Issue no: 814/12
• FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... W Hotels Construction to Start in Tbilisi PAGE 2
Apple Officially Enters Georgia at Geocell and AltaOkay
FOCUS ON MARKET LEADERS In an exclusive interview, Galt & Taggart Head of Brokerage Goga Melikidze shares some insights on the company’s recent successes
Georgia Succeeds in Personal Data Protection BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
he Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, David Usupashvili, has emphasized that Georgia needs to have transparency in its state institutions and offer protection to the personal lives of the population if the country is to improve on its level of freedom and democracy. Recently, the Euro Commission showed appreciation for Georgia’s positive movement forward regarding personal data protection issues. The three-year activities of the Office of the Personal Data Protection Inspector and its challenges were discussed at the International Data Protection Day event in Tbilisi City Assembly (sakrebulo) on January 28. Continued on page 3
Let It Be ISET PAGE 4
Vere Loft – Offering Space to Create PAGE 5
ICC Proceeds with S. Ossetia War Crimes Investigation PAGE 6
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, speaking on International Data Protection Day
Victory Partnership Alliance: Giving Purpose and Respect Back to Wounded Georgian Soldiers PAGE 10 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
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FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
W Hotels Construction to Start in Tbilisi BY ANA AKHALAIA
evelopment company RED-Co plans to build a W Hotels brand hotel on Rustaveli Avenue or in the Vera-Vake district, in Tbilisi. At present the company is looking for land for the hotel, the construction of which is planned to start in summer, 2016. W Hotels is a luxury brand and part of the Starwood Group which requires the project to be multistorey with united office spaces.
Mirian Katamadze, RED-Co General Director, announced that the company plans to invest USD 100 million in the W Hotels project. W Hotels & Resorts is a luxury hotel chain owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide which is generally marketed toward a younger crowd than their other upscale properties. As of February 2013, W is operating 46 hotels in 24 countries and is continuing to expand both domestically and internationally. RED-Co has already introduced this brand, by Le Meridien, which is to be placed in Batumi Tower, Batumi. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. also
manages Sheraton Metechi Palace which is a United States based company. It is a worldwide leader in the hotel management field and owns such brands as Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, St. Regis, Le Méri-
dien, Aloft, a Vision of W Hotels, and Element by Westin. RED-Co (Real Estate Development Company), founded in May 2012, is a development company specializing in the real estate business.
Georgia ‘Mostly Free’ in Index of Economic Freedom BY ANA AKHALAIA
eorgia has been listed as a ‘mostly free’ country in the Index of Economic Freedom 2016 by Heritage Foundation. Compared to the previous year, Georgia moved back by one place to take 23rd place. It also took 12th place in Europe with 72.6 points. Georgia has seen a 3.2 point increase since 2012. “Despite global and regional challenges, Georgia’s economy has demonstrated considerable resilience. Efforts to eliminate corruption and restore fiscal
soundness by revitalizing the commitment to limited government have borne fruit. Two years of fiscal consolidation has kept government spending under control and ensured macroeconomic stability,” stated the Heritage Foundation website. Research shows that Georgia has remarkable success in management of public finance, open markets, and regulatory efficiency. However, the rule of law is still a concern. “A leading economic reformer among the former Soviet republics, Georgia has reduced regulations, taxes, and corruption. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and continues to occupy its South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. In 2012, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream coalition
defeated President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement. Victory by Giorgi Margvelashvili in the 2013 presidential elections reinforced Georgian Dream’s political dominance. “Georgia has been affected by the economic downturn in Russia and low oil prices, and its currency has lost 30 percent of its value relative to the dollar since November 2014. Agriculture or related industries employ over half of the workforce. Georgia signed Association Agreements with the EU in June 2014 and hopes to join NATO,” says the study. The study of the Heritage Foundation also says that Georgia still struggles with the effects of Soviet-
era corruption as well as on-going Russian influence. Executive and legislative interference in the judiciary is also substantial. Yet protection of property rights has improved. The competitive regulatory framework is conducive to entrepreneurial activity. It takes only two procedures to launch a business, and no minimum capital is required, according to the study. Germany, Finland, Great Britain, Canada, and others are also listed as ‘mostly free’ among 178 countries. As for the regional countries, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia are listed as ‘moderately free’ countries and Russia as ‘mostly unfree’.
EU Positively Assesses Georgia’s Work within GSP+ BY ANA AKHALAIA
he European Union (EU) has positively assessed Georgia’s work within GSP+ (Generalized Scheme of Preferences plus) in terms of ratification and effective implementation of 27 major international conventions. Given that Georgia has signed the Association Agreement with the European Union, an integral part of which is the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), GSP+ will be canceled for Georgia at the end of 2016 (GSP+ remained for Georgia for two years after DCFTA’s entry into force). The EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP), operating since 1971, is designed to support developing countries export to the European Union (EU) and so facilitate their integration into international markets and contribute to their economic growth. It is based on clearly defined rules of the
World Trade Organization (WTO). The specific incentive arrangement ‘GSP+’ offers deep tariff cuts for vulnerable countries that ratified and effectively implemented 27 international conventions relating to human and labor rights, environment and good governance. It concerns additional tariff reductions for essentially the same 66% tariff lines. The EU gave a positive assessment on the achievements of Georgia based on the United Nations conventions in the following areas: human rights; labor rights; environmental protection and good governance.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Georgia Succeeds in Personal Data Protection
Apple Officially Enters Georgia at Geocell and AltaOkay
Continued from page 1 The Council of Europe named data protection as one of the main elements for world development and proclaimed January 28 as International Data Protection Day. Georgia joined this annual celebration three years ago from the first founding of the Office of the Personal Data Protection Inspector. According to Office representatives, their main purposes are informing citizens about personal data, their rights, protection mechanisms, and more, for which purpose they conduct information campaigns and trainings for public and private organizations, as well as for any interested individuals. The Office of the Personal Data Protection Inspector has gained trust among the population and the number of complaints to the Office increased by six times in 2015 compared to the same period of 2014. Most complaints addressed to the Office last year related to direct marketing (SMS spam), video surveillance, and illegal publication of personal data. The Office has various ways to eliminate these violations such as warnings, guidelines and fines. “Despite the fact that our Office has already made impressionable success in the personal data protection field, we still have a lot of work,” said Tamar Kaldani, the Personal Data Protection Inspector. “We need more active practical implementation of the current law
and its constant updating and improvement.” The Euro Commission, in the report on Georgia’s visa liberalization, also positively assessed the improvement of personal data protection issues in the country. Accordingly, the main achievements were the creation of a personal data protection law and its approach to international standards; the Office of the Personal Data Protection Inspector opening in 2013; and awareness among the general population. “The decent work of the Office was one of the factors why our citizens will soon have visa-free movement possibility within the Schengen area,” said the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili. “We have an ambition to become a member of the European family and we need to introduce the latest standards of personal data protection. The Government will continue to do its utmost
to stamp out illegal surveillance, eavesdropping and blackmail,” he said, adding, “Our citizens need to remember that their personal life is out of danger now, and any violation will be severely punished.” Parliament Chairman, David Usupashvili, also stated that as long as the Office of the Personal Data Protection Inspector is under the Parliament’s control, the population should be sure in its more successful operation, not vice versa. “Citizens need to know that their financial data, health status, and many other personal details are securely stored in state institutions and are used only to provide them with better services,” Usupashvili said. “We need to create a secure and free country, and this will be possible only when the public institutions activities are transparent and the private lives of citizens fully under their own control.”
