy and sustainability.




One Dead, Several Poisoned, Allegedly by New Drug BY THEA MORRISON


eorgian media reports that a new drug, Mephedrone, also known as bath salts, drone, M-CAT and White Magic, has become widespread throughout Georgia. It is now alleged to be the reason of the death of a 22-year-old man on Friday, who died right after being delivered to the hospital. As Rustavi 2 TV reports, several more men were also poisoned, allegedly by Mephedrone, adding that in their cases, doctors managed to save their lives. Doctors explain the drug comes in the form of tablets or powder, which users swallow, snort or inject, producing similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine. They also warn people that the drug is extremely harmful and can cause immediate death in case of overdose. It also causes hallucinations and mental disorder and is highly addictive. According to unverified sources, Mephedrone and similar drugs are sold at night clubs by drug dealers who assure customers the substance is a “club drug” and is “harmless.” An investigation has been launched into the cause of the 22-year-old’s death. Davit Subeliani, member of the White Noise Movement, which calls for a more liberal drug policy in the country, believes that the strict narcopolicy is the reason new and dangerous drugs are being introduced into Georgia on the black market. “On one hand, the repressive drug policy makes the black market even more uncontrollable, while on the other, the government fails to inform society about drug threats or does not implement effective preventive measures,” he stated.

Photo source: worldatlas.com

The current law existing in Georgia envisages from 8 to 20 years in prison for storage or use of drugs. Narcological clinics say more and more new and dangerous drugs are entering Georgia, adding the

Georgia to Host Extreme Kayaking European Cup, Opening with the Bzhuzha Race


n May 2 - 5, the Extreme Kayaking European Cup will be held for the first time in Georgia, opened by the Bzhuzha Race. The Extreme Kayaking International Championship – Bzhuzha Race (www.bzhuzharace. com) has been taking place in Shemokmedi village, Guria, on the River Bzhuzha, since 2016, and this year the championship officially received the status of Extreme Kayaking European Cup (EKEC) membership. The EKEC includes five championships which, apart from Georgia, will be hosted by four European countries: France, Italy, Norway and the Czech Republic. The Extreme Kayaking International Championship – Bzhuzha Race brings together 100 of the world's finest kayakers from nine countries from such strong teams as: Adidas Outdoor, ExoKayak,

Red Bull International, S2S Pro Team and ZetKayaks. This year, for the first time, Georgian athletes will also take part in the championship. The Bzhuzha Race was created on the initiative of the National Georgian Kayaking Federation, local government, National Tourism Administration and with the support of other local and foreign sponsors. Even in the first year of its foundation, 70 sportsmen from various countries participated in the championship. In recent years, the high-standard organization of the event, the positive feedback from visitors and participants, the widespread captivating photo-video material on social media, the unique technical characteristics of the river “Bzhuzha” and the numerous impressive publications in Kayak Session Magazine inspired the European sporting circles to grant the Bzhuzha Race the status of official European championship.

number of drug-addicted patients has also increased of late. Deputy Director of the Drug Addiction and Mental Health Management Center, Khatuna Todadze, told Rustavi 2 that youth tend to start

experimenting with drugs at nightclubs. “These drugs cause strong addiction and after tasting it once, the youth have an intense desire to try it again, even when they are not at clubs,” she added.




MAY 1 - 3, 2018

Georgia’s Energy Independence: the Outlook SOURCE: BM.GE


nergyindependenceandenergy efficiency represent one of the most crucial challenges for Georgia. Gia Arabidze, Energy Department Dean of the Georgia Technical University spoke to 'Business Morning' on the topic.


AS A CONSEQUENCE, WE WON’T HAVE TO CONSUME Our country aspires to become energy THE ENERGY GENERATED BY independent which is very important. THERMAL STATIONS, RIGHT? We face, however, certain issues with natural gas and oil. We are in a better position in terms of energy self-sufficiency and gaining energy independence from other countries looks feasible. Winter months though are challenging for us. I was in on the displeasing case of Khaishi. Unless we change certain things, all this can turn into the same outcome we obtained after we stopped construction of Khudoni HPP back in 90s. If Enguri HPP supplied Georgia with an annual 1.5 billion kWh energy at two tetri per 1 kWh, we would have a totally different situation and tariffs now, and we would take on construction of new hydro power plants more confidently. Unfortunately, whatever happened, has happened. Another issue is that we fall behind on hydropower plants – this particularly

of flooding of agricultural land. Smallscale generation is quite beneficial in general, but in Georgia its potential equals about 5 billion kWh.

