Issue no: 1148/179
• MAY 7 - 9, 2019
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2
Financial & Construction Sectors out of Spring Vibes! ISET PAGE 4
International Conference on Cyber Crime & Legal Compliance BUSINESS PAGE 7
ON EUROPE DAYS OPENING
Georgia celebrates progress on its path to the EU
Dinner In The Sky® To Offer Its Renowned Unique Dining Experience in Georgia!
Georgian Real Estate Development Market Trends BUSINESS PAGE 9
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
Building a Strong & United Nation: Learning from the Israeli Experience
he National Statistics Office of Georgia (GeoStat) published preliminary economic statistics last week for March 2019. Numbers for economic growth showed a marked slowdown in construction and real estate development. Starting in 2018, the development sector has been on a slow downward slope, reaching 3.1% negative growth. GeoStat also released specific numbers on construction in the country. Continued on page 3
BUSINESS PAGE 14
Georgians Countrywide Protest Animal Circuses Image source: Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia
SOCIETY PAGE 15 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
COMMODITIES CrudeOil,Brent(US$/bbl) GoldSpot(US$/OZ)
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Former Economy Minister Kobulia Says He Was Dismissed @entrepreneur.ge Gamarjoba! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgian edition of Entrepreneur magazine and I’m here to share the top weekly Entrepreneurial news with you: The company Meama is to present the first Georgian coffee machine under the same brand name. The enterprise, launched with a 40 million GEL investment, announced several new products last year: coffee capsules for the coffee machine, Turkish coffee in single-use bags, as well as coffee beans in 250g and 1kg packaging. The capsule coffee concept is innovative in Georgia and has no rivals on the country’s market. The company is focused on high standards and the quality of its products. Meama aims to popularize coffee culture locally and eventually move into the international markets. Mzetamze, a bread-producing company using Georgian wheat varieties, has implemented the HACCP system of food safety standards. The company obtained certification regarding the absence of biologically created, chemical or physical risks and in approval of the safety of its products, having satisfied all HACCP requirements. Mzetamze has been producing bread for several years and moved to a new, modernly equipped factory last year. The founders are proud to produce bread with unique and traditional methods, using 100% Georgian materials free of any additional chemicals. Georgian beer Aneta is joining new markets. The exclusive beer, produced in limited quantities of just 400-500 bottles annually, will soon be introduced to Italian customers. Currently, it is available only in Japan and the USA and is not sold in Georgia. Founder Iago Bitarishvili states that the local market is not among the upcoming plans. Beer is produced in limited amounts because it is prepared using biologically pure products and is not targeted for mass production. Aneta beer is produced with Georgian barley and wheat, as well as wild hops. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on email@example.com
BY THEA MORRISON
ormer Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Giorgi Kobulia, who was replaced by his First Deputy Natia Turnava on April 18, says that his resignation was not his decision and that he was dismissed. “Resignation is when you write a statement that you are quitting, but I did not do so, which is why I say that I was dismissed,” he told Forbes Georgia. The ex-Minister explained that the main reason for his dismissal was a difference in views with the governmental team. “From the very beginning, I felt our visions were dissimilar…I was asked to quit but I refused because I was hoping I would manage to convince the government that my views were correct, but as you see, I was unable to do so,” he noted. He stated that he had consulted Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze and then founder and chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili. “I don’t want to go into detail, but in general there were some issues which were more political than oriented on results. I was against such decisions and did not make them,” he explained. Kobulia said he could not share views which were “damaging,” or which failed to bring economic profit to the country, but he was unable to push his ideas because he didn’t have enough support from the ruling team. Regarding the PM’s comment about Kobulia’s resignation, where he mentioned the “slow pace” of decision-making and the need for a better “operational manner,” the ex-minister says it came as a surprise for him.