n January 29th, AltaOkay cooperation with Apple and we foresee officially became an the next step as discussing the opening authorized reseller of of an App Store and iTunes on the local Apple products in Georgia market, which requires Apple to recogwhile Geocell became the nize and include Georgia in the list of only mobile operator in Georgia to offer official countries. In this the government’s the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus pack- support is crucial.” age for its subscribers. “All smartphones under the official COMPANY PROFILES: Apple logo will be offered Apple’s offi- Alta and Okay, two of the largest technology cial warranty and defective products retail companies in Georgia, merged to will be exchanged free of charge,” an become AltaOkay in November, 2015. AltaOkay representative said. In September of 1996, the first GSM operaAt a cosy state-of-the-art presentation tor Geocell entered the Georgian market. at the newly opened Tech Park, Geocell Today around 2 million people are registered welcomed the innovative new product with Geocell and its coverage area occupies through the voices of not only its CEO more than 98% of the country territory. but also the youth who have used Apple technology in the growth of their business and hobbies, including lawyer-cumiPhone photographer, Louise Chalatashvili. “Geocell’s signing of an official partnership contract with Apple has been the result of several years’ efforts and permanent communication with Apple to convince them to be officially present in Georgia,” said Pawel Smalinski, Geocell CEO. “I am especially proud that Geocell has been the first mobile operator to officially partner with Apple. Such collaboration creates a win-win situation for us all – most importantly customers, then the company and the country itself. Our strategy is to have alliances and collaboration with local and international technology giants and now with Apple. With this, we are steadily heading towards being able to offer a diverse and convergent product portfolio. This is, we believe, the true and correct position of a Pawel Smalinski, Geocell CEO. mobile operator- to constantly feel Geocell is the first mobile the innovation pulse of the latest operator to officially partner worldwide trends. In future stage with Apple in Georgia. we aim to further deepen our
FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
THE ISET ECONOMIST A BLOG ABOUT ECONOMICS AND THE SOUTH CAUCAUS
The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI, www.iset-pi.ge) is an independent think-tank associated with the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET). Our blog carries economic analysis of current events and policies in Georgia and the South Caucasus region ranging from agriculture, to economic growth, energy, labor markets and the nexus of economics, culture and religion. Thought-provoking and fun to read, our blog posts are written by international faculty teaching at ISET and recent graduates representing the new generation of Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian economists.
Let It Be
WHEN I FIND MYSELF IN TIMES OF TROUBLE…
BY ERIC LIVNY
hen Saint Nino, one of Georgia’s most venerated saints, traveled to Mtskheta back in the fourth century, she stopped to erect a grapevine cross in Foka, a small settlement on the shores of Lake Paravani some 2000 meters above sea level. Saint Nino must have traveled during the summer since, even today, Foka is very difficult to reach for about 6 months of the year. Heaps of snow block all major access roads during the long and cold winter. In 1992, as Georgia was going through the most painful period in its recent history, seven young Georgian women decided to make Foka their home. The first 10 years or so were about physical survival: digging their houses deep into the ground to withstand strong winds and temperatures in the -15-25ºC (-59-77ºF) range; collecting enough wood to keep themselves warm; growing and storing potatoes and other basic foodstuffs; and managing a difficult relationship with their Armenian neighbors. By the early 2000s, different winds had started blowing in Foka. The first business idea was to revive the local tradition of cheese making, which
Foka products beautifully arranged on the shelves of the local shop
was brought to Samtskhe Javakheti by catholic missionaries back in the 18th century. While failing to make it into the mainstream of Georgian cuisine, the so-called ‘blue cheese’ (a version of Roquefort) survived in Samtskhe Javakheti’s alpine zone because of its superior storability. Storability is what made this cheese a good choice for the isolated Foka community. After a bit of local experimentation (and a study
A strong sense of common destiny and of commitment permeates everything that happens at Foka. The oldest among the seven sisters – the leader of the pack – was only 24 when the group settled in Foka. She started out as a student of biophysics in the prestigious Moscow State University but discontinued her studies after a year of soul searching. At the urging of her parents, she did complete her degree in Tbilisi. By then, however, she already knew her destiny would take her elsewhere. Her natural charisma and talent were the glue that kept the group together through all the difficult years. She radiated light and energy on her colleagues and the environment. The group acquired many friends, including those in the Georgian expat community, who helped with money, business ideas and connections. Even local villagers came to appreciate the hard working women and their leader. Little by little they were convinced to allow their children to come near and be taught arts and crafts, foreign languages (though not Georgian!) and computer skills. Ironically, the tipping point arrived when
A group of ISET students, faculty and staff enjoying the hospitality of the seven Foka sisters
tour in France), the blue cheese became a commercial success with tourists visiting the area and in Tbilisi. And since the long winter days were good for learning and experimentation, what followed was a flurry of creativity and innovation. More than 20 cheese varieties in most surprising colors, shapes, and flavors; jams combing local (and not only) berries, spices and herbs; honey; truffles and chocolates; vodka; unrefined oils and vinegar; cloisonné enamel, jewelry and ceramics. The menu of products suggests great marketing skills as well total fascination with trying out new things. How about black-currant jams with almond nut, fig with ginger, or banana and carrots with lemon? Should you care for chocolate, ever tried the dried oranges and gingelly flavor? What may be thyme-flavored vodka is marketed as Wild Alpine thyme aged with alcohol. And then, of course, there are all the cheeses… When visiting Foka for the first time in summer 2015, I was captivated by the stunning aesthetics of the place. The deep sense of love, peace and harmony emanating from every little detail here – the stones of the buildings, the wood of the furniture, and the cute paper packaging – was clearly something to be shared with others. And so, a couple months later I was back with a group of ISET’s agricultural economics students and faculty. When viewed from the economic perspective, the seven-strong pack of Foka women are organized as a small agribusiness. During the short alpine summer they produce honey and run a little dairy farm – the source of milk for their cheese factory. The highlands provide them with berries, flowers and herbs which they use to spice up all of their food products. Yet, instead of maximizing individual profits they seek community development and harmony, both inside the group and among them and their immediate environment. All of their profits are reinvested into new project ideas and activities.