concerns Khudoni HPP. As an energy engineer, I consider Khudoni HPP necessary for Georgia. The more we delay, the worse will be the problems we will consequently face. I think we have two key lines in hydropower industry. Certainly, Nenskra HPP construction is on, but Khudoni HPP has to be finished. Besides, we have to think of construction of a pumped storage unit at the Inguri. This unit will politically matter in terms of Abkhazia and benefit the Georgian, the Abkhaz, the Inguri and the population as well.

For a certain period of time, we release water from the Inguri. Therefore, a pumped storage unit will pump the generated water back up to the dam and dam processing modes will be entirely changed. The country will benefit from this as pumping water up to the dam doesn’t need as much energy as we potentially may get from its generation. The Inguri dam must be processed to select modes.



total output is about 5%-7%. The importance of the project is that the energy generated during May, June and July is different with the energy generated during December. Nenskra is equipped with storage and we use the storage whenever we need it, that is, those 5-7% cost a lot higher in December compared to summer months. The unique character of the project is that we can regulate the storage. For example, when we are short of energy, we can replenish it from the storage. We, energy engineers, think that the construction of Nenskra is somewhat expensive as the hard-to-access location makes the project hard to execute. In total, the memorandums and agreements concluded in Georgia are worth about 5 000 MW. We are far from thinking that we will construct hydropower plants with 5 000 MW capacity. However, even the half or the two third would greatly

benefit us. Most importantly, the project envisages installation of the most up-todate facilities. This is planned to be a technically top-level station. This is important in terms of safety and reliability. All this added up to the project costs.

HOW MUCH OF OUR HYDROPOWER RESOURCES HAVE WE UTILIZED? If we utilized at least the two third of our existing potential, we would be happy as Georgia has differently determined its policy. We are familiar with our hydro and heating power. Consequently, we are more focused on renewable energy sources. Georgia plans to start step-bystep hard work on renewable energy, that is, solar and wind renewable power. Naturally, hydropower is renewable as well, but dam-based plants are challenging environmentally, especially on account

No one has ever calculated which one is more detrimental to the environment: one 100 MW power plant or one hundred 1 MW power plants. Therefore, we can’t say specifically that 3-5 MW plants will be less or more detrimental than 30 MW plants. This is debatable. Globally speaking, if we construct all those small-scale feasible power plants, seasonally we will generate 5 billion kWh during April, May and June. That is, when we have energy surplus. We adjust this issue through use of the storage. Therefore, we say that Khudoni, Nenskra and Enguri are necessary. For electrical and energy independence we need an adjustable station.

DOES IT ALL HOLD EXPORT POTENTIAL? We were in a very favorable position about 2-3 years ago when the Turkish economy would beg us to supply them with electric power at the price of 7 cents per one kWh. Today they don’t pay even 3.5 cents. So, regional issues, GEL and USD ratio have had all a substantial impact on energy and electricity sectors. Despite this, the potential is still there as we have very good electricity transmission lines.



Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, India Begin Testing North-South Transport Corridor with a Rally



zerbaijan, Russia, Iran and India on Sunday started testing the North-South transport corridor within the framework of a sports car rally. According to the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development of Iran, the event is organized jointly by the Federation of Freight Forwarders of India and the sports club Kalinga Motor. The Iranian bodies participating in the organization of the race are the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Road Facilities, the Federation of Motorcycles and Vehicles and the Customs Board of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The 30-day rally will take place on the Shiraz, Isfahan, Tehran, Kazvin, Rasht route to the Astara Port on Iranian territory, and then on through Moscow to St. Petersburg and back with the finish in Chabahar. 20 trucks are participating in the competition, one from Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, the rest belonging to Indian teams, with 39 participants in all. In reality, it is the first large-scale practical "wir-