Image source: ipress.ge
“The slow pace of making correct decisions was one of the reasons for [my] conflict [with them]; I wanted to make the right decisions quickly, but I didn’t have enough support,” he stressed. Kobulia also said he should have thought more carefully before accepting the Minister’s post in July 2018. “I should have learnt more about the ‘rules of the game’ and then decided if I agreed with them or not,” he said. The former Minister said he “did his best” during his term in the cabinet, adding that if Parliament wishes, he will present them a report of his activities. Kobulia added that he is as yet undecided which sector he will continue working in – politics or economics. “I will make this decision later, but I think it will be economics. I would like to thank all the people I worked with
during my eight months in the ministry. It was a great experience for me,” he said. Kobulia’s former deputy and current Minister, Natia Turnava, said she is now well-aware of the details the ex-Minister spoke of. “The tasks that we were given, including from the Prime Minister, were that the pace needed stepping up and I had no problem with that. The rest of the details were not known to me,” she said. Turnava said the PM noted that those who cannot “keep up with the team, will no longer be part of it.” “It is simple: every project should be completed on time and there should be no delays or late decisions,” she added. Giorgi Kobulia was appointed as the Minister of Economy on July 12, 2018 and was dismissed on April 18, 2019.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 7 - 9, 2019
PM: Georgian Diplomas to Be Recognized in EU BY THEA MORRISON
eorgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze says Georgian diplomas will be in line with European standards and will be recognized in the European Union countries. The PM made the statement during his speech at the event celebrating the accession of the National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement into the European Association for Quality Assurance (ENQA), which promotes European co-operation in the field of quality assurance in higher education and disseminates information and expertise among its members and stakeholders in order to develop and share good practice and to foster the European dimension of quality assurance. The ENQA, formerly the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, was established as an organization to represent quality assurance and accreditation for organizations from the European Higher Education Area and internationally. Before being accepted or being reconfirmed as a member, an applicant agency must satisfy the Board that it meets the criteria for membership: the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher
Image source: PM’s Press Office
Education Area (ESG). Bakhtadze praised the accession to the ENQA as a “historic event” marking Georgia's decisive and far-reaching step towards top standards of higher education. “We can state without exaggeration
that, given the idea of national importance announced by us, education is Georgia's key driving force," the PM said, adding that Georgia's universities will have practically every mechanism to meet every criteria required. The PM thanked Georgia's European
friends and everyone engaged in the process of getting the country accepted into the ENQA and noted that membership of such an organization is a great responsibility for the country. “We must actively work to meet every standard and criteria in the shortest pos-
sible period. We must channel all our efforts toward quality. It is a great responsibility to have diplomas issued by us recognized as valid in Europe, in line with EU standards and criteria, and we must spare no effort to cherish that," he said. Bakhtadze underlined that ENQA membership gives Georgia a lot of opportunities and its universities will have a better chance of drawing closer to and cooperating with European schools of higher education. “Georgian students and faculties will enjoy maximum mobility to work in Europe, to carry out joint scientific projects, and co-operate. All this will be related to enhanced financial resources, which actually is a quarter of the country's budget, and most of these finances will target higher education, our universities," he said. In accordance with the Association Agreement between Georgia and the European Union, Georgia has taken on the obligation to bring Georgia's higher education system closer to European standards. In February 2018, Georgia’s National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement stated that it was willing to join the ENQA and last August presented a self-assessment report to the organization. The ENQA Presidium made a decision on membership of Georgia on April 25 at the annual forum held in Estonia.
Tbilisi Transforms into ‘Eurovillage’, Celebrates Europe Day BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
n May 5, Rike Park, one of the most picturesque and popular parks of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, transformed into an ‘Eurovillage’ and brought together 20 member states of the European Union, who gave incredible mini-performances, including dances and songs, to present their eclectic cultures and traditions to Tbilisians and visitors. Over 10,000 guests at the event, of many ages, got to participate in a number of entertaining games and other interesting activities. Along with Georgian citizens and international travelers visiting the country, the government officials also joined the celebration. Salome Zurabishvili, Presi-
dent of Georgia, officially opened the event and congratulated the attendees on Europe Day. She stated that despite a number of challenges faced by Georgia in past, the country is successfully continuing to blaze a path to Europe. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Georgia restored its independence for the second time, we returned to our path to Europe. This road is hard, but we are successively moving forward,” she said. Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia, was also present at the event. “I am sure that by being united in spirit and action, with unshaken Georgian spirit and with the support of our European friends, we will reach a day when united, strong and peace-loving Georgia will become a fully-fledged member of the European Union,” said the Head of the Government, going on to highlight the technical and financial assistance of
the EU towards Georgia, which contributes to the implementation of major reforms in the country. “On Europe Day, we celebrate the fact that an idea planted 69 years ago has come to unite over 500 million citizens from 28 diverse countries with 24 official languages into one European Union, working towards peace and prosperity for its citizens," said Carl Hartzell, the Ambassador of the EU to Georgia. "It is also an opportunity for us to highlight the close relations between the EU and Georgia, which have never been stronger than they are today. We look forward to continuing and further developing our cooperation in the years to come.” Days of Europe, celebrated for the seventh time this year, will last till the end of May in Tbilisi, as well as in regions across the country, boasting over 80 events in total.
Image source: Delegation of the European Union to Georgia
Georgian Real Estate Development Market Trends Continued from page 1 Looking at the total numbers from 2018, 619 structures were constructed: 14.2% fewer than in 2017. These structures covered 624.4 thousand m2, 59.9% more compared to 2017. This trend of fewer and larger buildings continued into the first quarter of 2019. Nationwide, in the first quarter of 2019, a total of 2,052 construction permits were issued for projects covering a total of 1,378,100 m2 of land nationwide: a 0.2% decrease in permit volume year-on-year, yet a 7.8% increase in total square meters year-on-year. One of the most interesting
statistics in the report is that 50% of construction permits were issued in Tbilisi. Ajara registered 10.5% of all permits and the Kvemo Kartli region, 11.1%. The smallest number of permits were issued in Guria (1.6%) and the region of Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti (0.3%). A “relatively large share of [construction] permits granted [were for] multifunctional residential complexes,” reports GeoStat. More than half of construction completed between January and March 2019 was in three regions: Tbilisi (40.5%), Kakheti (12.6%) and Kvemo Kartli (7.9%). There have been several major construction projects in the last few years
in Tbilisi, many spearheaded by billionaire businessman and alleged shadow government leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, including Galleria Mall, Tbilisi Hills golf course and residential complex, and the Panorama Tbilisi project (which was recently suspended due to construction safety violations). Several new international brand hotels have also sprouted up: Wyndham Grand, and the Moxy Hotel among others, and the massively successful Georgian hotel Stamba. In the next few years, several large construction efforts are planned. In the public sector, this includes a proposed theme park to be built near Tbilisi Sea,
and Radio City: a planned sports, shopping and children’s activities complex to be built for an estimated $20 million on the site of a former Soviet radio factory in the Mukhiani neighborhood north of the city. The 2019 budget of Tbilisi City Hall is just over one billion GEL ($370 mln), of which nearly half (455 million GEL) was allocated for infrastructure. At the end of 2018, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze began emphasizing the importance of developing some of the city’s most populous yet least trendy districts, Gldani, Mukhiani and Temka. Kaladze promised to bring cafes, restaurants and sports complexes to
these underserved neighborhoods, pledging an investment of 50 million GEL ($18.5 mln) and the creation of 200 jobs. In the private sector, the Tbilisi Hilton on Kostava Avenue, the three-tower, $75 million Alliance apartment complex and Wyndham Garden Hotel on Tamarishvili St. and City Mall near Vazha Pshavela metro, are some of the major ongoing construction projects expected to be completed in the next year or two. GeoStat’s preliminary economic report for March showed overall economic growth in the sectors of trade, transportation, real estate transactions and services.
