Page 1 georgiatoday

Issue no: 823

• MARCH 4 - 7, 2016



In this week’s issue... Unpleasant Truth? - CoE Calls Out Georgia for Discrimination NEWS PAGE 3

Georgia Marks World Rare Disease Day NEWS PAGE 3

FOCUS ON HEALTH An exclusive interview with the man behind the Alphamedic Consortium bid to raise the standards of Georgian healthcare PAGE 12

Leo McKenna of Alphamedic Consortium

Political MudSlinging POLITICS PAGE 4

ProCredit Bank Results of 2015 and Plans for 2016 SOCIETY PAGE 8



or the first time, Rome hosted a one-day event totally dedicated to Georgia. Scientists and experts from Georgia and Italy discussed the role of the country as a cradle of European history, its role as a bridge between Europe and Asia, its spectacular architectural achievements of recent years, and its desire to reach full EU Membership. In addition, participants talked about Georgia’s potential in economic and especially in energy fields. Continued on page 2

Georgia in Rome Spotlight Georgia: a cradle of European history and a bridge between Europe and Asia. Photo shows a computer reconstruction of the five Dmanisi skulls. Picture: Marcia Ponce de León and Christoph

Oscars 2016 Hits an 8 Year Low SOCIETY PAGE 11

In Favor of Returning an Interesting World CULTURE PAGE 13




MARCH 4 - 7, 2016

Spain and Georgia Plan Future Collaboration Georgian Government Launches Host in Georgia to Boost Regional Hotel Industry BY TAMAR SVANIDZE


o foster the hotel industry in the regions of Georgia, the government has added a new component ‘Host in Georgia’ to the national program ‘Produce in Georgia’. Interested entrepreneurs, with the offered cofunding, will be able to build a hotel in any region of Georgia except the capital Tbilisi and Black Sea resort town Batumi, re-equip and widen existing infrastructure, and conclude agreements on franchising with world-renowned leading hotels and in turn bring them to the Georgian market. At the presentation of the program held on March 3rd at the facility being constructed by international hotel brand Intercontinental, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili spoke of the new initiative that aims to support regional entrepreneurs to initiate their own businesses in the hotel industry, build new hotels, and improve existing infrastructure. “This project will give unique opportunities to businessmen and local communities in the Georgian regions to make their own businesses more

successful and favorable. The State will co-finance these projects. Its most vital component is development of regional infrastructure. Pursuant to the conditions of ‘Host in Georgia,’ hotels will be allowed to conclude relevant agreements with international brands and the State will provide cofunding to this end,” PM Kvirikashvili said. The Prime Minister also stated that the Georgian Government is going to put mountainous resort development as a priority this year. This will create demand for hotels in regions. “When I add the possibility of visa liberalization to this, we can imagine the huge perspective that will be available to all Georgian citizens, including small entrepreneurs, businessmen, and youth, who are willing to travel in Europe and initiate business deals that will connect us to Europe in the future,” PM Kvirikashvili said. ‘Host in Georgia’ stands as a second sub-program, added to ‘Produce in Georgia.’ Another program, one that supports the movie industry, was launched in January, 2016. Through the program, the minimal threshold for engagement in a project has been lowered to $75,000 from $150,000. Since its launch, the project has supported more than 150 enterprises and the State has invested 370 million GEL.

Foreign ministers Garcia-Margallo and Janelidze



inister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, met with his Georgian counterpart and other top officials of the country and the Patriarch Ilia II in Tbilisi on February 28-29. The Spanish Minister announced the opening of a Spanish Embassy in Tbilisi and supported the European integration of Georgia. “Georgia and Spain have much in common, at least the historical names of our countries – both Iberia,” said Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, David Usupashvili. Although the majority of the meetings between the Spanish guests and Georgian top officials were held behind closed doors, the Foreign Minister of Georgia, Mikheil Janelidze, said that they have had a lot of support from the Spanish side concerning the issues of European integration and territorial unity. The Spanish Minister positively assessed reforms that Georgia has taken to achieve Visa Liberalization. “The visit was planned long ago and is very important for us. I’m sure that it will give new impetus to developing better relations between our countries. Therefore, we assess highly Spain’s decision to open an embassy here,” said Minister Janelidze. Minister Garcia-Margallo said that they plan to open the embassy as soon as possible. In the near future a temporary trustee will be sent to Georgia and begin active work in this direction. The opening of the embassy will contribute to the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries in the political and economic sphere. Minister Janelidze emphasized the tourism field,

where Spain had achieved outstanding results. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Spain took third place as one the most popular tourist destinations worldwide in 2015. “Tourism for the Spanish economy is as important as for our economy. So I think we have much to learn in this area,” noted Janelidze. Moreover, the Ministers mentioned the establishment of transport links, including direct flights. Another common area for countries was wine culture. Minister Garcia-Margallo was informed in an informal atmosphere about the unique Georgian wine culture and tasted the best varieties of wines, raising the opportunity to discuss potential of wine tourism cooperation. The Spanish Minister, at a meeting with Georgian government officials, discussed different joint cultural, agricultural, educational and infrastructure projects. In particular, it was announced an investment of the Mercado San Miguel Company (most touristic and popular market in Madrid) in Georgia and the creation of its direct analog. As part of his two-day visit, the Minister met with the Patriarch Ilia II, and laid a wreath at the Heroes Memorial. In addition, it was scheduled to visit important cultural places like the Art Palace Gallery and the Georgian National Museum, where the directors of the museums themselves acquainted the Spanish Minister with the history and culture of Georgia. The rugby match between the national teams of Georgia and Spain was held in Tbilisi on the eve of the Minister’s arrival, where Georgia won 38: 7. “We discussed many themes, including the rugby match and we agreed that the time will come when Georgians will play football as finely as Spaniards and Spaniards will play rugby as finely as Georgians,” noted Parliament Chairman Usupashvili.

Georgia in Rome Spotlight Continued from page 1

The Scudo di San Giorgio Association organized the event and made special emphasis on the finding of remains dating back 1.8 million years and Georgia’s role as a touristic and economic destination, a bridge between Europe and China. World famous Georgian archaeologist, David Lordkipanidze, presented the latest data on the skull found in Dmanisi, a small town and archaeological site in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia. At the time of its excavation, the finding shook international academia as it bore witness to empirical evidence of the migration of the first homo individuals from Africa and their spreading across the European continent two million years ago. “This is the most complete skull of an early human ancestor and it transforms our understanding of the origin and evolution of the genus Homo,” said Lordkipanidze. The words of Josef Seifert, an Austrian scholar of anthropological philosophy, professor at the International Academy of Philosophy-Instituto de Filosofía ‘Edith Stein,’ and a member of the Pontificia Academia Pro Vita, help us understand the greatness of the discovery of the Georgian paleontologist. “Unable to judge the empirical scientific aspects of the archaeological findings in Dmanisi in 1999-2002, of the so-called homo georgicus, I nevertheless consider them a significant empirical confirmation of the fact that the theory of evolution and the uncritically accepted assumption that an evolution from animals is the cause and source of the human family, so widely accepted by scien-

tists world-wide, is open to criticisms not only from a philosophical, but also from empirical and scientific points of view,” he noted. The event held in Rome is part of a grand promotional project by Georgia, as a bridge between Asia and Europe, a touristic destination and geopolitical crossroad to be discovered. Besides the Dmanisi findings, Georgia’s important and modern economic and touristic role were mentioned. “Today, Georgia is experiencing a true touristic boom with a remarkable growth of visitors in the ancient cities of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Telavi and Batumi, with its splendid beaches, and the mountain areas of the Caucasus. The good political stability achieved, together with the favorable fiscal regime, the competitive costs, the limited duties and the low levels of corruption, bring to Georgia many investors from around the world. These investors start up enterprises in various sectors, from the financial to the manufacturing,” stated a recent press release by GeorgiaOne. Together with the contributions of David Lordkipanidze and Josef Seifert, a number of other highimportant guests and speakers were hosted by GeorgiaOne on March 3. Among them were Owen Matthews, English writer, journalist and expert on Eurasian geopolitical matters; Yves Coppens worldrenowned paleoanthropologist and discoverer of hominid skeleton Lucy; Princess of Georgia, Ketevan Bagration de Mukhrani; Zaza Urushadze, Georgian film-director and Oscar and Golden Globes nominee, and Davit Bakradze, State Minister of Georgia for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration.