ing" of a caravan along the International Transport Corridor (ITC) "North-South", marking its readiness for large-scale real operation. The North-South transport corridor is designed to connect Northern Europe with South-East Asia, including the unification of the railways of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia. The railway Kazvin-ReshtAstara (Iran) - Astara (Azerbaijan) is part of the transport corridor "North-South." It is expected that the section of Resht-Astara, the construction of which is financed by Azerbaijan, will be built within three years. This transport corridor will connect the port of St. Petersburg with the Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chakhbehar in the Gulf of Oman, through which the sea branch reaches the Indian port of Mumbai. As such, Indian manufacturers of goods sold in Europe receive significant savings in transport costs, and also enjoy a reduced time for delivery of goods to customers from 35 to 17 days. This means Delhi is acquiring some advantage over the European exports of its geopolitical rival - China. At the first stage, the corridor is to be used to transport five million tons of cargo per year, and later - more than 10 million tons of cargo.

Japan to Host Exhibition ‘Georgia- Cradle of Wine’ BY THEA MORRISON


fter being held in Bordeaux for three months from July 31 to September 14, 2017 the 'Georgia - Cradle of Wine' exhibition is to be hosted by Japan. The information was released by Georgia’s National Wine Agency (NWA), after the Advisor to the Chair of the NWA, Davit Tkemaladze, and the Executive Director of the Georgian Wine Association Tina Kezeli, met with the representatives of the famous exposition space Terrada Warehouse and Sony Music Communications Company. The parties discussed the possibility of holding the important Georgian exposition 'Georgia –Cradle of Wine' in Japan, and organizational issues related to the concept. The NWA reports that Georgian delegation members introduced the detailed concept of the exhibition to the Deputy Director of the Terrada Warehouse Project Department, Riota Kikuchi, the representative of Sony Music Communications, Shimeon Sato, and the President of the Wine Import Consultation Company, Vataru Ivamoto. “In parallel with the 8000 year history of Geor-

gian winemaking, the exposition includes seminars of masters of wine, thematic movie shows, folklore performances, and tastings of Georgian food and wine,” the NWA reports. The meeting touched upon the adaptation of expositions to the exhibition space, as well as the financial and technical support needed. According to the Japanese side, they are interested in hosting the exhibition and will provide their support. The Georgian side also discussed the possibility of holding the 'Georgia –Cradle of Wine' exposition, and other thematic events, at a meeting with the representatives of the National Museum of Tokyo Ueno, the Museum Nezu, and representatives of Gakushikaikani, which is the union of seven national universities of japan.





MAY 1 - 3, 2018

On Mayor Kaladze So Far, So Good OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN


ike most people, I’m not particularly keen on admitting I was wrong; opinionated I might be, but my views are comfortably grounded in common sense and evidence, without ideology entering into it much. For example, I despise Jeremy Corbyn and everything about him because of what he says and does, but that does not in fact make me a supporter of Theresa May, who will deservedly go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers Britain has ever endured. I haven’t had much good to say about Kakha Kaladze in recent years. The government’s move to stick him in the post of Minister of Energy seemed a cheap political stunt designed to appeal to the uneducated, who would (and did, I heard them) say ‘Ah, he is a good man. He made a lot of money,’ ignoring the fact that being a professional footballer might not have prepared him best for dealing with managing the use of fossil fuels, establishing clean energy alternatives, and navigating the complexities of supply and demand in the context of the region’s complicated geopolitics. I’m not saying that being a professional footballer is easy, but I hope you’ll agree that it is something of a simpler job. Furthermore, Kaladze had shares in energy businesses, which seemed to me to add up to a nice conflict of interest. Nor was I encouraged when Kaladze announced that he was going to re-enter negotiations with Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant, to supply Georgia with gas to make up its deficit in winter supplies. This was alarming, not least because it added fuel to the fire of rumors claiming that the Georgian Dream government is still controlled by ex-PM billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose wealth

stemmed from Russian investments. The protests against Georgia being put back under any form of reliance on Russia were vindicated by some bemusement from Azerbaijan, which supplies all of Georgia’s energy needs, and which said really, Kakha, we could give you a little more gas, all you had to do was ask… So I was not filled with optimism when the Georgian Dream party declared that the energy wonder boy was going to be the mayor of this city; again, it looked like the government was just hoping to take advantage of his footballer fame and use it against opponents who, while little-known, might raise some awkward questions about city planning, public spending, and policy. Still, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