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Financial & Construction Sectors out of Spring Vibes! 36% of the surveyed firms expected that the economic condition of their businesses would improve over the next three months, and 51% did not expect any changes in the future, while a lower share of businesses expect their business conditions to worsen.
SALES PRICE EXPECTATIONS The Sales Price Expectations Index decreased from 17.5 points (Q4 2018) to 12.8 points (Q1 2019). The reduction in the index is mostly driven by a decrease in the retail trade and service sectors. The manufacturing, construction, and agriculture sectors expect a noticeable increase in prices over the next three months. The majority (73%) of all surveyed firms are not going to change the prices they charge over the next three months.
BUSINESS CONFIDENCE INDEXQ2 2019
verall, the BCI has gained 4.4 points compared to Q1 2019. Expectations in the private sector in Georgia increased significantly by 9.2 percentage points, reaching 45.5 index points. Business performance over the past three months decreased, reaching nearly 23.0 points (down from 24.4), indicating a downturn in production/ turnover/sales. At the same time, business expectations boosted to a higher rate and past performance experienced a slight reduction, which together have led to a lift in the overall BCI.
EXPECTATIONS The Expectations Index increased by 9.2 index points in Q2 2019. Expectations about the next three months improved for all business sectors except the financial (-46.5) and construction (-46.5) sectors. The greatest jump was reported in manufacturing (60.5). Business expectations increased for large firms and worsened for SME firms. The majority (67%) of surveyed businesses do not expect any changes in employment over the next three months. Furthermore, 24% of firms stated that they would employ more employees in the future.
The BCI index increased in the retail trade (16.6), manufacturing (14.8), service (9.2) and agriculture (0.9) sectors. The construction and financial sectors declined by 27.9 and 24.5 points respectively. Business confidence in the second quarter of 2019 increased for large firms (5.7) and dropped for SMEs (-7.8).
PAST PERFORMANCE Businessesâ€™ actual performance decreased by 1.4 points compared to Q1 of 2019. In Q2 2019, sales (production or turnover) of the 87 firms surveyed decreased from 24.4 (Q1 2019) to 23.0 (Q2 2019). A significant drop in performance was observed in finance (-30.2), manufacturing (-6.7) and service (-4.1). A significant decrease means that in these sectors, the weighted balance between positive and negative responses decreased com-
pared to the previous quarter. In the remaining sectors, production/turnover/ sales for the past three months improved
or remained unchanged: retail trade (20.7), agriculture (6.0) and construction (no change).