Unpleasant Truth? - CoE Report Calls Out Georgia for Discrimination against Religious Minorities and LGBT BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


iscrimination against religious minorities and the LGBT community is on the rise, as is a law enforcement deficient in Georgia, says the Council of Europe’s Anti-racism Commission. On 1st of March, 2016, The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its fourth report on Georgia, analysing recent developments and outstanding issues, and providing recommendations to the authorities. The Georgian Government’s observations on these issues were published together with the report. The report says the situation with religious minorities and the LGBT community has worsened over recent years and the authorities have not done nearly as much as they should have to solve the issue. “Despite certain progress achieved by Georgia on anti-discrimination policies and legislation, hate speech and violence against some ethnic and religious minorities, as well as LGBT persons, has increased over the past years, and the authorities’ response has not been sufficient,” says Christian Ahlund, ECRI’s Chair. Hate speech and physical attacks against minorities, such as Muslims, are on the rise, the report claims; and there is a

general homo- and transphobic climate in Georgian society. The sentiment was shared by Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. “Intolerance and discrimination against LGBT persons must be stopped in Georgia, and across Europe. The judiciary and law enforcement agencies have a key role to play. When violent crimes are being investigated, homophobic motivations must be considered from the outset,” Jagland said. On the positive side, the report welcomed a number of positive developments, such as amendments to the Criminal Code making racist motivation an aggravating circumstance; enacting in 2014 the Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination; the adoption of the National Human Rights Strategy with a focus on freedom of religion and protection of minorities; as well as the implementation of other national policies promoting tolerance and civic integration. However, not all manifestations of and support for racism are criminalized in Georgia, and there is no legislation to suppress the public financing of, or banning or dissolving of racist political parties or organizations as is the case in most countries of Europe. It is also not possible to initiate court cases concerning racial discrimination without referring to a specific victim. Continued on page 4


Georgia Marks World Rare Disease Day


orld Non-Governmental Organizations have named idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) as the 2016 priority direction among other rare diseases. In relation to this day, a news conference was held at Radisson BLU Iveria hotel, Tbilisi with the support of the Georgian Foundation of Genetic and Rare Disease, the Union of IPF Patients and GEPRA, the PR and marketing communications company. The information campaign that started on October 15, 2015, the day of foundation of the IPF Patients Union, aims at increasing public awareness about rare diseases, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), to timely detect the disease and then to properly manage it, and to provide IPF patients with antifibrotic therapy. The campaign is led and managed by IPF patient Elene Samkharadze. Media agencies, state structures, companies, organizations and ordinary citizens also joined the information campaign of Breathe with Hope, as part of the World Week of IPF. The following participants delivered a speech at the news conference: Oleg Kvlividze – the Georgian Foundation of Genetic and Rare Diseases Ana Bokolishvili – the Georgian Foundation of Genetic and Rare Diseases Elene Samkharadze – the Union of IPF Patients Tinatin Samkurashvili – GEPRA, PR

“Breathe with Hope.” Participants blow soap bubbles as the IPF symbol to show their support and contribution

and marketing communications company. Representatives of the parliament’s health committee, associations of rare diseases of Georgia and respirators, doctor-pulmonologists, patients, reporters and other guests also attended the meeting. “Though a patient may die 2-5 years after the diagnosis, our society has almost no information about this disease. More than half the cases cannot be diagnosed, while the other half cannot receive timely treatment because of financial defecit,” GEPRA consultant Tinatin Samkurashvili noted. IPF is one of the heaviest forms of dis-

ease and its diagnosis was impossible for many years, not only Georgia but throughout the world. In rare cases this disease is diagnosed at an early stage. About 50% of the cases cannot be diagnosed, while in another, 50% cases are diagnosed too late. The only medication for treating this disease is very expensive. Elene Samkharadze stressed that aside from public awareness-raising, it is also of crucial importance that this medication be affordable for all IPF patients. The Georgian Foundation of Genetic and Rare Diseases marks World Rare Disease Day annually jointly with partner organizations and NGOs.




MARCH 4 - 7, 2016

Political Mud-Slinging OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


he Georgian political field is infested with hate-mongers and disseminators of resentment to society. The impression is that all our politicians detest each other so vehemently that they cannot even use minimum diplomacy to conceal their, let us call it, unconstructive thoughts about

among these branches too – are so vivid and numerous that throwing in those examples would take us far beyond my word-limit, so let us only theorize today about the character of the Nation’s political image and style. The next parliamentary elections are almost here, and the feelings I’m talking about are exacerbated on a daily basis. Often, the vile political fluids are latent, but when they do reach boiling point, at which time the temperature turns them into political vapor, they start oozing out to overwhelm all the way they make their living, and there is no chance that they’ll let their grip weaken. Noting randomly here, political professionalism is very different from any other type of professional behavior in general, and the Georgian political professionalism has its particular national features. This is a species which bases its survival on political cunning and intrigue, on fitting various political skins on the same political body if the circumstance dictates, on selling out colleagues for peanuts and often casting today’s friends into tomorrow’s sworn enemies. Hoax, treachery, perfidy and bigotry are the commodities that are both available and usable if need be for reinforcing the process of political hatemongering. And the disgust is so obvious among the protagonists of our overcrowded political show that sometimes it becomes too scary to watch, although we have been used to this mutual repulsion and antipathy since the collapse of the

each other, especially if those politicians represent different political powers. The feelings in Georgia’s political realm are so hard, sometimes even within the framework of the same political force, that the mutual resentment is often driven to the brink of political explosion, a bomb which could go off at any time. Sooner or later, the political hatred in Georgia will play its unsavory role in the life of our people, conducive to the collapse of the post-socialism political system, created through sweat and tears, with the help of which we are scarcely managing to regulate and balance our boisterous political sentiments and actions. The examples of political abhorrence, seen within the walls of all four governmental branches – and

society, the result becoming the best entertainment, thus turning us all into real political zombies. The hottest season of the most acrimonious political charges is approaching fast, and, unbeknownst to us, the rank-and-file, it is taking over the public hearts and minds. Notwithstanding the fact of our electorate’s political maturation and worked-out-by-experience political finesse, people still want to go to the polls and vote with sincere political naiveté, as if keeping the hope alive that something good will happen with every upcoming change of the players in the country’s political scene. No, this will not happen! The political arena here is a genuine slaughter house where our political gladiators have assumed the role of professional fighters for their own spot under the sun. This is

evil empire. Yes, the ‘evil empire’ has left in its wake a lot of political morbidity, which we are still afflicted with and cannot very easily get rid of. I personally call it a post-soviet political confusion, covering the entire territory of the former USSR, which will most probably linger on for a while, until the generational gap becomes so wide that the remnants of the past will no longer be able to step over the created chasm and disappear into the political abyss. The only hope to free ourselves from the universal political hatred, reigning in the field, must be the growth of a new generation of politicians who know the price of fair play in politics and stand for appreciating the main principles of this fair play, excluding unwanted strain and vain hatred which only ruins that society of our which is somewhat enjoying its fragile democracy and flimsy national freedom.