one of the village girls won a 1000 GEL prize in national essay competition! Once trust was established, the locals started eagerly imitating their neighbors by planting trees (something hitherto unthinkable in Samtskhe Javakheti), and even trying new kinds of farming and business activities – beekeeping, hospitality services, etc. Many changes are already visible for any passerby, such as new roofs and better taken care of public spaces. Other improvements – village-level cooperation on milk collection and, most certainly, children’s education, while quite tangible, would require a more discerning eye. * * * In case it was not clear, the Foka sisters are nuns, and their Mother Mary is in fact called Mother Elizabeth. While they have the ability, they are not on a mission to build a business empire. Rather, they remain a very small community of seven women trying to balance hard work with learning and spirituality. Yet, their achievements should shine on all of us, giving strength to desolate communities and desperate families, and inspiring the Georgian nation as a whole. Let it be!
Kids from the neighboring Armenian community take part in regular Sunday school activities, improving their English and Russian language skills, and learning to operate computers
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Vere Loft – Offering Space to Create BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
ork in a nice office? Lucky you. Think yourself fortunate not to be one of a large number of freelancers, IT-specialists, designers, architects, artists, and people who are not with permanent jobs, currently suffering for the lack of a working space in Georgia. Cafes are noisy; home can be distracting, and there are no other places for them to be able to simply let their creative juices flow. Or at least there weren’t until Vere Loft opened. Georgia’s first co-working space, Vere Loft, opened in the center of Tbilisi on January 16, 2016. One year ago, siblings Eka and David Tushishvili, after a long life abroad, returned to their homeland to find, as they said, huge potential to create and develop in various fields. “If you want a thing well done, do it yourself,” they told GEORGIA TODAY. They decided to begin to assist the country’s development and education with the creation of a workspace. For their dream work place, they chose a commercial space in a newly constructed building which was a former maternity hospital at 3 Khorava Street. “People come here and say, ‘Hey, do you know, I was born here?’ Now the same people are able in turn to give birth in the same place- not to babies but innovative ideas,” said David Tushishvili,
Co-founder of the Vere Loft. The Vere Loft is an open workspace with separate areas, with a distinct atmosphere, design and functional content. Depending on your occupation, employees of Vere Loft will help you choose a membership specifically for you – Minimalistic, Urban, or Industrial. “If you just need to work in a quiet atmosphere, here is an open Minimalistic area. If you have a specific job, with a lot of brainstorming and solitary work, then welcome to the Urban, where you can reserve even a whole personal desk. Moreover, if your profession requires the use of particular machinery and equipment, we have created for you an Industrial zone. Use of all our equipment
is included in the membership fee,” David explained. In addition, the Vere Loft has Corporate Membership, called Loft Corporate and a separate meeting room with individual offers for each customer. The Vere Loft itself is very flexible and provides customers with an individual approach. Prices also vary depending on the chosen package – it could be 30 Lari per day to 800 Lari per month, which includes high-speed internet, the latest equipment, licensed software and other technological innovations that are necessary and in demand for work. One of the main distinguishing features is the working hours – the Vere Loft is open 24/7, with members welcomed at
Photo by Alex Aptsiauri
any time convenient to them. “We have customers who work for foreign companies, which are based, for example, in the US, and they have to adjust to their time zone that is why they mostly work at night here,” said Eka Tushishvili, Cofounder of the Vere Loft. The Vere Loft has all conditions for work and inspiration: a bar full of snacks and drinks, a seating area with comfortable sofas, poufs, hammocks and a chill out room where you can also have a break and lay down to rest and read. The gaming room, located on the second floor, have a glass wall overlooking the Minimalistic area, keeping the members involved in the working process all the time. “You watch how others work and it gives you even more energy and inspiration,” said Ruska Tskhadaia, Project Manager of the Vere Loft. Despite the fact that the original idea was to create a pure co-working space, which involves just the renting out of workplaces, the Vere Loft creators said that their main goal is to create a professional network in the framework of coworking that will enable people of different professions to meet each other, learn, share experiences, and give advice. “People in Georgia, of course, are a little closed and are often afraid to share
their ideas. In the Vere Loft everything is different, everyone knows everything about each other. And it is profitable – experienced IT-specialists could help beginners, for example- advise, or evaluate the pros and cons in his/her work. In addition, people of different professions also can get involved in processes and come up with something new. It is the only way to launch a new idea,” said Eka. Recently in Georgia different organizations have started to pay attention to start-ups, although it is still at the early stage of development. Considering the fact that the country’s future development begins with innovative ideas, the Vere Loft is keen to encourage such initiatives and ready to attract potential investors in their members’ projects. “We know how challenging it is to take a loan from the bank to implement your idea, as far as investors are closed, so we are giving our members all the right conditions to make their ideas work – workspace, equipment, and people full of ideas, ready to help and support,” said David Tushishvili. “Georgia has great potential, we want to show it to people, teach, prompt and certainly give them the freedom to try.”
FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Georgian Government to Boost Tourist Numbers BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda whose office is monitoring the on-going investigation regarding war crimes committed during the 2008 Russian-Georgian War
embers of the government and representatives of the lucrative tourism trade discussed Friday current prospects for developing tourism as well as stream-lining resource spending as part of a campaign to boost tourism in the country. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s press office underlined the need to strengthen the current campaign by creating a weekend and holiday event calendar is also essential to making Tbilisi more attractive and accessible to visitors. “We will discuss introducing an annual events calendar to ensure that something interesting happens in Tbilisi on weekends and holidays in order to attract more tourists from the regions as well as from other countries,” Kvirikashvili stated. Tourism Administration head, Giorgi Chogovadze, presented the government’s budget priorities for the campaign to the
ICC Proceeds with S. Ossetia War Crimes Tbilisi City Hall to Regulate Investigation Chaotic Taxi System BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA
nternational Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has told Georgian television that the court does not settle disputes between countries, but is instead charged with finding those culpable for committing crimes in disputed regions. “It is not our mandate to talk about territorial borders. Our goal is to find individuals responsible for committing crimes. This requires solid evidence… which leads to bringing up charges against the perpetrators,” Bensouda said in an interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster. Bensouda emphasized that her office is monitoring the on-going investigation regarding war crimes committed during the 2008 Russian-Georgian War. “As for Georgia, the investigation was closed in March last year. Georgia is a member of the Rome Statute, meaning that it is obliged to investigate crimes committed on its territory. However, if the country is unable, our office becomes involved in the process.” According to Bensouda, both Russia
10 Galaktion Street
and Georgia were responsible for attacks against international peacekeepers in South Ossetia. “Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are within our jurisdiction. The office will investigate, for example, the murder of peacekeepers. We have information that there were attacks on peacekeepers both from Russia and Georgia. We are going to obtain further information about this,” she said. Bensouda also stated that the investigation will continue with or without the cooperation of the South Ossetian authorities or the Russian government. “South Ossetia is and was a part Georgia when the alleged crimes were committed. That is why we have to investigate crimes committed throughout Georgia, including South Ossetia. It is too early to say if we will be able to cooperate with the de-facto South Ossetian government, but I can tell you that we will send a request,” Bensouda concluded. The International Criminal Court authorized Bensouda to proceed with an investigation on war crimes committed in and around South Ossetia during the period of intense hostilities before and after the five-day war.
participants of the meeting. Kvirikashvili said similar meetings would be conducted regularly to ensure that any steps taken by the state will be coordinated and agreed upon with the industry’s leading companies. “This is not a one-time meeting. I want to assure you that we will have regular
meetings to ensure that any step taken by the state is discussed with the sector’s leading companies,” said Kvirikashvili. “Obviously, not every company is represented here. We will continue discussions with the representatives of the other companies in this area as well,” he concluded.
There is no data base of taxi drivers or details about their health status or the condition of the cars they are driving. Tbilisi City Hall plans to create a Working Group for this purpose
BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
he lack of information about the number of taxis, driver qualifications and state of health creates a number of problems not only on the roads, but can also lead to serious safety issues. This is why Tbilisi City Hall took the bull by the horns recently and met with companies offering public taxi services. “The current situation on the roads is quite complicated; we take that into account and know that this field requires serious regulation,” said Vice Mayor of Tbilisi, Lasha Abashidze, making a spe-
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cial emphasis on the safety aspect. “We want to create a scheme that, with the least intervention, will gradually allow us to solve this problem.” After the meeting, representatives of the Tbilisi City Hall drew attention to several important issues in this area. In particular, they mentioned that approximately 40,000 taxis operate in Tbilisi today, although there is no precise information about the number. There is also no common data base of taxi drivers, or details about their health status or the condition of the cars they are using for the purpose of taxiing, all of which should be considered highly important in their profession. Although Tbilisi City Hall does not yet have concrete proposals regarding
the issue, they plan to create a Working Group and prepare a special document to go towards regulating problems in this field. The representatives of the City Hall made it clear they are also aware that for the majority of taxi drivers, their professional activity is their main source of income. “Therefore, the interests of taxi drivers will be taken into account as much as possible during the creation of the document,” they said. “We will consider different mechanisms to conduct their registration without serious expenses and without harm to involved parties,” said Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi, Irakli Lekvinadze. “We want to put an end to the chaos on the roads and focus on security and safety.”
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Galt & Taggart: Leading Brokerage in Georgia
Over the past decade, Georgia has been quite a diversified, composed and liberal economy in the region. It has been and continues to be the regional hub from many economic perspectives
Interview with Head of Brokerage, Goga Melikidze BY JOSEPH LARSEN
eorgia is the most dynamic economy in the South Caucasus. It was recently listed 24th in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 survey, matching its ranking from 2015. Georgia scored its highest marks in starting a business (6th), registering property (3rd), and getting credit (7th). A legion of international companies has set up shop in Georgia to capitalize on the country’s business-friendly approach and skilled workforce. There are local success stories as well. JSC Galt & Taggart (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bank of Georgia Holdings PLC) has grown into a Georgian corporate sector leader. The brokerage and investment house was established in 1996 and has played a major role in Georgia’s capital markets for the past two decades – both a beneficiary and contributor to the country’s dynamic economy. Galt & Taggart Head of Brokerage Goga Melikidze shared some insights on the company’s recent successes with GEORGIA TODAY (including G&T TRADER, the company’s new multi-asset trading platform). He also made a few predictions for 2016. Despite a lot of recent gloom and doom about the Georgian economy, Melikidze sees positive things
to come for Georgia and Galt & Taggart over the next year.