He put lights in dark underpasses where women have suffered sexual harassment; he has canceled construction projects that would ruin the city’s aesthetics; he supported fellow-footballer Guram Kashia, who plays for a team in the Netherlands, for wearing an LGBT flag on his shirt sleeve; and in recent weeks, he organized a friendly football game between the black victims of a physical attack and the men who attacked them. That’s not to say that everything is peachy. As nice a gesture as it was to use sport to reconcile the victims of racial violence and the men who attacked them, whoever hit them (and they do land punches and kicks as can clearly be seen on the video) should still be arrested

and prosecuted. And while fewer ugly projects is a good thing, the fight to save the hippodrome is still raging, so the Mayor still has work to do. But so far, his performance has left me feeling far more optimistic than I was at the time of his election. Now, in admitting I was wrong to be initially pessimistic I’m not taking anything back from my comments during his tenure as Minister of Energy. My views haven’t changed much, but they have been amended: Perhaps (and I stress the ‘perhaps’) that on seeing Georgia suffered from a gas deficit, his reaching out to Gazprom was the only course of action he thought he could take; maybe he thought Azerbaijan was already giving all the supplies it possibly could, and

that a new gas deal with Russia might also aid the Geneva International Discussions and bring Moscow and Tbilisi back to diplomacy. It have been naïve and deeply unwise, but from his behavior over Guram Kashia and the attack on the black students, I don’t think it’s particularly unlikely; in fact, that might actually be more possible than Kaladze being part of some behind-the-scenes attempt to bring Georgia back under Russian control. So it may be fair to say that Kaladze has found his level. He did not excel at managing vast energy resources or navigating murky political waters, but solving racial dispute, promoting LGBT equality and making (and keeping) this city green may be well within his talents.

No “Free Cheese” for Women BY ARCHIL SIKHARULIDZE


n March 23, Georgian MPs voted down the socalled Gender Quotas Bill. The bill obtained 66 votes from Georgian Dream while 14 representatives of the party voted against it. The initiative failed to gather the necessary 76 votes to pass the legislative threshold. MPs from the European Georgia and the Alliance of Patriots did not attend the voting. Two of the six United National Movement legislators (four were absent) voted in favor of the bill. The bill is a new grand project decisively promoted by various wellrespected Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), supposedly aimed at pushing Georgian society to more gender equality. There were probably no doubts that, backed by Georgia’s strategic partners, these CSOs would have persuaded the government to accept a gender quotation mechanism; but, contradictory to expectations, the bill did not gain the respective support. This failure raises some important questions about Georgian society and

the non-governmental sector and the nature of their affairs.


In June 2017, a group of 118 Tbilisi-based and regional CSOs, in collaboration with international women’s rights organizations, introduced a new bill –

political parties and self-governments to balance the number of their male and female representatives. In case of absence of gender parity, political parties would be denied registration for elections. If approved, it would have resulted in at least 38 female lawmakers in the next parliament and at least 75 (half of the legislative body)

This legislative initiative was warmly received by senior lawmakers from three parliamentary parties of Georgia, including the ruling Georgian DreamDemocratic Georgia, the European Georgia part and the United National Movement. Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, also supported it, arguing that it would promote gender equality and push forward the democratization process. Finally, it got a green light from the Ambassadorial Working Group, which unites the diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia.


the Gender Quota Mechanism. According to the initiative, women are highly underrepresented in the country’s political life. The statement is based on the 2016 Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum that ranks Georgia 114th out of 144 in terms of women’s participation in politics. The bill proposed to oblige

female lawmakers from 2024. In theory, the mechanism is perceived as a ‘temporary’ means to empower women’s participation in politics and an increase in their role in the decisionmaking process in general.