Unpleasant Truth? - CoE Report Calls Out Georgia for Discrimination against Religious Minorities and LGBT Continued from page 3

The authorities’ response has not been adequate, the report says, and there is no effective system for monitoring hate speech. Intolerant comments, in particular of a Islamophobic and homophobic nature, are increasingly present in the media as well as in political discourse, the ECRI noted. Since its previous report, no hate speech case has been prosecuted as no legal basis existed. Investigations have only been launched when a specific threat of violence was involved. In several cases of attacks due to religious intolerance, the police did not properly safeguard the rights of the minorities. Similarly, the right of LGBT organizations to hold peaceful public events was not sufficiently defended. This goes back to the infamous 17th May 2013 anti-homophobia march in Tbilisi which was violently dissolved by members of the local population, encouraged by a number of representatives of the Orthodox Church. Stronger emphasis on education is also needed in order to improve the situation in terms of integration, the report says. So far, positive measures to improve the quality of minority education and reduce the socio-economic exclusion of historical ethnic minorities have not been sufficient: textbooks need to be improved and teachers better trained. ECRI has made several key recommendations to the authorities. The following two require prompt implementation and will be reviewed by ECRI in two years’ time: • Set up a specialized unit within the police to

10 Galaktion Street

deal specifically with racist and homo/transphobic hate crime; • Scale up support for the Council of Religions, in particular by the State Agency for Religious Issues which should utilize the Council’s expertise in order to tackle the problem of religious intolerance. The report, including Government observations, was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Georgia in March 2015 [Press release] and takes account of developments up to 17 June 2015. ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as “race”, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination); it prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail:




EPRC on Russia’s Maqro Construction and Bank Hybrid War Strategy BUSINESS

Republic Joint Agreement Offers Unprecedented Payment Terms



n February 24th, the expert community of Tbilisi headed to Rooms Hotel Tbilisi for a presentation by the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC). EPRC’s new report – “Hybrid Warfare and the Changing Security Landscape in the EuroAtlantic Area – Political and Economic Implications” is dealing, as title might not exactly imply, mostly with challenges Georgia is facing in the everpresent battle for survival between Georgia and its big northern neighbor. The 30 page report is published with support of The Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF) as part of the Economic NATO Policy Paper Series. The emergence of revisionist Russia and its employment of hybrid means for attaining strategic and/or political objectives have challenged the traditional Western concept of a Europe whole and free and at peace, and the most important institutions for this concept are NATO and the EU – reads the foreword of a report that is strewn with calls for more, well, everything– as the people behind the research seem to be genuinely unhappy about every step the so-called new government has taken to address the issues emphasized in the report, believing Georgia is alarmingly close to succumbing to Russia’s hybrid warfare. “The weaponization of non-military means as a “new form” of achieving political goals fundamentally alters the current security, economic and political landscape and poses numerous questions not only about the nature of

threats we are facing but also about the ability of the existing security institutions to counter those challenges. Though neither the concept nor the essence of the Hybrid warfare is completely original, it bears characteristics that are peculiar to Russia’s new or well-forgotten old warfare model.” The report offers a range of activities to deter and counter those threats. According to the EPRC, Georgia and its partners should develop a well-coordinated and coherent strategic approach in multiple dimensions: Defense and Security; Economy, trade and development; Energy diversification and security; Democratic institution building; Strategic communication and communication strategies; and Education and people-to-people relations. At the end of the presentation, attendees were invited to discuss the situation at hand and, needless to say, the public was up to the task as it turned into a lively and interesting debate. Of particular interest were the insights of the representatives from the National Democratic Initiative (NDI) and that of the former Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, Nikoloz Rurua, who argued that the report needed more publicity and called for more media activity.

Head of Alternative Channels Division at Bank Republic, Natia Prangulashvili and Maqro Construction Deputy General Director, Oguz Kaan Karaer



he construction company Maqro Construction and Bank Republic Societe Generalhavesignedanagreement according to which clients will have maximally simplified payment conditions. Namely, customers will be able to benefit from installment for 100 months with 0% interest. In addition, customers will be provided with different types of payment terms based on their interest. The payment terms are unique and unprecedented for the Georgian real estate market. The memorandum was signed by Macro Construction Deputy General Director in project development, sales, marketing and PR field Mr. Oguz Kaan

Karaer, and the head of Alternative Channels Division at Bank Republic, Mrs. Natia Prangulashvili, on March 2nd. “In partnership with the world’s largest financial group Bank Republic, we are offering a new payment model to the Georgian economic market. With this model, the householder will be able to purchase an apartment with zero interest. We want everyone to enjoy our offer, which enables you to purchase an apartment without the addition of interest for 100 months from Maqro Construction. The model of zero interest enables you do so,” said Oguz Kaan Karaer at the signing ceremony. The 11,700 square meter residential complex Green Budapest offers 351 euro standard fully renovated apartments in a green and healthy environment in the center of the city. The apartments are

delivered with completed bathroom, kitchen furniture and built-in appliances. Diversified infrastructure, green zone, a basketball court, treadmill, skateboard ramps, fitness and child care centers, and open and closed parking lots are the main advantage of the complex. The Construction will be completed in May, 2016. Maqro Construction is one of the largest investors in Georgia. It has been investing in the country since 2013 and carried out such large scale projects as residential complex Green Budapest and 4 star international hotel Mercure Tbilisi Old Town and furniture store Belisa. So far, the company has invested about USD 70 million and still continues investing in the Georgian market, having bought 7 hectares of land to build a new residential district with USD 100 million of investment.




MARCH 4 - 7, 2016



otel Rixos Borjomi hosted a youth employment program inauguration session last week. The program, entitled Youth Entrepreneurial Skills for Advancing Employability and Income Generation in Georgia, (YES Georgia), held its opening briefing and a seminar for media to raise awareness on the project. The USAID-sponsored program, specially tailored to youth aged between 17-25, will be implemented in Tbilisi and 20 municipalities of Georgia involving start-up grants for up to 30 new youth business initiatives. YES also incorporates an internship program in 20 companies and is initiating a discourse on issues of youth self-employment and employment in Georgia. Along with the USAID (the US Agency for International Development), Crystal Fund and PH International Georgia office are dedicated to helping young and creative Georgian entrepreneurs receive professional knowledge in business and develop their own business plans. YES is set to boost youth employment in Georgia. Among the other eye-catching features, it includes a three-month training program designed by local and international experts that will train over 600 youth throughout the 30 months of its operation. More, some twenty companies will also offer three-month internship programs to over 400 motivated and business-oriented youth.

A panel of foreign investors and entrepreneurs. Photo: YES team

As a part of the information session, the hosts arranged a discussion panel composed of some savvy entrepreneurs and investors from America and Europe. The panel members, moderated by Chief of the Crystal Fund, Archil Bakuradze, shared their knowledge and experience regarding youth entrepreneurship and business opportunities in Georgia. Fredrick Hyde-Chambers, a developer of the first Business and Parliament Dialogue Centers in Westminster Parliament, emphasized the project’s importance and provided his unique input of entrepreneurship in Georgia. The esteemed business consultant underscored that the most efficient key to success is being able to fail. In addition, US investor and Director of Equity for Developing World Markets, Aleem Remtula, told GEORGIA TODAY that youth have some keys for developing a good business strategy and entrepreneurs should learn from them. Keith Young, an Entrepreneur with considerable expertise in the publishing, communications and new technology industries, and Jan Dewijngaert, an investment officer of Belgium-based Incofin IM, emphasized some of the priorities

of the Georgian investment environment, stating Georgia is a comfortable place for investments and what the country needs is more confidence. Sharing their respective success stories, the businessmen suggested that it is just these next generations who can bolster Georgia’s entrepreneurship and advance the Georgian economy. This is not the first time for USAID to provide its unwavering support for advancing varied sectors in Georgia, ranging from democracy to economy, education and youth. Throughout over two decades of close ties, the US has assisted Georgia in transforming itself from a failed state into a success story in the region of the South Caucasus. And one of the instruments for implementing the US assistance in Georgia is USAID. Currently, viewing youth unemployment as one of the major social problems in EU-aspired Georgia, USAID has said another YES to Georgia to attack its vulnerability in the area of the youth and help them build a better future by transforming into a successful and prosperous generation.