Only 6% of firms expect to decrease prices, and 21% expect to increase prices in the future. The lack of demand (58%) and limited access to finance (39%) continue to be two of the most significant obstacles for SMEs. Meanwhile, large companies named access to finance (41%) and labour force (36%) as main limiting factors. It should be noted that the BCI results presented here may be overestimated, as the survey only covers businesses currently operating and not those that have already exited the market. Firms still in operation are, to some extent, more likely to have a negative outlook.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 7 - 9, 2019
The 20th GeorgiaIsrael Business Forum
Image source: CBW.ge
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
n April 30, the 20th Georgia-Israel Business Forum was held in Tbilisi. Nearly 100 businessmen and women from Israel attended the forum, including some making their first foray into considering doing business in Georgia. President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, Itzik Moshe, spoke to attendees last week, saying that “Georgia has huge potential. Israel has knowledge, finances. We should intensify cooperation, and I believe we can regain the 2008-2009 indicators and Israel will become Georgia’s leading partner again.” Moshe also called on the Government of Georgia to support current Israeli investors and future foreign direct investment in Georgia by taking steps to “determine the sectors where it wants to attract investors from Israel.” Georgian-Israeli relations soured in the period leading to the Russia-Georgia August 2008 War, and collapsed following the war, and other events, including Israel’s withdrawal of military support a few months before the August War, under believed pressure from Russia. A March 2012 article published in Tabula magazine by Dimitri Avaliani claims that 70,000 – 80,000 Georgian Jews moved to Israel after the opening of the borders of the Soviet Union. This population has settled, growing deep roots, starting families. “The Georgian Diaspora in Israel maintains close cultural and economic links with [Georgia]. Georgian Jews, at various times, have been represented in the Knesset, as well as in the executive branch and local government. They are also prominent in scientific and business spheres. Their prominence helps to maintain the popularity of Georgia among Israeli social and political circles,” wrote Avaliani. The most sentient elements for the relationship between Georgia and Israel are security and eco-
nomics: “It is clearly in Israel’s interest to prevent the South Caucasus from turning into a foothold for forces hostile to Israel,” noted Avaliani. In February 2012, an official visit to Israel from a Georgian delegation led by then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze marked a thaw in the diplomatic tensions. During that meeting, Vashadze spoke with top-level Israeli officials, discussing opportunities to strengthen bilateral cooperation, in trade and economy. At the 20th Georgia-Israel Business Forum last week, Moshe emphasized Israel’s positive attitude towards Georgia, but noted that cooperation should be deepened. “Business does not mean only figures...this is an economic bridge between two countries,” he said. “Naturally, there are a lot of investors and there are a lot of problems too. We will keep working on resolving problems and attracting new investors in a parallel regime,” Moshe continued, noting that “Israel’s contribution to the Georgian economy is about $1 billion, including the tourism sector, which accounts for 50%.” There were 30 events organized during the week, labeled “Israeli Week” by the Israel Georgia Chamber of Business, to commemorate 30 years of relations between the countries. Events included a commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust at Rustaveli Theater for Israel’s Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Day). In May 2018, Georgia’s then-Minister of Economy Dimitry Kumsishvili and the Minister of Economy and Industry of Israel, Eli Cohen, met in Tbilisi to sign a declaration on launching a free trade feasibility study between Georgia and Israel. The study aims to investigate ways that investment ties between the two countries can be expanded along with increased awareness of Georgia as an investment opportunity in Israel. “I strongly believe that the establishment of a free trade regime between Georgia and Israel will be beneficial for both countries,” Kumsishvili told reporters after signing the document.
Fitch Revises Georgian Leasing's Outlook to Stable; Affirms at 'B+' BY THEA MORRISON
itch Ratings Inc., one of the "Big Three credit rating agencies," has revised Georgian Leasing Company Ltd's Outlook to Stable from Positive, while affirming the company's Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'B+'. This follows a similar rating action on the parent bank - Bank of Georgia Fitch reports Georgian Leasing Company's IDRs and Support Rating are driven by support from Bank of Georgia (BoG, BB-/Stable). Fitch's view of probability of support is based on full ownership, close integration and a record of capital and funding support. “The Georgian Leasing Company, which is 100%owned by BoG, aligns its strategy and risk policies to those of its parent, although the company's management is independent in operational decisions. Georgian Leasing Company also benefits from access to some of BoG's systems, including risk management and IT/back-office functions,” says Fitch.
It also noted that a significant and sustained improvement of the company's performance and prospects, and a greater strategic alignment within the parent group would, in Fitch's view, increase BoG's propensity to support the company and could drive the equalization of the ratings with the parent. Fitch reports that a material weakening of BoG's propensity or ability to support the company might result in a wider notching differential from the parent. “This could be driven by an increase of support cost for BoG, a greater risk of regulatory restrictions on support, a waning of Georgian Leasing Company's strategic importance, or depletion of BoG's headroom (ie safety cushion) over regulatory required capital,” it added. The rating actions are as follows: Long-Term Foreign- and Local-Currency IDRs affirmed at 'B+'; Outlook revised to Stable from Positive Short-Term Foreign-Currency IDR affirmed at 'B' Support Rating affirmed at '4'
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Natakhtari Fund Wins at CSR Award 2019 TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
ith the joint initiative of the Corporate Social Responsibility Club and UN Global Compact Georgian Branch, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award 2019 contest was held in Georgia for the second time. The project ‘Care about the Future’, implemented by Natakhtari Company and NGO Our Home Georgia was named best in the category ‘Partnership for Sustainable Development.’ This year, the contest brought together 53 projects of companies operating in Georgia in the following categories: High-Quality Education; Gender Equality; Proper Working Environ and Economic Growth, Sustainable Cities and Settlements, Partnership for Sustainable Development, and SDG Pioneer. The winners were chosen by a multisector jury of local and international judges. The contest aims to boost the involve-
ment of the business sector in terms of the promotion of corporate social responsibility and introducing sustainable development to the daily agenda. “The aim of the Natakhtari Fund is to substantially and sustainably change the life of our beneficiaries for the better,” notes Nino Surmava, the Brand Manager of Natakhtari Lemonade. “We knew at the beginning that we would see results within several years, and this award is proof that our expectations were right: we have achieved results! The mechanism (caring for adolescents), worked out by the Natakhtari Company and Our Home Georgia, has proved a success, proven by the fact that more than 270 youngsters have been able to receive a professional education, while over 300 have found jobs, since the outset. “This is our second year holding an advocacy campaign devoted to the better involvement of government services in terms of planning the life of vulnerable adolescents after they reach the age of 18,” Surmava continued. “We want the responsibility for solving this problem to be shared by the government, as we believe that empowerment of vulnerable
children and their full integration into society is good for each of us. Many thanks to Our Home Georgia for their collaboration and also thanks to the organizers of the competition, as well as the jury, which named our project the best in the category of Partnership for Sustainable Development. This is a great motivation not only for us, but also for other companies.” The award ceremony was attended by representatives of the business sector, as well as those of the government, international organizations and civic societies. Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the EU to Georgia, Luisa Winton, Permanent Representative of the UNDP to Georgia, Molly Lien, Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden, Mzia Giorgobiani, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, Irakli Lekvinadze, Business Ombudsman, Nino Zambakhidze, Head of Georgian Farmers’ Associtation and Alexander Revia, Chairman of Georgian Agency of Public-Private Partnership took to the stage and addressed the audience. The CSR Award 2019 was supported by the Swedish government.