GALT & TAGGART REFERS TO ITSELF AS “THE LEADING BROKERAGE IN GEORGIA.” WHAT ROLE DOES THE COMPANY PLAY IN GEORGIA AND THE REGION? HOW IS THE COUNTRY’S INTERNATIONAL REACH AN ASSET TO ITS GEORGIAN CUSTOMERS? Galt & Taggart was established in 1996 and since then G&T has been playing a crucial role in capital market development in Georgia as well as in the region. Galt & Taggart, as a leading investment bank and brokerage house, has participated in many capital market and M&A transactions that have taken place in Georgia. Galt & Taggart customers have always been international investment companies and funds interested in investing in Georgia and other frontier economies.
GOGA, PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR ROLE AT GALT & TAGGART. WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? I come very much from a finance and banking background. I joined Galt & Taggart as a financial analyst back in 2005 right after I graduated from the Caucasus School of Business - these days I run the brokerage department.
My typical day starts at 10:00 AM with either a morning catch-up with my colleagues or reviewing the major tasks list for the week. I usually spend the first half of the day on business development activities, and the second half of the day on meetings and dealing with daily tasks.
COULD YOU BRIEFLY TELL US ABOUT G&T TRADER, HOW IT WORKS, AND WHO CAN USE IT? G&T TRADER is indeed the start of an era of investment experience in Georgia and the region. The platform has a very user-friendly interface and provides outstanding intuitiveness for the users. G&T TRADER allows clients to invest in approximately 100,000 different investment instruments (such as Stocks, ETFs, Futures, Options, CFDs, FOREX, etc.) from one single account from any device of any kind - thus, it is very much optimized to all devices. Very importantly, the client can access their accounts in G&T TRADER from anywhere, where there is internet available, via their account credentials.
G&T TRADER’S WEBSITE CALLS IT THE “MOST INTUITIVE MULTI-ASSET PLATFORM” AND SAYS USING IT CARRIES “ZERO CAPITAL GAIN TAX.” COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THESE FEATURES? G&T TRADER is really the most intu-
itive multi-asset trading platform available in the world these days. We say it is a multi-asset platform because there are up to 100,000 various investment instruments available there. This is an opportunity that has never been available either in Georgia or in the region. Thus, Galt & Taggart is the first company to open a window for local and regional investors for the global financial markets. Among many other major benefits, the legislation of Georgia is quite investorfriendly. One of the important implications of this is the zero tax on the capital gains of internationally traded securities. This means that any investor who holds and keeps internationally traded securities from Georgia will not pay any capital gain tax whatsoever. This is quite an important point because it makes Georgia a unique investment environment in the world.
TELL US ABOUT G&T’S RELATIONSHIP WITH SAXO BANK. SAXO Bank is one of the oldest and most unique, and is the leading bank offering online trading services in the world. Therefore, it was an absolute honor and privilege for us to get partnered with SAXO Bank in 2015. Galt & Taggart and SAXO bank have quite an intense relationship, almost on a daily basis. On the back of the G&T TRADER; the SAXO Bank engine and
technical capabilities are used, while on the front side it is entirely managed by Galt & Taggart.
WHAT ROLE DOES GEORGIA PLAY IN THE REGIONAL ECONOMY, PARTICULARLY WITH REGARDS TO THE TRADING INDUSTRY? Over the past decade, Georgia has been quite a diversified, composed and liberal economy in the region. It has been and continues to be the regional hub from many economic perspectives and, furthermore, the country is indeed the cosmopolitan destination in the region. Georgia has quite favorable investment regulations and environment – zero capital gain tax (on internationally traded securities), no capital controls of any kind, double tax treaties with almost all major economies, zero tax on foreign sourced income, and more. Thus, we think that Georgia will now become the financial hub in the region.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT 2016 TO BRING FOR G&T AND FOR THE GEORGIAN ECONOMY IN GENERAL? I think 2016 will be a quite active and important year for Galt & Taggart and for the Georgian economy as well. 2016 might be a year of many interesting economic reforms and changes which should lead to further economic prosperity and growth.
Tbilisi Metro Stations to Be Restored BY ANA AKHALAIA
A Akhmeteli Theatre metro station, one of the many due for restoration this year
ccording to Tbilisi City Hall, a large scale reconstruction of Tbilisi Metro is being launched. At this stage six stations will be rehabilitated: Akhmeteli Theatre, Varketili, Station Square 1, Marjanishvili, Liberty Square and Avlabari. In addition, Rustaveli Metro Station will be capitally repaired. According to the project, Rustaveli Station will retain its architectural appearance while the interior and exterior will be upgraded, power and water transfer systems
renewed, and security systems completely renovated (telephone, television and computer networks, as well as fire safety systems). In 2016, the escalators of Avlabari 1, Tsereteli 1, Marjanishvili 3 and Station Square 1 will be renovated. It is also planned to modernize 19 train wagons whose interior will be completely changed, the exterior modernized, old lights replaced with LED lights, and the conductor’s cabin equipped with a modern control system. Old mechanical and contactor details will be replaced with modern standard nodes equipped with microprocessors. 2016 marks the 50-year anniversary of Tbilisi Metro.
FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Goderdzi Investment Forum to be Held in February BY ANA AKHALAIA
he Goderdzi Investment Forum is to be held in February under the patronage of the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Dimitri Kumsishvili, in which both local and foreign businessmen will participate. Goderdzi Resort is located at 2,366 meters above sea level and is a two hour drive from the popular seaside resort town of Batumi, Georgia. Sandro Onoprishvili, head of Mountain Resorts Development Company Ltd, highlighted that for Goderdzi resort to become more attractive to investors it is necessary to introduce its potential to them, as well as to show what the government has done and what it will provide for the development of the private sector should it invest in Goderdzi resort. Onoprishvili stated that the rehabilitation of the access road to the mountainous resort will also
The resort has already been visited by Australian, Austrian, German, English, Russian and Ukrainian tourists
Georgian Wine Centers to Open in China
Suolun Group, a Chinese trade group, is to open 60-80 new Georgian wine centers in China this year
BY ANA AKHALAIA
uolun Group, a Chinese trade group, is to open 60-80 new Georgian wine centers in China this year with the aim of popularizing Georgian wine, promoting the country’s rich wine-making culture and allowing Georgian wine producers to share their products with Chinese consumers. Suolun Group opened a second Georgian wine
house in China’s Zhijiang province, which has a population of 55 million. It also plans to open a Georgian wine school in Yiwu, eastern China, a city of about 1.2 million people which is famous for its vibrant market. Suolun Group is also working with the Georgianbased Ttbilinvest Group to open a new Georgian Culture House. Representatives of the Group visited Georgia in September 2015 and met Georgia’s previous Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to discuss their future plans.
Goderdzi Resort is located at 2,366 meters above sea level and is a two hour drive from the popular seaside resort town of Batumi, Georgia
help with the encouragement of investments. The road will not close in winter and people will be able to get to the resort from Tbilisi within 3.5 hours. The resort has already been visited by Australian, Austrian, German, English, Russian and Ukrainian tourists. “Foreigners as well as locals have learned that Goderdzi has very good quality snow. After solving the access problem, the number of visitors will continue to increase. I believe this resort will bring a large contribution to the economy,” Onoprishvili said. Goderdzi resort was opened in December 2015. The resort is intended for those who live in western Georgia, as well as foreign tourists. The resort is funded with 23 million GEL from the state budget and an allocation of EUR 10.9 million for ski lifts from the Austrian government. The resort at this point has seven residential cottages, as well as a hotel and administrative center. According to the final plan, the resort should be able to host 7,000 tourists simultaneously.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Overseas Focus: Spain Stands before a Historic Crossroad BY ISIDOROS KARDERINIS
or more than 40 years in the political arena of Spain, two parties had been dominating: the People’s Party and the PSOE Party (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), which have alternated in power. The last catalytic elections of December 20, 2015 resulted in a significant weakening of these traditional political forces and the emergence of new anti-regime parties. Thus, the People’s Party of Mariano Rajoy got the lowest percentages since 1993 (28.72% of votes and 123 seats out of the 350 of the Parliament, compared to 44.6% of the votes and 186 seats in 2011), while the PSOE Party of Pedro Sanchez recorded the worst result in its history (22% of the votes and 90 seats, compared to 28.73% of the votes and 110 seats in the previous elections of 2011). The emergence of the left party Podemos of Pablo Iglesias – product of the so-called movement of the “Indignant” – and of the center-right party Ciudadanos of Albert Rivera (which was supported by some mass media), in the third and fourth place respectively with high percentages (20.6% of the votes and 69 seats and 14% of the votes and 40 seats), shows the end of the forty-year-old twoparty system and marks a new period for Spain. This result, of course, is due largely to the economic crisis in Europe. The anti-popular austerity policy which was faithfully implemented by the government of Mariano Rajoy in the past four years, combined with a corruption scandal regarding his party, transformed the party map of Spain and led to the emergence of a new four-party political scene. The new parliamentary reality, where no party has an absolute majority, leads inevitably either to a coalition government that the majority of Spaniards seems to prefer or to new elections. After four years of governance with a strong majority, Spain is now facing the prospect of some kind of political instability that torments the other European countries as well, since the fragile government coalitions and the traditional parties that dominated the political scene for decades feel strongly the pressing effects of the years of economic hardship and the growing wave of immigration. The new Spanish government, whenever it may occur, with or without new elections, shall immediately be confronted with very serious problems and challenges. Although this European economy came out of the recession and entered the road to recovery, it will take several years, without regressions, to recover the lost ground. The country is beset by the second highest unemployment rate (21.18%) in the Euro-zone following Greece, and unemployed Spaniards number more than five million. Poverty increases on a daily basis and threat-
ens to disintegrate the social web of the country. “Poverty is the worst form of violence,” Mahatma Gandhi once declared. With the applied vast neoliberal policies the gap between rich and poor is growing consistantly. In 2013, 22.2% of the households, based on the most recent data of the National Statistics Institute (INE) of Spain, lived below the poverty line, i.e. their income was less than 60% of the mean national disposable income. Many people are living today without heating and without electricity, countless families face eviction and have no other residence (34.680 first houses, that is 95 a day, were repossessed in 2014 by the banks, according to the INE), many pensioners cannot pay for their medicines. Also, more than one in three children - or 2.6 million – are now faced with the risk of poverty and social exclusion, according to the most recent data of the European Commission. The high percentages of the long-term unemployed, combined with the drastic cuts in expenditures on health and education, have led more families and children to poverty in spite of the financial recovery. The public debt is continuously showing an upward trend and, based on the latest official figures, is at 98.8% of the GDP, approaching the high level of 100% that the GDP reached or exceeded in the years 1900 and 1909. The “informal economy” is estimated at 25% of the GDP, i.e. 235 billion Euros that have not been declared, thereby depriving the Spanish State from some very substantial financial resources. Meanwhile, the new Spanish government shall have to tackle the urgent issue of Catalonia. The election of the separatist Carles Puigdemont, who shall be responsible for starting the process of independence, to the presidency of Catalonia, is a resounding wake-up. “We need to commence the creation of an independent State of Catalonia, so that the decisions of the Catalan Parliament are sovereign,” he declared on 10th January 2016, to the cheering of the Members, only hours before the Catalan Parliament elected him head of the local government and successor of Artur Mas. The direct consequences of the unilateral declaration of independence of Catalonia, which is the richest region of Spain with a product of about 200 billion Euros, shall undoubtedly be extremely painful: without Catalonia, Spain shall lose 16% of its population, 25% of its exports, and 19% of its GDP according to the OECD. More than 586,000 companies are based in Catalonia – out of those 2,150 large companies employing more than 200 workers each, such as Gas Natura and the giant of garments, Mango. In Catalonia there is the factory of the Volkswagen group as well, producing cars of the brand Seat. What’s more, Barcelona is by far the number one tourist destination in the country and one of the leading worldwide, with net proceeds from the arrival and stay of tourists reaching tre-