Too many feral dogs? BY STEVEN SIMPSON


eral and roadside dogs are a common sight in Georgia. Driving through the countryside many can be seen along the way. Pull up anywhere and dogs will soon appear as if out of nowhere to approach and gently beg for food. Free-ranging dogs are also frequently encountered in the towns and cities and it is widely acknowledged that Tbilisi is not rabies free. Are there too many feral dogs? My view is that there are thankfully fewer than there could be, and, given that stray dogs can transmit rabies, perhaps more than there should be. Rabies is typically most frequent in areas with a high proportion of feral and unvaccinated and stray domestic dogs. Dog-transmitted rabies is responsible for 99% of human infections. Rabies is an acute, irreversible and almost invariably fatal disease, one of the oldest known infectious diseases in human history and a particular danger to children. Children playing with cats and dogs are especially at risk even if they are not bitten. The rabies virus can enter the human body through scratch lesions on the skin. The current UK health advice for travellers to Georgia regarding rabies is that the risk is higher for those going to remote areas (who may not be able to promptly access appropriate treatment in the event of a bite), for long stays, those at higher risk of contact with animals and bats, and children. You may find that your health care professional asks you to assess your own level of risk when you ask them for advice regarding precautionary vaccinations. Asking my Russian friend if he’d had the prophylactic rabies vaccination, his reply was, ‘Yes, of course, here we are visiting a country with urban rabies.’

Rabies is common in Russia and visitors from Russia may be more aware of the risk than visitors from the UK. There are certainly differences in the cultural appreciation of dogs between nations and the rising number of visitors to Georgia from the companion and ‘pet’ animal-focused nations in northern Europe are well advised to take care with free-ranging cats and dogs encountered on their travels in the Caucasus. Dogs are not the beginning and end of the problem in rabies control as many wild and domestic mammals, including cats, are known carriers and have been indicated in rabies epidemics, wild red foxes and domestic cattle being acutely susceptible to infection, yet dogs are highly visible and compound the dilemma by the mess they leave everywhere. Your tour guide may mentally thank you for checking your shoes before you climb into his new SUV. It is easy to be sentimental about dogs and a sensible integrated approach is necessary. Let’s be realistic - left uncontrolled, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in 6 years. A combination of neutering, vaccination (mandatory for domestic dogs and cats in many countries, and very expensive) and culling (stray animals should be euthanized to prevent the spread of rabies) is probably the best approach. Dog rabies is undeniably persistent and opportunistic. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 200 million feral and stray dogs worldwide and that every year 55,000 people die from rabies in Africa and Asia alone. As dogs are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths, the importance of rabid dogs cannot be overstated. Recent increases in human rabies deaths in parts of Africa, Asia and South America suggest that rabies is re-emerging as a serious public health issue. Continued on page 8




MARCH 4 - 7, 2016

ProCredit Bank Results of 2015 and Plans for 2016 ProCredit Bank Managment, David Gabelashvili, Ketevan Khuskivadze, and Alex Matua



he directors of the ProCredit Bank David Gabelashvili, Ketevan Khuskivadze and Alex Matua held a conference on March 1st, 2015 to submit an annual report and an action plan for 2016. From the beginning of 2015, the bank named development of small and medium business segments as its main priority. In terms of customer service improvement, it focused on distance services and its development. All branches were equipped with a modern 24/7 self-service space where clients can make all major banking operations. Procredit was the first bank to introduce a universal ATM with input and output function and modern equipment safe for business clients, saving their time and enabling them to have a large amount of money on their current account. Last year, the bank invested more than 4 million GEL in this direction. In addition to customer service improvement, ProCredit bank has a deep sense of social respon-

sibility and carried out a number of exhibition and sale activities with the money raised used to support disabled children and their families. The financial indicator of the bank for 2015 is: Customer accounts - 669 million GEL, Credit portfolio - 921 million GEL, and 2015 Net Income (IFRSstandards) 29 million GEL. Overall, 2015 was another successful year for the bank as it continued to provide reliable and socially responsible banking services to small and mediumsized enterprises and individuals. As for the bank’s 2016 plans, ProCredit aims to become a so-called House Bank for business clients and individuals with whom long term cooperation is and will be one of the most important issues. Staff development still remains one of the key aspects for bank; therefore, it is going to continue an intensive investment in its staff- with professional trainings, English language courses locally and abroad in ProCredit banks on-going. During 2016, ProCredit bank will be introducing innovative projects for existing and potential clients. This year will be no exception in terms of focusing on the development of the 24/7self-service space.

Boar Hunting in Georgia BY ROBERT COOPER


s we speed through the deserted roads of Tbilisi, we passed a flask of cognac around the car for a ceremonial pull. At 7:30 AM on a Saturday, these five guys all looked refreshed and well rested. What a rare sight to behold. At this hour, it would not be uncommon for any of us to be at Machakhela, finishing up some late night khinkali, after a night at DIVE bar. Instead, we were in a car, burdened with more guns than an ISIS Hilux on its way to battle. That said, as we all know, the standard Georgian can handle a hangover better than most. So I shouldn’t speculate on the number of libations my fellow passengers had imbibed the night before, or I. Then again, from harsh life experience, I knew there was nothing worse than trudging through the forest with a splitting headache and I wasn’t going to spend my very first Georgian hunting expedition wishing I was still in bed. So, like a responsible adult, I had gone to sleep before midnight, excited for next day’s adventure. Let me start with results of the hunt. Me: zero The hunt: one boar The fun: total. So how does the hunt work, you ask? After wine hour (aka breakfast), we pile back into our vehi-

cles and caravan from the lodge to hunting location. While en route, the guides have gone to pick up the dogs and then go to another location a couple of kilometers away from where we’ll be hunting. Once the hunters arrive at the designated spot, everyone forms a single file line, and, under orders from a guide, begin dropping off one by one. Some people are by a tree, some in a thicket of bushes, some literally up a tree. The dozen hunters end up forming a wobbling semicircle, each hunter being approximately 100 meters from the next. After about 45 minutes go by, you start to hear the dogs bawl. They’re on something. You sit perfectly still, hoping the pushers (pushers are the men who “push ” the dogs towards the hunters, thus forcing whatever animal is between the dogs and the hunters, towards the hunters) will encourage an animal in your direction. After about 5 hours, a guide walks through, sends us back to the vehicles and leads us to another location where the same process is repeated. Hunting in Georgia is not like back home (Texas, in case you’re interested). Then again, nothing is like it is back home, so why should I expect anything different? For instance, prior to your typical morning hunt in Texas, coffee would most certainly be served. Here, you get coffee, and WINE! But, in a way, that’s satisfying. Its visceral, real, and gets to the point. And hey, we got a boar! For more photos from the hunt, check out this article online at

Too many feral dogs? Continued from page 6

In the UK the course of precautionary vaccinations against rabies can be ordered at some cost from the nurse practitioner at the doctor’s surgery, three shots are given over a minimum of 21 days, with an additional booster inoculation after 1 year. In Russia the precautionary vaccines and boosters

can be bought comparatively cheaply over the counter at the pharmacy for self-administration. The moral, if you are looking for one, is be aware, take care and enjoy your stay. Steven Simpson is a consultant invasive mammal manager and technical author




From Journalism to Vampires, a Local Fiction Translator Tells All


na Chichinadze is a former TV, radio and press journalist who has now turned her hand to translating some of the most popular fiction from English into Georgian. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Ana to find out more.

HOW DID YOU END UP A TRANSLATOR? I studied communications management in the Netherlands, at the Dutch campus of the American Webster University and returned to Georgia to work on a major movie project (George Ovashvili’s Corn Island) as a production coordinator and communications manager. After two years of unimaginably hard work and the successful premier of the film, I decided to move towards doing what I longed for - translating fiction.