The Natakhtari Fund has been helping vulnerable adolescents since 2011. Money is annually collected from November to February. 841,835 GEL was raised in the Fund during this time, used to prepare more than 500 youngsters for an independent life, including psychologist consultations, classes in academic subjects, certificates of professional education and driving licenses, purchasing the materials needed for the profession, and scholarships (tenancy fee, nutrition, transportation). Over 300 beneficiaries of the Fund have been employed, whereas more than 270 youngsters have acquired
professional education. The finances from the Natakhtari Fund are allocated specifically according to the needs of each beneficiary. The project is being carried out by the Our Home Georgia Association with the support and blessings of the Georgian Patriarch. The transparency of finances is approved by the international audit company PricewaterHouse Cooper. The Corporate Social Responsibility Award was first held in Georgia in 2018. The Natakhtari Company also succeeded that year in the category The Best Project in the Environment Protection Direction.
EU Hosts International Public Forum on Environment BY LUCY PAPACHRISTOU
EuropeanUnion-sponsored public forum entitled “Talking Environment” took place in Tbilisi this Sunday that gathered together over 400 representatives of all parts of society, including national, regional and local public officials, civil society members, students and engaged citizens to discuss waste management issues in Georgia. The forum was organized in cooperation with the Georgian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Solid Waste Management Company of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall and the nonprofit Georgia’s Environmental Outlook (GEO). The event was initiated after a recent poll conducted by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Georgia found that nearly half (48%) of Tbilisi residents identify environmental pollution as the number one issue they face. Each year Georgia generates some 900,000 tonnes of household waste, up to 600 kg per inhabitant, according to a press statement issued by the event. This waste includes up to 1,000 non-hazardous and hazardous substances which pose a grave threat to human health and the environment. The forum was launched with statements given by Carl Hartzell, EU Ambas-
Image source: Author's work
sador to Georgia, Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture and Kakha Kuchava, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia. “The EU is a global leader in environmental protection, and I am happy to see that environmental and health concerns are rapidly rising on the public agenda here in Georgia,” Ambassador Hartzell said. The EU, he continued, is proud to sponsor initiatives in Georgia that seek to provide clean air and water, build energy-efficient buildings, protect natural forests and create innovative approaches to waste management. Ambassador Hartzell used the forum to launch a social media challenge to
minimize waste, in which he challenged top government officials, including Minister Davitashvili, to switch out plastic shopping bags for ones made of cloth. In his speech, Minister Davitashvili referenced recent achievements in the environmental sector, such as the Waste Management Codeadopted by Parliament in 2015, which the Minister called a “very important step” that established a solid legislative basis to deal with these issues in the future. Waste management, he continued, should be the responsibility of multiple ministries, such as the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs. Minister Davitashvili also stressed the vital role municipalities must play in collecting, sorting and processing waste. MP Kuchava echoed Minister Davitash-
vili, saying that environmental issues must become Georgia’s number one priority moving forward. The Waste Management Code needs proper implementation, and air pollution in Tbilisi is another issue that needs additional attention. Georgians are an ambitious people, he concluded, and average citizens—and especially children—should be encouraged to turn their attention to tackling environmental problems. The highlight of the forum was a presentation given by Maayke Damen, the founder of the Dutch company Excess Materials Exchange, which facilitates a process whereby companies exchange excess materials and transform them into additional products that have financial value on the marketplace. Worldwide resource extraction is going to double over the next thirty years, Damen said, and there is a severe scarcity of vital minerals like iron and cobalt. Most industries and consumers operate within a linear economy, in which resources are extracted, products manufactured, used by consumers and then thrown out. Not only does this create vast amounts of waste, it also results in an enormous economic loss: some EUR 1.8 trillion in Europe alone, according to Damen. Damen is a proponent of a circular economy that is “restorative and regenerative by design.” Instead of throwing products out or even recycling them via traditional methods already in place,
Damen said that companies have a significant opportunity to transform their unwanted materials and products into financially-viable consumer products. Damen’s company has to date identified 18 “materials streams” (such as used coffee grounds, carpets and orange peels) and works with both Dutch and international companies to reuse and remake those materials. Excess Materials Exchange’s work has resulted in an additional EUR 11-35 million in revenue for its partner companies and saved those companies EUR 5.5 million in waste processing costs. Those resources are enough to power all the lights in city of Amsterdam for over 10 years. Following Damen’s presentation, a sixperson panel of public officials and civil society actors participated in a question and answer discussion. Several of the issues touched upon were the landfill in Batumi, hazardous waste, the sorting of collected waste and the need for more awareness-raising campaigns among the general public. Georgia, the Dutch entrepreneur Maayke Damen said, is uniquely positioned to be a pioneer in environmental policy and implementation. The European Union began developing its policies in the 1980s, she said, but made many mistakes along the way. Georgia, she continued, “has the opportunity to skip all the mistakes [Europe made in the past] and implement the policies we already know work.”