Left to Right: Podemos leader, Pablo Iglesias, centre-right party Ciudadanos leader, Albert Rivera; Spanish Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez; and Spanish PM and Popular party leader, Mariano Rajoy. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images from theguardian.com
2015 saw the weakening of traditional political forces in Spain and the emergence of new anti-regime parties. Thus, the People’s Party of Mariano Rajoy got the lowest percentages since 1993
mendous heights. Meanwhile, both in the commercial and the industrial sector, Barcelona is perhaps the most fundamental pillar of the Spanish economy. The leaning of Catalonia toward independence, it needs to be emphasized at this point, was born and acquired gigantic dimensions due to the austerity policies imposed by Brussels and mainly Berlin on Spain and of course throughout the Euro-zone. This is the main reason why the Catalans want to become at the very least autonomous. They want to have their own laws and for their taxes not to go to Madrid to pay for austerity programmes. The reasons for the apparent breakup are therefore primarily financial. In conclusion, the extreme austerity policies have obviously and heavily hurt Spain, as it has other countries in the Euro-zone. Therefore, the new Spanish government, which will be faced with a historic crossroad, needs to formulate a very clear progressive policy that will be built upon a re-
examination of the Constitution, the direction of specific popular social reforms, the inhibition of uncontrolled privatization suffering, among other things, from issues of transparency, and the protection of the first housing-to-low income groups. Effective combat against tax evasion and financial crime is also needed, as well as the appropriate restructuring of the production model and the significant easing of major structural imbalances, such as unemployment, budget deficits, and the public debt. Isidoros Karderinis was born in Athens, Greece, in 1967. He is a novelist, poet and economist with postgraduate studies in tourist economy. His articles have been republished in newspapers, magazines and sites worldwide. His poems have been translated in French and have been published in literary magazines. He has published seven books of poetry and two novels, five of which have been published in the USA and Great Britain.
FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Victory Partnership Alliance: Giving Purpose and Respect Back to Wounded Georgian Soldiers BY MERI TALIASHVILI
ean Mulcahey, a retired US Army colonel, and Alexander Japaridze, a military doctor, have founded Victory Partnership Alliance, a non-profit organization conducting activities that support wounded Georgian soldiers and their families, enrich their lives and raise their spirits, and assist them with the challenging task of reintegrating back into society as productive and proud citizens of Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Mr Mulcahey, founder and CEO of VPA and Mr Japaridze, the Country Director, to find out what inspired them to set up the organization and how they help Georgian wounded heroes cope with life after conflict.
SEAN, WHY DID YOU START THE ORGANIZATION? I was inspired to begin this venture by the strength and courage of Georgian people, the deep sense of moral obligation of those people, their extraordinary generosity as a people, and the demonstration of Georgia having made so much progress over the last several years and Georgia’s effort for international peace and security. Georgia deserves support. Firstly, the purpose of my visit to Georgia was to plan and execute the exercise with Georgians between US and Georgian armed forces. The exercise was an immediate response to 2008. Before that, I spent two years serving as the Com-
manding Officer of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Ft. Benning, Georgia, developing programs to provide care and support for about 350 wounded US soldiers. This was a very new program in the United States. The US army established wounded warrior units in 2007. That’s where my experience with wounded warriors comes from. I spent two years helping their families to overcome the challenges they faced. Prior to my assignment here, I had become familiar with the situation in Georgia and I had some interest to use my experience and skills and my desire to help Georgians. Then, when I retired from the army, I reconnected with Alex and together we established this organization to provide some help to Georgian soldiers and their families.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE SITUATION OF THE WOUNDED GEORGIAN SOLDIERS? During my service here the worst challenge we face is getting them employed. Having a job for them is to regain a positive outlook for the future. There are real challenges with accessibility due to their physical limitations. Regarding employment, there are some challenges for those who are apparently on active duty regarding the law as to whether they are allowed to work and get paid as soldiers. I believe that Ministry of Defense is looking at changes to the law. We continue to look for work for them in the areas of agriculture in some of the regions and aim to develop partnerships between governments and businesses.
We’ve had conversations with the American Chamber of Commerce to get their support, helping to promote the idea of getting businesses to employ veteran soldiers with disabilities in companies in Georgia. As our organization is a partnership, we connect several other organizations in all sectors, including academic institutions and nonprofits, allowing us to create support for soldiers at very low cost. We are in discussion with the McLain Association for Children also, which supports disabled children in Georgia. Getting disabled soldiers involved in a project helping disabled children achieves two things: number one – it helps the disabled child and number two – it provides a sense of value and self-worth for disabled soldiers and demonstrates to the Georgian people that a disabled soldier, while he may have some physical limitations, is still a valuable member of society. These soldiers still have a sharp mind, lots of abilities and we can’t allow their disabilities to become a focus of our attention- they still have so much to offer to society.
HAVE YOU DISCUSSED THIS ISSUE WITH THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE? Yes. We’ve raised this issue with them and soldiers are also involved. I’d like to add that more importantly during these nine month, we have earned the trust of our beneficiaries. We have proven the ability to execute projects that have a direct impact on our beneficiaries and create ways for Georgian people to act, to do something to support these sol-
Sean Mulcahey, a retired US Army colonel, helped found the Victory Partnership Alliance (VPA), a non-profit organization that supports wounded Georgian soldiers and their families
diers. Our approach is based on the simple idea that together we can do more than any of us can do alone.