SO YOU ALWAYS KNEW YOU WANTED TO BE A FICTION TRANSLATOR… Since I started reading (at the age of 7) I mostly enjoyed foreign literature, fiction in particular, and I’ve always thought that translators were the coolest people in the world (Ok. One of the coolest). Even though I chose to study journalism, I’ve always kept thinking about translating. A couple of years ago, I decided to seriously give it a try. I sent a couple of

pages of my translation of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ to Sulakauri Publishing House. Luckily, they approved it and I was given my first ever novel. It was K.R. Davies’ Blood Omen (‘Vampire Wars’ in Georgian).

WHICH HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE BOOK TO TRANSLATE AND WHY? Blood Omen! Because it was my first ever translation and it was my first ever vampire book and because it’s just cool. It’s like a thriller, with a lot of action and, when translating it, I felt like I was really part of the story, right in the middle of the plot. Strange, isn’t it?

NAME SOME OF YOUR MOST RECENT PROJECTS My latest translation is the first book of Vampire Diaries, which is also the first ever translation in Georgian and will probably be published very soon now. Now I’m working on the second book of the same series and looking forward to getting my hands on the third part of the Blood Omen (my translation of Book 2 was released last year).


It’s a lot of fun. The emotions, comments, excitement and longing coming from the teenagers and young adults who are expecting or have already read my translations are so fulfilling. It makes me immensely happy to see that “kids” enjoyed each book and are waiting for more. First of all this means that they will keep on reading other books and genres and that they’re already hooked on reading and learning through books. It also shows me that they found the translated text smooth, easy to understand and relevant to their language – so my mission is accomplished. That said, I do hear the occasional “when are you going to get serious?” and people expecting me to translate Milton or something, something heavier and more classical. But it’s not fair at all, because I don’t think it’s right to label books as serious or less serious. If a person enjoys a text, it means it gives him/ her something, at the very least good vibes, thoughts about love, friendship and relationships, or a sense of the values of life. What else do you need a young adult to think about? At times I feel like I’m a bridge to what young people, the new generation, wants to read now. I get to experience what teenagers all around the world get excited about and it feels very fresh and cool and very up to date.

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT TRANSLATING? Finding the right tone to the story, sensing the writer’s attitude and translating it into another language accurately. It’s also a challenge to keep the characters sounding exactly the same in a totally different type of language. It’s also important to keep balance and stay neutral and think about what the author wants to say, not what you think would look best in a certain chapter or scene.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE BOOK MARKET IN GEORGIA FOR TRANSLATED BOOKS? Considering the fact that books are not cheap in Georgia, it’s nice to see people still buying them with a lot of enthusiasm, especially teenagers, students and young adults- in particular translated literature. Georgian readers are very keen on readying everything new, fresh and popular, something that is still warm, just out from the large publishing houses in the USA. The readers are making their own requests of the local publishing houses, which is an amazing thing. I think that keeps the business going in such a turbulent finan-

cial situation as we have here now. As for e-books, the number of online readers is still quite low, even though e-books are much cheaper to buy.

HOW DO YOU SEE THE BOOK MARKET IN GEORGIA FOR TEEN (VAMPIRE) FICTION? I think vampire fiction owns a relatively small segment in the local market as yet, because it’s still new, but growing. As for general teen fiction, I remember crazily long queues at the Biblus shops when ‘Geek Girl’ was first published and it wasn’t the only such case. Modern Georgian teenagers are just awesome.

YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE A CREATIVE VOICE. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED WRITING ANYTHING OF YOUR OWN? Well, I have tried. But I don’t really have time for it at the moment. I have two major stories developing and I add a few chapters to both of them occasionally. My dilemma is that I write both in English and Georgian and some chapters are in English and some are in Georgian. A big mess, as you can imagine. And no, it’s not vampire fiction.




MARCH 4 - 7, 2016

Painting the World, from Georgia to Malaysia and Beyond Malaysia and was very successful - all her friends joined, and just like Georgia, soon the number of members expanded to hundreds! Last summer the Paint the World project got a GoMAD grant, and our team organized events in France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Malaysia. This year we plan to extend to India, Hong Kong and Pakistan.




ika Torikashvili, an undergraduate student of UWC Atlantic College, has been working to change the world along with her foreign and native friends since the age of 14. From an early age, she has felt an ardent wish to help children who needed it most and accomplished her dream by starting the venture ‘Paint the World’ which soon took on a global dimension. GEORGIA TODAY met up with Lika and spoke to her about her aims.

LIKA, WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START YOUR INITIATIVE? DOES YOUR WORK FOCUS ON CHILDREN WITH CANCER OR OTHERS IN NEED? I always wanted to do something for the local community in Tbilisi, but didn’t know how I could be useful, how I could contribute. I saw a lot of poverty and sadness around me, and at some point I thought “instead of waiting for the government to deal with everything, why don’t we, young Georgians, unite and start something useful together?” The first event was in Iashvili Hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia, on the 12th of September 2012, with only 10 participants. The idea was very simple - I gathered my friends and asked if they would like to go to Iashvili hospital with me, to amuse and entertain

the patients. We tried do bring “colors” to their lives by dancing, singing, playing games and painting. Everyone could contribute, no matter what talents they had. It was easy and fun, and so effective that, by the end of the session, I knew that we had to continue”painting the world” of not only children with cancer, but of everyone who needs those colors. Orphanages, retirement homes, hospitals… we made a movement which aimed to connect young Georgians with the idea that everyone can make a change and do something good.

YOU WERE CHOSEN TO ATTEND UWC ATLANTIC COLLEGE. WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING THERE? Getting a scholarship and going to UWC Atlantic College was the biggest success I’ve had so far. This college unites motivated and passionate students from all over the world. We study the IB (international baccalaureate) but alongside that, we learn how to be the change-makers and future leaders of our countries. It’s a very special place.

DO YOUR FOREIGN CLASSMATES WORK WITH YOU IN THE NGO? After meeting people from all around the globe and telling the story of “Paint the World”, many got excited and decided to join and soon the idea of making Paint the World a global NGO began to come true. The second Paint the World branch was created by my best friend Aziza Aznizan in Miri,

Georgia is my home, and a part of me will always be in Tbilisi, where I grew up and where Paint the World started. I want to give back to my country, to come back a better person, who will be able to make a change and support people here. I always feel that I have to give back to my country, so even when I am far away, I try to do something that makes me feel like I am a good representative of Georgia. One of the most important projects I organized in our country was a Project Week in Georgia, supported and sponsored by the

Georgian Government. I wanted to show my foreign friends the roots of the movement. 20 students from more than 15 countries visited Georgia to get to know our culture and work with Paint the World. We met and got support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Diaspora, the Vice Speaker of Georgia, and had the honor of meeting the Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II, who blessed us and supported our movement. My Georgian friends met my international friends and they exchanged ideas and cultures. I was proud to see how my Georgian friends started seeing the world from a different perspective. We managed to unite all the painters of the world, Jewish and Muslim, Black and White, all in a tiny country that many people have never heard of. Georgia became the platform for all of these incredible events, which makes me very proud of my country! After Atlantic College I plan to continue my studies in the US, and come back to Georgia as a young politician. Wish me luck!