Arguably, it is the first case in the last decade when, despite strong support from senior officials and the country’s strategic partners, local CSOs failed to pass the project. While the government immediately pointed out a lack of political consensus on the matter among its members and promised to continue pushing forward the bill, members of CSOs were highly frustrated and angered. As previously mentioned, there were no doubts that the bill would be accepted. They offer two main narratives for this fact. Continued on page 15




No “Free Cheese” for Women Continued from page 14

The most popular is to argue the retrograde nature of Georgian society which does not move with the times or with the so-called “civilized world”. The second argument was voiced by prominent local women’s rights activist, Baia Pataraia. Pataraia argued that by taking down the initiative, parliament members once again proved that Georgian men are generally afraid to empower women because this can potentially break down the strict patriarchal order currently prevailing on the ground. “Men are not willing to engage with women in direct and fair competition due to fears to be simply outmaneuvered by female counterparts,” she says. Yet there is a large group of people, including a significant number of women, who were skeptical about the bill from the get-go and thus, had no reaction at all. They argued that quotas will not lead to strengthening the role of women in the decision-making process but rather, once again, break the meritocracy principle. Women in Georgia need more space for selfdevelopment, education and career promotion rather than artificially allo-

cated seats in the legislative body. Women should be more involved in the decision-making process based on their professionalism and education rather than gender.

WHAT WENT WRONG? What is intriguing in this case is that there was no serious outcry on the issue from regular civilians; no harsh debates on social media or other platforms. Just quick and aggressive tweets from CSO representatives and their supporters; that’s all. Why?

NOT READY, NOT INTERESTED According to a poll conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in 2014, 64% of respondents argued that there was no gender equality in the country. Additionally, approximately 70% believed that the number of women MPs should be increased. But, it seems that readiness to involve women in the decision-making process does not mean, by default, readiness to delegate these powers for free, based only on gender belonging. The reason probably lies in the poor reality on the ground. There is a challenge with the so-called “meritbased system” in Georgia. The system which, in theory, should ensure that



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only those people occupy senior positions who are worthy (education, work experience) – the meritocracy principle. Undoubtedly, this practice is rarely applied on the ground. So far, we may argue that Georgian society, and its men, are simply not ready to replace male MPs/senior officials frequently appointed or elected for no reason at all, with women MPs/senior officials with only their gender behind them. Contradictory to Pataraia’s position, we can argue that Georgian MPs are not afraid of women but rather of every single individual who may challenge their power and social status. Hence, local society and men are simply not interested in modifying the existing system to a more gender neutral one where gender parity is still based on nepotism, loyalty to the existing government and other questionable “merits”. But rather, there is interest in promoting meritocracy, creating a basis for a fair, competitive environment where both male and female individuals will be able to reflect their knowledge, skills and professionalism in general to be hired for real achievements and merits rather than belonging to particular families, groups, institutions or gender classes.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze


Failure to push forward the Gender Quota Bill proves something that representatives of various groups are aware of but are not willing to recognize – there is a growing gap between the non-governmental sector and Georgian society. This gap appeared due to various processes, but one of the most important is the evolution of local NGOs from purely social movements (late 90s and the beginning of 2000s) to very active political actors nowadays. There is an increasing feeling that, like every political actor, local NGOs have their own social, economic and political agenda which is frequently not in harmony with the demands of the masses on the ground. Far worse, the more this sector is involved in the politics, the less credible it becomes for the Georgian electorate. This discontent had led to a situation where society was not ready or interested in accepting the bill, but CSOs were still pushing for it due to strong external support. The ruling party got stuck between two lines of fire. On the one hand, Georgian Dream is definitely willing to please the CSOs and strategic partners to score more political points but, on the other hand, it realizes that

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voting for projects that are not wellreceived among its electorate may lead to dramatic consequences during the next elections. As a result, the bill failed to pass the parliamentary vote but the Chairmen, Irakli Kobakhidze, promised CSOs and Georgia’s strategic partners to continue working on it. The Gender Quota Bill is an interesting initiative that may or may not lead to more gender equality. But its failure to pass parliamentary voting shows that regular citizens are more interested in establishing a fair, competitive environment in the country in general to ensure that individuals are hired based on their achievements and merits rather than their belonging to various groups, institutions and/or gender classes. Georgian society is ready to involve women in the decision-making process due to their professionalism, and not in connection with their gender. At the same time, there is a strong feeling among regular citizens that local CSOs have their own political, social and economic agenda that frequently does fails to match the demands existing on the ground. This leads to a growing discontent between Georgian society and CSOs; CSOs that, in theory, should represent Georgian society and its interests.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1044 Business  

May 1 - 3, 2018

Issue #1044 Business  

May 1 - 3, 2018