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GEORGIA TODAY MAY 7 - 9, 2019
International Conference on Cyber Crime & Legal Compliance
etecting and preventing cyber crime while being compliant has never been more complicated. Compliance protects your business continuity as well as your clients' data and personal information from potential attacks or breaches that might cause financial loss, risk your reputation, and lead your company to face sanctions. In addition, compliance works for your competitive advantage, allowing you to offer your clients data and data transfer security. During the International Conference on Cyber Crime and Legal Compliance, participants will hear about sensitive issues for data protection security and the biggest risks, norms and regulations of the moment. They'll also touch on the
Conference participants will be introduced to Data Protection, get to watch a cyber-crime simulation in real time, and learn hands on the importance of pen testing and the ways to prevent and catch cyber criminals
economic aspects of compliance, including how companies can and should prevent and protect themselves from data breaches, economic sanctions, cybercrime, and how to ensure legal compliance with national and international regulations. The Conference offers education on the topic of 'Cyber Crime and Legal Compliance', outstanding networking opportunities with tech and law experts, a complimentary lunch and question and answer sessions with speakers Gaynor Ogden-Sutton, Former Head of the Public Defender Service of England and Wales, Maka Petriashvili, Cyber Security Expert, Co-founder of CYSEC Cyber Security Educational Center, John Chain, Blockchain Expert, Founder and President of Chain Enterprises LLC, Nevada, USA, and Maksim Iavich (Cyber Security Expert, Professor of Computer Science, Founder and President of Scientific Cyber Security Association). Conference participants will be introduced to Data Protection, get to watch a cyber-crime simulation in real time, and learn hands on the importance of pen testing and the ways to prevent and catch cyber criminals. Guests will also have the chance to network with Tech and Law Experts, find out more about regulations and legislation for Data Protection and how to avoid data breaches, economic sanctions and cyber-attacks. Find out more about the speakers below:
GAYNOR OGDEN-SUTTON Gaynor is an Oxford University, Balliol College, Law graduate and master’s degree holder, Solicitor and High Court Advocate. She currently advises the Governing Board of Educational Providers of South West England on constitutional, legal governance, issues. Gaynor has an exceptional background and expertise in criminal law, having been a Senior Crown Prosecutor from 1989 to 1991. Throughout her impressive legal career as a specialist criminal law practitioner, she has been involved in notable cases e.g. changing the definition of ‘suspect’ and bringing about changes in the Police and Criminal Investigation
Code. The Legal Services Commission of England and Wales has sent Gaynor to lecture and advise in Mexico, Columbia, Malawi, Lithuania and Georgia on the establishment of legal defense systems and the management of government legal organizations.
MAKA PETRIASHVILI Maka has worked at the Ministry of Defense of Georgia since 1999, specializing in cyber security, military intelligence, defense policy and planning, human resources and strategic defense review. She worked as a human resources and organizational development consultant in the Cyber Security Bureau and coordinated the Cyber Security Awareness Project in 2015-2016. She is also involved with cyber security awareness training and has participated in the development of NATO’s Cyber Security Generic Reference Curriculum. She holds a Master’s degree in security studies from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Manchester, England. Maka is involved in various cyber security projects as a lecturer on cyber security, cyber hygiene and cyber bullying.
JOHN CHAIN Long before founding Chain Enterprises LLC in Nevada, USA, John Chain had been tackling unique problems in technology. From as early as age 11, when he took over his family’s IBM XT computer, he experimented with a bulletin board based on Wildcat! BBS and dove into Slackware Linux from a CD in the back of a computer magazine, soon after Phrack, Alt 2600, and DEFCON l to selfstudy in software development and offensive Cyber Security. John recently retired in Colorado after spending 12 years as a Green Beret with the 10th Special Forces Group of the US Army. During his service he developed offensive and defensive cyber solutions, worked as a Department of Defense trainer alongside a penetration testing organization within the defense com-
The Conference offers education on the topic of 'Cyber Crime and Legal Compliance' and outstanding networking opportunities with tech and law experts munity, developed custom built solutions with single board computers and off the shelf electronics, and managed various exercises and events around the globe with multinational partners. When Bitcoin surfaced in 2009, he did some research and dedicated several machines to mining. Although the old mining hardware has long since disappeared, his dedication to explore and develop within the blockchain space continues to grow. No longer content with simply mining, John focuses his tech energy on creating unique solutions with existing hardware. His latest project leverages GPU mining hardware to create cluster machine learning and distributed rendering solutions.