The English - Speaking Union ინგლისურ ენაზე მოლაპარაკეთა კავშირი Creating global understanding through English Patron: Her Majesty The Queen President: HRH The Princess Anne Invites 16-20 year old young Speakers to take part in the

Public Speaking Competition SPONSORED BY

The theme of the competition is “Integrity has no need of Rules”. Speakers may interpret this theme in any way they see fit, but they should not use the theme as their title. Each speaker will be allocated 5 minutes. The competition will be held in two rounds. The first round, March 14, at the English Language Centre “British Corner” (Vake Park). The second round will be held on 29th of March. The theme of the second round will be announced later. The competition is sponsored by the Bank of Georgia and British Petroleum ESU – Georgia will send the lucky winner to London in May to take part in the finals and organize 5 day stay in England. The deadline for registration is March 11. Contact us: The English Language Centre “British Corner”, Vake Park (entrance from I. Abashidze St.). Tel.: 557 400033, 5 77 477050; 5 55 302512 E mail:;



Riho for Lunch: Etseri, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER


ell, I never expected that to go viral. It’s just a short video clip of my new Canadian friends (about whom I wrote last week) and I singing the first verse of a Svan song which they had just taught me. I posted the thing on my guest house Facebook page and, now at roughly fifty thousand views a week or so later, it’s in a category which I’ve never applied to any of my posts before this. Huh. Riho, my village’s choir, which has twice gone to France to tour and cut CDs of their singing, came over a few days ago to join the Canadians, record some songs upstairs in the nice quite Venetian living room, and have a bite. My wife’s in Tbilisi for a few more days, so it was a modest meal, but we managed to make it a proper supra in any case, with a 5L bottle of Kakhetian wine brought along. As I was cooking, I heard the wonderful harmonies coming down through the ceiling, as though a serious throng of


From left to right: Mark Rylance (Best Supporting Actor), Brie Larson (Best Leading Actress), Leonardo DiCaprio (Best Leading Actor) and Alicia Vikander (Best Supporting Actress)/© Getty Images

Oscars 2016 Hits an 8 Year Low angels were serenading me. Over the meal, some rather strong opinions were voiced about certain various villages in Upper Svaneti, their collections of “local” songs, and who has the right or duty to make these known and even to profit from their singing and teaching. Seems that Etseri has the most of these songs, but that some other villages’ singers have taken them and gone the route to filthy lucre in the process. It’s certainly something to which neither my Canadian friends nor I can add anything useful, being outsiders and far too ignorant of the last few centuries’ history of songs in this province. So all we could do was nod, hmm and otherwise not disagree. Toasts were punctuated with many more songs and, this time surrounded by the voices in their wild harmonies, I found myself wanting only to shut my eyes so as not to be distracted by the visual, just to drink in the river of sweet sounds washing over and around me. I had really only previously heard Riho at funerals, singing one or two standard numbers for the dead, but this was a much more joyful and profound experience. I recorded a few of the songs, as had been done upstairs too, and these too will find their way online, as the members have requested and allowed. The group has existed as such for more than 40 years, and longer than that by other names, with quite a few of those

five present able to say they have been a part of it for most of that time. They have been to other countries in Europe as well, from as far back as the communist period, when they would have been tightly controlled to avoid defections. But it’s hard to recruit new members now, so the current average age must be in the 50s somewhere, unfortunately. New blood, where are you? Badly needed, but wasting yourself in hard drinking and other voice-wrecking activities! My Canadian friend’s doctoral thesis on this singing is a badly needed document, on which he is working hard. It will add some considerable weight and volume to the information available in English on the subject, and I hope it becomes available as a properly published book, to further its popularity and enlarge its audience. We’ve had a masterly tome on Georgian literature already, in my language, so this has its place. If there is a heaven, I believe that cultures won’t be lost up there, and that Georgians will have a high place among the various choirs making up the Heavenly Host. Deservedly. Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 members, at He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:



t’s pretty clear, award shows are going down! The Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys, the VMAs, the People’s Choice Awards… The latest editions of all the major ceremonies suffered huge rating declines throughout the year. While drawing millions of viewers may not exactly be regarded as a failure, the steady decrease of viewership is something the shows’ producers need to fix soon. Frankly, I can hardly remember writing an article about an award ceremony that saw an expansion of its audience and, apparently, the 88th Academy Awards was no exception. The 2016 Oscars had the lowest ratings since 2008, drawing only 34.4 million viewers in the US. The credit for the ratings slip was quickly claimed by the boycotters of the show, who refused to watch the telecast due to the absence of non-white nominees. On the contrary, numerous social media users named the general format of the show as the main reason for the low turnout, while some panned Chris Rock’s hosting, criticizing him for “speaking about nothing else other than race issues”. Speaking of the host, according to the critics he did pretty well. Most reviewers praised Rock for directly tackling the diversity issue, calling his humor “brave” and “gasp-inducing”. However, his jokes

involving Asian kids came under severe fire by many reputable publications: “There was a lack of diversity in the lack of diversity. This became most apparent when Rock brought three Asian children to the stage, posing as bankers from finance firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers,” remarked Jessica Contrera of The Washington Post. Moving on to the winners, Leonardo DiCaprio finally managed to break his unlucky cycle of nominations with a well-deserved Best Leading Actor win for ‘The Revenant.’ Brie Larson took home the trophy for the Best Leading Actress, while Alicia Vikander and Mark Rylance were victorious in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories respectively. The night’s biggest honor, Best Picture, went to ‘Spotlight,’ a biographical crime drama about The Boston Globes’ journalist investigation unit of the same name. As for the most wins, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ easily managed to race past the others with 6 Oscars (Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Make-up and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing). Despite the ratings slip, the 2016 Oscars still managed to be in the center of the world’s attention with Leonardo DiCaprio’s win setting a new Twitter record and #Oscars trending on nearly every social media platform. Don’t forget to check out the full list of winners at




MARCH 4 - 7, 2016

In PPP We Trust – Georgia Medical Situation About to Get (Much) Better BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


eorgian clinics are about (in a relative term) to get a lot closer to European standards. Three major hospitals are to get a complete overhaul as part of an ambitious reformative project, which, among other things, promises to reduce the healthcare costs by 30 %. The hospitals in question are the Central Republican Hospital, the Tbilisi Oncology Center and the Khliani Children’s Infectious Disease Hospital. In this ambitious undertaking, Georgia’s state-owned shareholding company, the Partnership Fund (PF) is teaming up with AlphaMedic Consortium and Georgia’s Ministry of Labor Health and Social Affairs. The Georgian and Austrian sides met several times in Tbilisi to discuss the ‘Tbilisi Cluster Healthcare PPP Transformation Project.’ The project, tailored by AlphaMedic Consortium to the government tender to improve Georgia’s primary healthcare services, is set to be put into motion as early as the end of the month. The representatives of AlphaMedic Consortium said the company was ready to invest 250 million GEL to rehabilitate the three hospitals. According Minister’s statement the total cost of the project was expected to reach about 0.5 billion GEL, which the agreement stated would be jointly covered by the tender-winning company and the PF. Behind all this mundane trivia though is a rather intriguing factor - the way the Austrians intend going to go about it. The Vienna-based sector focus is healthcare Public Private Partnerships (PPP). In more accessible words, it’s a value for money, performance based contract that sees the winning company obliged to attract investments and create a development plan for the three hospitals. Furthermore, AlphaMedic Consortium must design, construct and reconstruct the State’s medical clinics so they meet European standards, including equipping them with high-quality medical technology. To give you more insight on how AlphaMedic Consortium is going to reinvigorate Georgia’s primary care system and why the PPP approach is a win for every party involved, GEORGIA TODAY was privileged to have an EXCLUSIVE interview with the mind behind Alphamedic’s tender bid – Mr. Leo McKenna. A man with vast experience and knowledge in all things related to PPP, McKenna boasts an impeccable work record spanning more than two decades, with highlights including Ireland’s first and only PPP hospital; the largest project ever successfully delivered in the region’s history. Mr. McKenna was kind enough to offer his insights on the “massive Georgian project” he and his team are about to tackle. “It’s an innovative solution for Georgia,” he says, “a compelling project both intellectually and commercially- from healthcare planning to conceptual design.” Compelling is an understatement as the parties have to devise a funding solution to ensure the project’s financial viability. After that, the actual construction will begin, which McKenna believes is to last around three years. The Austrian company is going to “look after things” for 25 years, the duration of the agreed operational term. It’s a lot of responsibility. And the lion’s share of this responsibility, McKenna insists, lies with Alpamedic. “Within the PPP model, the risk is transferred from the public sector to the private one,” McKenna told us. “So all risks – be it design or constructionrelated, or financial and operational risks- rest with the private sector partner.