ALEXANDRE, HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THIS ISSUE? I am a military doctor and the issue of wounded soldiers is close to my heart. The first and most important experience for me was the Martqophi project in the framework of the Georgian-American exercises last year. I talked to the director of the institution about our organization and offered our help to the wounded soldiers. She asked us to repair the pavilion. Then we suggested the wounded soldiers work on repair works themselves and they did everything on their own. A couple of great things were done: we repaired pavilion and wounded soldiers
were given a job to get done. Some of them even told me personally that for the first time [since being injured], they felt that they were valuable and necessary for someone and one even had tears in his eyes as he said this. Before establishing the organization, a lot of things passed me by- the lack of ramps at building entrances, for example. Now, wherever I go, I notice it. Our first aim is to raise public awareness of the issue so people see what troubles our wounded soldiers face. If this happens, the heads of those institutions will start caring for the soldiers themselves. They will make wheelchair ramps into their buildings in order for the soldiers to have access. Another goal is to reintegrate them into society that they feel productive members of society once more.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 2 - 4, 2016
Insurance Company Unison Hosts Gala Dinner for Turkish Companies
Left to Right: Mr. Vasil Akhrakhadze, General Director of Unison, Turkish Ambassador to Georgia, his Excellency Zeki Levent Gümrükçü giving the greeting speech at the Gala Dinner and Ekaterine Zaseshvili, GURTIAD
BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA
nsurance Company UNISON, along with the Georgian and Turkish Businessmen Association GURTIAD, hosted a Gala Dinner on Friday, January 29th, at the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Tbilisi. The event was designed to introduce the insurance service line specially tailored to Turkish companies operating in Georgia and first of all for the member companies of GURTIAD. The Turkish Ambassador to Georgia, representatives of well-known Turkish and European insurance companies and the management bodies of over 50 largest Turkish companies operating in Georgia attended the Dinner. Unison General Director, Vasil Akhrakhadze, presented the Company’s new insurance project, highlighting the important aspects of the new insurance service line and importance of the cooperation between Turkish and Georgian businessmen. “Unison always paid attention to providing service to companies with foreign investment, and such companies always hold a significant share in our portfolio. Since its establishment in 2011, Unison has strengthened its position on a corporate level as well as on the retail market and formed a diversified portfolio. We became the leader on the property market, especially in the energy sector with a 32% market share. However, it did not prevent the company from remaining flexible and innovative. Unison is named as the most reinsured company on the Georgian insurance market, because we always try to adapt to the client’s needs. “As a pure insurer, not affiliated with banking, pharmacy and hospital management, Unison is very flexible and as an independent player it has no conflict of interests with customers and provider companies. That is one of the main reasons why it is much easier and more comfortable for our clients to cooperate with us. “Nowadays Turkey is one of the largest business partners of Georgia, and the share of Turkish investment significantly grows year after year. We decided to try to take our modest share in developing the mutually beneficial business relationships and created an especially designed Turkish service line. We offer Turkish companies insurance products specially tailored to them. The service
envisions the unique opportunity to get partial and full reinsurance with Turkish reinsurance companies, Turkish language support with a personal manager, as well as electronic service support on mobile applications and online sales with minimal bureaucracy. What is highly important is that these products and offers will be strongly harmonized with the offerings on the Turkish insurance market. We are very proud that today, for the first time in Georgia, we have the chance to present the service to this wide audience, and we have received very positive feedback not only from the organizations presented here, but also from our partner reinsurance companies and, what is most important, from the Turkish Embassy,” Akhrakhadze declared. Turkish Ambassador to Georgia, his Excellency Zeki Levent Gümrükçü, noted that he will always support such events which contribute to forming close business and cultural relationships between two countries and, as the representative of the Turkish government, he continues to promote Turkish investment in Georgia. The Ambassador welcomed the new initiative of Unison and also underlined the role of the GURTIAD in forming favorable relations between Turkish and Georgian businessmen. Representative of London based Willis brocker, Namik Gulsun, said his company’s relationship with Unison started last year. “Unison was demonstrating great entrepreneurship – we starting talking and, luckily, you see the progress today,” Gulsun said, underscoring the close relationship between the two companies. “Unison presents us opportunities from
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an insurance point of view and we are providing reinsurance and know-how. It is a very close partner relationship at this moment. I believe that the relationship will lead to something really significant,” Namik Gulsun told GEORGIA TODAY. According to the representative of the
Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Tamar Svanidze, Zviad Adzinbaia, Beqa Kirtava, Meri Taliashvili, Eka Karsaulidze, Zaza Jgharkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Nina Ioseliani, Karen Tovmasyan, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Ana Akhalaia, Robert Isaf, Joseph Larsen
Turkish Anadolu Insurance Company, Ülkem Devrim Aksar, [their] interest in the Georgian market made it possible for them to find Unison and do business. “Through the Turkish investors we are seeking new business opportunities in Georgia and Unison is part of it,” Aksar declared. Anadolu Company’s main focus
Photographer: Zviad Nikolaishvili Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava
in Georgia leans towards the construction sector as the one it is most active in in the country. “On this path, we find Unison a credible partner,” Aksar concluded. Among other eye-catching advantages in the Georgian market, Unison is distinguished with its highly-rated reinsurance support, wide range of corporate customers, simplified insurance procedure and minimum bureaucracy, including competitive rates and low deductibles. Moreover, Unison is oriented on establishing long-term insurance cooperation and increasing their clients’ loyalty toward the company. Unison was first to present the functional insurance mobile application through which insurance services has become even more rapid and of higher quality. By using the App the claim regulation procedures became much easier and service time shortened significantly. Unison, also for the first time in Georgia, introduced the fastest claim regulation line - “48 Hours” which is unique even in the region. Unison hopes that such initiatives will provide easy access for Turkish investments to develop more stably in Georgia.
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