MAKSIM IAVICH Maksim is a distinguished cyber security academic and practitioner, heading the Cyber Security Department at Caucasus University, and was named ‘Best Young Scientist of the Year’ by the Shota Rustaveli
National Foundation in his homeland of Georgia. Internationally, Maksim is known as a prominent speaker at global cyber security and hacking conferences. In 2018, Maksim was the keynote speaker on Defcamp9, one of the biggest hacking conferences in Europe. He is certified in cyber security by international universities such as Stanford and Maryland. Maksim is involved in various, international scientific cyber security projects as the key researcher, and a highly skilled cryptographer and software penetration tester.
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Water for The Poor, or The Georgia Community WASH Initiative
he human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use. However, despite the abundance of water resources in Georgia, around thirty thousand people, most of them children, annually suffer from diseases associated with poor water quality and supply, sanitation and hygiene. Limited access to water is a problem for multi-ethnic communities and other communities countrywide, resulting in marginalization, conflict and inequities. CENN, with support from the European Union, is addressing this issue in the Dmanisi, Marneuli, Tetritskaro and Tsalka municipalities of the Kvemo Kartli region, and Akhmeta, Sagarejo and Lagodekhi municipalities of the Kakheti region. These communities have a considerable number of vulnerable groups, among them ethnic and religious minorities as well as IDPs (including ecomigrants), that are facing poverty and a high incidence of female discrimination. They lack integration, education, financial resources and political support. Limited access to Water Supply and Sanitation services disproportionally affects local women and essential factors contributing towards gender equality and the
realization of women’s rights. The ‘Georgia Community WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Initiative’ is implemented by CENN with support provided by the Global Water Challenge and The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF). As part of the ongoing project, two informative programs were implemented and competitions organized- one for youth and one for media. From 13-14 February 2019, national and regional journalists were invited on a media tour about Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) as a human right. The first day of the event took place in the Bulachauri Green Center. The training included topics related to WASH and human rights, while the second day of the media tour was devoted to field visits in schools, kindergartens and healthcare centers of the Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti regions. Participants had a chance to see the challenges and meet representatives of the local governments. After the media tour, the participants were invited to participate in a media competition by creating and submitting media products (TV programs, articles, blogs, etc.) dedicated to the presented theme of the tour. The media tour was organized by CENN within the framework of the following projects: ‘Georgia Community WASH
Initiative’ and ‘Water for the Poor,’ supported by donors Global Water Challenge (GWC) and the EU. Along with other activities, the projects plan to increase WASH Council capacities according to their needs. The main objectives of the projects are to promote healthcare and suitable living conditions for socially vulnerable communities, prevent discrimination, provide access to water, protect and promote the right to health and to adequate living standards of citizens in vulnerable multi-ethnic communities of Georgia, and to improve the well-being of the women and youth in vulnerable multi-ethnic rural communities of the Kakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions through the reduction of discrimination and introduction of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) standards. The initiative aims to reduce the lack of capacity of vulnerable groups and community institutions to advocate for their rights to health and adequate living conditions and make positive changes to the absence of knowledge, attitude and life skills on WASH, nonexistent or out-dated WASH infrastructure and limited or inadequately allocated state financing for fair provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene conditions. To raise awareness of the above issues among Georgia’s youth, in January 2019,
five teams of five students participated in WASH's Winter Camp. Together with other thematic trainings, participants attended a two-day training on proposal writing. Following the camp, CENN announced a small grant competition for participants to raise awareness in their communities. Within the scope of the competition, four applications were submitted. On May 2, CENN hosted the awards ceremony for the media and grant competitions within the WASH projects. During the event, the winners were announced for the categories of “best multimedia product” and “best TV reportage.” Nino Vartapetiani from TV Borjomi won the multimedia category and Tamar Bubashvili from TV Imedi won the best TV reportage, while 20 students from four schools in Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti were given grants to implement informational and educational
campaigns in their communities in order to help increase access to clean water. Representatives of the EU delegation, journalists from local and national media outlets, school students, teachers and directors; Ministry of Healthcare representatives, the Public Defender of Georgia and other stakeholders attended the awards ceremony. “The European Union in Georgia advocates for the right of access to safe drinking water and sanitation as one of the main priority areas for sustainable development goals,” said Dominika Skubida, International Aid/Cooperation Officer for Civil Society and Democracy, Delegation of the EU to Georgia. “Protection of water quality and human health is one of the objectives of the EU-Georgia Association Agreements.”