Leo McKenna, A man with vast experience and knowledge in all things related to Public Private Partnerships

The fundamental principle of PPP is that each party should manage the risks it is best able to manage. For example, the demand risk, like how many beds the hospital should have, lies with the public sector and is a planning function of the Ministry of Health. The delivery capability, the reality sits with the private sector.” It sounds like a big commitment. But apparently commitment is what both McKenna and Alphamedic clearly have in mind with regards their Georgian future. The Alphamedic man plainly states that he and his company want to build “a lasting legacy.” “We would love to make it long-term. Alphamedic is looking to build a strategic relationship with the Ministry of Health and the Partnership Fund – to be the partner of choice when it comes to developing medical infrastructure projects,” he says. However, AlphaMedic Consortium is also a commercial organization, so it will obviously also be looking for return in investment. As things stand, the cluster project is a joint venture project together with the Partnership Fund- 40 percent of the project funding is covered equally by the Partnership Fund and Alphamedic, and the remaining 60 percent would be taken from the bank. McKenna is convinced that there would be no shortage of potential lenders. He backs it with the extensive financial and market analysis his company carried out, regarding the risks, ahead of the project. “Our solution is financially viable. That’s all cold hard numbers, no emotion. We’ve done a lot of modeling, from both financial and operational perspectives. It’s a forecast with very prudent predictions and assumptions. And it tells us that the demand is there,” he says. His optimism is hard to argue with as he rips through the potential challenges and setbacks with the self-belief of a man who’s been there, done that. And he clearly has faith in his Georgian colleagues, too. “Two fundamental pillars that the project needs to be built on – the logistics know-how and the funding, which are already there,” he says. “We are confident in our Georgian partners, in their integrity and transparency and in their commitment to positive development. With all projects of this sort, normally, bureaucracy is your worst enemy, and the only antidote to that is decision-making, and we believe it’s here in this case.” Bureaucracy really might not be a problem, and both the previous and incumbent governments have strived to ensure that much. Not so rosy in other areas though – a ruthless oligopoly is just about the kindest description of Georgia’s pharmacy market you might hear these days and some of those are already voicing discontent in fear of what government might come up with next. McKenna says they will listen – and theoretically,

cooperate with – only those who offer value for money. “It’s not just a business,” he declares. “We aren’t just looking to make money, as many other providers do, we are beyond that. We want to be strategic partners for the government and people of Georgia.” He says they will be trying to employ local companies and people at every opportunity and every stage of the project. “It works for us as well – local people understand the situation on the ground better than we do. So, for example, when we start with the construction competition, we will be looking at the companies here in Georgia.” Expect high standards and prerequisites. And a thorough examination of a job done, too. McKenna and Alphamedic clearly aren’t the kind that turn a blind eye to sloppy work. Very much on the contrary, Alphamedic will be employing international assessment teams to ensure that everything is “as it was stated in the contract”. This is, for example, a routine procedure with the hospitals. “Before the hospital is accepted by the PPP Company, we will have independent verification that it has been built according to the specifications stated in the contract- a professional third party assessment carried out. We’ll announce a competition on that as well, to get the best possible price.” states McKenna, stressing that the ultimate focus of the project is to improve the overall healthcare situation and the primary care in particular. Hard to argue with that – no less than 247 primary care facilities are attached to this project, which would significantly improve the health situation of communities, especially in the regions.

TO SUMMARIZE, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PPP AND WHY IS IT GOOD FOR GEORGIA? “The biggest benefit of PPPs is that they are performance-based and generally result in better value for money. Because you have competitive tension at all stages of the supply chain. It guarantees the cost-effective solution and accelerates the delivery. 96 percent of the PPP’s finish ahead of or on time as, in case of a delay, they will have to start repaying the bank, while the government doesn’t have to,” McKenna said. “And on the other hand, if they finish ahead of time, they get the money with a nice interest rate and don’t have to pay the bank before it’s due, so it’s a significant saving. With respect to the operational period, which is 25 years in our case – we build it in 3 years and we operate it for 25 years – during this period, if the hospital doesn’t meet the standards envisioned in the contract, the PPP Company has to fix it with its own resources, otherwise it will not get paid. So all of these risks, which currently sit with the public sector, are transferred to the PPP.”

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In Favor of Returning an Interesting World IRMA KAKHURASHVILI


everal months ago, the Italian translation of the poetry collection titled Echo by the Georgian poet Dato Maghradze, received a high literary appraisal. The presentation of the book took place at one of the remarkable fortresses of Rome called Castel of Sant Angelo, at the hall named after Paulina. This pleasant cultural occasion once again proved that the European intellectual society eagerly watches the creative works of the Georgian poet.

MR. MAGHRADZE, AS FAR AS I KNOW, THE POETRY LOVERS OF A LOT OF FOREIGN COUNTRIES ARE INTERESTED IN YOUR VERSES. Yes. Besides Italy, a big part of my creative life is connected with Turkey, where the collection Salve was released first and, recently, another book was published by publishing house Babil. I also actively collaborate with the local magazine Shair Chiqmaz. Salve and Giacomo Ponti were released in Russia, too, where I collaborate with Russian literary magazines such as Aurora and where I have a very nice translator – poet Nikolai Gol. I have contacts with England, too. In London, Giacomo Ponti and Footsteps on Water were published, the latter being the analogue of the Italian Echo. Genoa International Poetry Festival of 2003 is what I consider to be a starting point of my relationship with Italy. Several of my rhymes were translated for this event into Italian by the literary worker Nunu Geladze who lives in Milan. I found myself alongside such names as Wole Soyinka, Tonino Guerra, Yevgeny Evtushenko and Bernard Noel. They got interested by my creative works and very soon my collaboration with the publisher Fabricio Facari was capped with the Italian translation of the collection Salve. The latter was reviewed by Guerra. Later, I published Giacomo Ponti in Italian which was then brought into the curriculum of the Don Bosko School itself on the initiative of Juliano Ladolf.

YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF POETS AND ARTISTS OF THE USA, AS WELL AS A MEMBER OF THE WORLD ACADEMY FOR POETRY, AND OWNER OF NUMEROUS AWARDS INCLUDING THE MEDAL OF THE POPE OF ROME. DOES SUCH PUBLIC ACCLAIM IMPLY ADDITIONAL POETIC RESPONSIBILITY? The responsibility arrives as soon as your first line is published, and it is of course much bigger when it comes to the international spotlight. However, my biggest victory is when my compatriot shares something that I have felt and discovered. Nevertheless, I have never felt myself to be remote from the world in spite of the fact that I have always been a citizen of the country that was not fully involved in international relations.

I believe that no matter what degree of political independence a country might have, the art world has no boundaries. Aiming to find readers, the English poet will face the same route as the French one. Human beings understand each other well and if the necessary charge is there, representatives of all continents can reach out their voices to us.

THE ARTISTIC WORD IS NOT MERELY A MEANS OF SELF-EXPRESSION. WHAT ABOUT YOUR WORDS? Art is born from compassion and not from selfesteem. Epatage, being upstart and getting involved in the fashionable trends is just an easy way to reach a temporary popularity. A word serves the search for truth. One follows one’s destiny, determining it himself/herself, and in this struggle between the transient world and an individual, your own searching route for truth is cut out.

WHICH ARE THE VALUES THAT WE CAN COUNT ON? In the modern world, not only in Georgia, but elsewhere, the universe is losing soulfulness and contentedness. The political and elite conjunctures define what to draw attention to, something that is so easy in our era thanks to technologies and communications. However, I also have a feeling that the birth of a new epoch will return the moral, eternal values and Mankind will come to a great agreement – an era of big concordat has begun. Europe is a very deep and multicolored world where the citizens are no less faithful to the eternal values than us, and they serve the system of those values that renaissance stipulates. We are not only going back to our home – Europe, but the latter itself is getting back to that inner world and soulfulness that was so amply present in European Renaissance. As a matter of fact, the human history of restraint from instinct has turned it from primitive society into a history of culture. Why was a human being restraining itself? What kind of values and spirituality did he/she create and how? All these things shape the character of national cultures. However, as a counterbalance to it, a great “freeing” has emerged. A human being decided to find freedom from everything and it turned out that he/she, on behalf of non-complexness and progressivity, began to move towards the primitive instincts again. Perhaps Georgian society is strong enough not to free itself from freedom by maintaining its traditions and history of culture nowadays? In this way, we will be attractive and interesting for Europe.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT THE POPULARIZATION OF CULTURE? As it is useless to try to popularize Georgian wine by falsified wine production, the same goes with the pulp fiction and worthless translation – it will do no good and bring no respect to the Georgian literature and culture. In my opinion, there has always been and there still is an appropriate resource for the proper presentation of Georgian culture in the universe.





MARCH 4 - 7, 2016


GRIBOEDOVI THEATRE Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 March 4 STORM A. Ostrovsky Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Small Stage Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari March 5 English Detective AGATHA CHRISTIE Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Grand Stage Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari March 6 TALE OF KING SALTAN Directed by Avtandil Varsimashvili Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN’S THEATRE Address: 99/1 Agma March 6 THE ROYAL COW Directed by Guram Bregadze Small Stage Language: Russian Start time: 13:00 Ticket price: From 6 Lari

Directed by Goga Kachibaia Small Stage English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 5 Lari

Cast: Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Bercot, Louis Garrel Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari

MARJANISHVILI THEATRE Address: 5 Marjanishvli St. Telephone: 2 95 59 66

TRIPLE 9 Directed by John Hillcoat Genre: Crime, Thriller Cast: Teresa Palmer, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot Language: Russian Start time: 19:30, 22:15 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari

March 4 THE STAR WITHOUT A NAME Mihail Sebastian Directed by Levan Tsuladze Grand Stage English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: From 6 Lari CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari March 4-10 BY THE SEA Directed by Angelina Jolie Genre: Drama Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mélanie Laurent Language: Russian Start time: 16:50 Ticket price: 11-12 Lari

ILIAUNI THEATRE Address: 32 a Chavchavadze Ave. Telephone: 2 29 47 15

SPOTLIGHT Directed by Tom McCarthy Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams Genre: Biography, Drama, History Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari


MON ROI Directed by Maïwenn Genre: Drama, Romance

HAIL, CAESAR! Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Genre: Comedy, Mystery Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson Language: Russian Start time: 14:00, 19:30 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00



Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES Directed by Burr Steers Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston Genre: Action, Horror, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 17:10 Ticket price: 13-14 Lari TRIPLE 9 (Info Above) Start time: 14:30, 16:45, 20:00, 22:35 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari HAIL, CAESAR! (Info Above) Start time: 17:30, 20:00, 22:15 Ticket price: 9-14 Lari




TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 March 9 ANDREI MAKAREVICH Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 30-75 Lari

ZURAB TSERETELI MUSEUM OF MODERN ART Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 14 84 11, 2 98 60 04

THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA Address: 77 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 55 22 22


March 4 LOUDSPEAKERS Start time: 18:00 Entry: Free




The Surreal World from the Eyes of an Ushguli Artist BY LIKA CHIGALDZE


ver heard of Ushguli? It’s the highest inhabited place in Europe and Georgia’s most remote region of Svaneti. Among the houses that sparsely top the ragged terrain, there is one that serves as home to a mysterious man – 72-year-old painter extraordinaire Fridon Nizharadze. In the village named Chazhashi, which is part of the Ushguli community, life is an uphill battle: electricity and water shortages are constant challenges and the place is almost inaccessible in winter due to disastrous road conditions. It’s probably the last place you’d expect an impressionist artist to pop up. Yet the man in question grew up and still lives here, in this isolated place, with little to no interest in the benefits of our tech-savvy era. He doesn’t even use a cell phone, yet his brush is responsible for creating world-wise, diverse and progressive works of art. Fridon’s bright, scintillatingly colored artworks are laced with Georgian motives and abound with allegories, symbolics and hidden meanings, and there is an unmistakable ubiquity to all of them – that of a master who learned his trade without tutelage. Some call it psychedelic surrealism, yet his vision is undoubtedly yet another stepping stone in Georgian art. As often happens, the reclusive painter is virtually unknown and we at GEORGIA TODAY, fascinated with what we saw, decided to start setting this regrettable fact to rights. As he himself states, he never had an exhibition and he paints for his own pleasure. We spoke to Fridon’s brother Teimuraz, who lives with him, and asked him to share the painter’s story, since Fridon himself is something of a hermit and rarely interacts with others. “My brother started drawing before he started school. He used to head outdoors, sit there alone and draw landscapes. Bela Berdzenishvili, a fellow painter, visited Svaneti once and when she saw Fridon’s paintings was so amazed that she gifted him his first palette. He’s self-taught, but later enrolled at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. He spent three years serv-

ing in the army in Kazakhstan in the 1970s and upon returning, entered the art academy. He was always a breed apart from everyone and still is. After graduating in 1973, he chose not to stay in the city and returned to his village. He used to be a guardian of the icons and other valuable items kept at the 6th century Church of Christ in Chazhashi village - listed among UNESCO heritage sites - before they were moved to the museum. He is somewhat of a philosopher, too, chiding us locals all the while for ‘only thinking about growing potatoes.’ When we were young, this wasn’t exactly a behavior that was encouraged by the government. His negative opinions regarding Lenin and the Soviet Union didn’t help and he sometimes found himself in trouble with the Soviet government. To his credit, though, never in his life did he renounce his belief – he is stubborn to a fault and I think this helped, too.”

FRIDON WAS ONCE PLACED IN AN ASYLUM IN TBILISI. Yes. He spent several months there and, as he himself claims, was drained of great amounts of blood and given lots of pills. The way he behaved, lived and painted was not acceptable to the general standards established by the communist government. Subsequently, everyone perceived him as a madman. Those were, as he calls it, dark ages in our country. Dissenting opinions were prosecuted and regarded as a mental disorder. Sometimes even Fridon’s own family members, including myself and relatives with whom he stayed in Tbilisi, could not understand what he wanted to convey through his paintings. For instance, when he drew a man with a single eye, similar to a cyclops, people would react negatively and say that it wasn’t normal. We wanted him to draw standard things; personally, I told him to paint ordinary towers of Svaneti - something that we could understand - instead of the strange things. Now I regret saying that, honestly. He would always answer that he couldn’t stop the unusual ideas coming to his mind day and night; he said he had to release them by transferring them onto paper. And then he went and painted collapsed and ruined towers and there were some who took it as a very bad omen. People didn’t



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really appreciate it. This hostility left a mark on both his life and personality. Today, he is a well-respected person and everyone in the village knows him. He never exhibited his works, though; he thinks it’s expensive and a hassle.

WHEN DID HIS PAINTINGS CATCH THE ATTENTION OF TOURISTS? His paintings were discovered in the 1990s. We hung some banners along the nearby roads indicating the location of our house and have been hosting tourists ever since. Tourism became our

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, Will Cathcart, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze

main source of income. In addition, we sold Fridon’s paintings very cheaply. Now we have only a couple left, and we aren’t selling them anymore. Tourists love Fridon’s works. Unfortunately, my brother doesn’t have the same energy to create new works of art as he had before. However, recently he was sent new pencils and drawing utensils from Poland that somehow gave him a bit of stimulus to create small works. He is a bit apathetic now - life treated him cruelly and now he has lost interest in almost everything. Most of the time he just sits there, sad, lost in his thoughts,

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but there are glimpses when he is in good spirits. He works at the local museum as a guide and earns his living that way. We have a few heads of cattle, but tourism and Fridon’s salary serve as the main source of income. Although it’s very hard to live in such a remote place in the mountains, I would still take it over life in a city any day. And if I dare to address the people responsible through your paper, the local population would be grateful if the government paid better attention to such villages and helped us improve our living conditions.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #823  

March 04 - 07, 2016

Issue #823  

March 04 - 07, 2016