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Dinner In The Sky To Offer Its Renowned Unique Dining Experience in Georgia! ®
inner In The Sky®, a “flying” fine dining restaurant selected by Forbes.com for its list of the world’s 10 most unusual restaurants, is now launching in Tbilisi. Georgia will be the first country in the region to present this unique dining experience and joins 70 others who for more than 12 years have offered the most unforgettable dining experience in a breathtaking setting, now providing amazing 360 degree views of the Tbilisi skyline. From the TV Tower to Tbilisi Sea, the Mtatsminda mount, Sameba Cathedral, Narikala: all the beautiful landmarks of Tbilisi combine to give your dinner a spectacular perspective! The Sky platform is suspended by a crane 50 meters above Tbilisi, while you indulge in unique scenery and luxurious dining. The exclusive atmosphere, breathtaking view of the city, and cuisine from top chefs are what makes Dinner In The Sky® a whole new event concept on the Georgian market. Dinner In The Sky® is a product developed according to two key words: Exclusivity and Safety. The organizers aim to provide clients with “the most exclusive experiences ever dreamt of in a completely safe way.” Products are built in Belgium and the steel carrying structure of Dinner In The Sky® fulfills the requirements of German safety Standard 4112 (1983), as confirmed by TUV Rheinland. In fact, the very obsession for safety is probably one of the reasons why Dinner In The Sky® is now being operated in more than 70 countries and has official permits to operate from even the strictest countries- the US, Canada, Australia, South-Africa, etc. Dinner In The Sky® has always part-
nered with 5-star luxury hotels and resorts all around the world, and now it has partnered with Bioli resort in Georgia for its public sessions. There are three flight sessions per day: Tbilisi Daylight at 17:00, Tbilisi Twilight at 19:00, and Tbilisi City Lights at 21:00. The Daylight session lasts half an hour, serving a 5-star wine tasting menu including assorted Georgian cheese, Georgian wines or non alcoholic drinks, sandwiches and Georgian sweets, plus unlimited wine, as well as tea/coffee. The Twilight session last for 90 minutes, serving a 5-star exclusive 4-course dinner menu including salad and soup as starter, chicken/beef/fish/vegetable dishes for the main course, and Panna cotta and Bouquet tea as dessert. Water, juice and unlimited delicious Georgian wines are freely available during this flight session. The City Lights session also lasts for 90 minutes, accompanied by unlimited wine and soft drinks and also the same 5-star exclusive 4-course dinner menu as in the Twilight session. What makes this session a distinctively perfect experience is the ‘Live Music in the Sky’ being performed within. During all the three flight sessions, champagne is served in the Lounge area. You’ll have also the possibility to select your main course and choose other add-ons online. Reservations for public sessions can be made online at www.dinnerinthesky.ge for a range of 199 GEL to 345 GEL depending on the session you choose. The Dinner In The Sky®’s menu is desinged exclusively by the Bioli’s skillful chef. All the ingredients are fully organic and selected meticulously from Georgian villages far from any roads and pollution. Moreover, you can take pleasure in a variety of Georgian wine, delicately made
according to the 8000-year tradition of winemaking in Georgia, while enjoying having the city at your feet! Dinner In The Sky® Georgia is not only an exciting must-experience event for Georgian citizens, but also an attractive landmark for foreign tourists who wish to see the beauty of Tbilisi all in one frame. That’s why the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) willingly supports Dinner In The Sky® Georgia. From the staff uniform to the chef menu and wine tasting menu, everything uniquly represents Georgian traditions and features local symbols in an entirely modern style. Dinner In The Sky®, is not limited to public sessions. The Sky platform may
also be customized for private events, corporate events, and national celebrations. Our event-platform is portable and can be taken to any location in the city. It can have up to 16 flights in eight hours, taking 22 passengers to the sky each flight, meaning we can host up to 352 guests in any event day. Choose from snack, lunch, dinner, cocktails in the air, floating meetings, a wedding amongst the clouds, or something totally different. Choose Dinner In The Sky® for product launches, opening celebrations, promotions, press releases, interviews, talk shows, live TV, VIP treatment for guests, road shows, golf tournaments, concerts in the sky, fashion shows, VIP guests at a concert, motor show, brand-air experi-
ences, press conferences, magic shows, and more. ‘Floating’ above the ordinary brings a whole new perspective to such corporate engagements and entertainment! Many universally well-known and prestigious brands, among them Nokia, Samsung, Peugeot, Chevrolet, Electrolux, Coca-Cola, BMW, and Nestle have been partners with Dinner In The Sky® to show off their brands among the clouds. The extensive and lasting impression left by such branding strategy has been so spectacular and immense that each has produced expansive buzz in media and social networks. The Sky Platform can also be used at city festivals like Tbilisoba, Independence day, Batumoba, Rtveli, the Cheese Festival, Tbilisi Jazz Festival, Christmas, and other national or regional celebrations. All in all, Dinner In The Sky® is perfect for anyone who wishes to transform an ordinary event or meeting into a magical, once in a lifetime occasion that will leave a lasting impression on guests. The famous Dinner In The Sky® will be launched on May 15 in Bioli resort, available for anyone who wishes to transform the ordinary into into a magical moment. The Belgian inventor of Dinner In The Sky® and the investors of Dinner In The Sky® Georgia will attend the opening event. The Belgian team are heading to Tbilisi to oversee the installation of the platform and to train the Georgian staff of Dinner In The Sky® Georgia. Since Dinner In The Sky® is a service much beyond a usual restaurant, and since the seats and public sessions are limited, all passengers are asked to buy their flight tickets in advance. For more information and bookings, visit www.dinnerinthesky.ge.
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
TBC Bank Acquires Uzbek Fintech Company Payme BY AMY JONES
BC Bank Group PLC (TBC Bank) has agreed to acquire over 51% of “Payme”, an Uzbek payment service provider, thus entering into the financial services market in Uzbekistan. The transaction, signed in April, will increase TBC’s customer base by 50% as Payme currently has 1.3 million people using their products. TBC agreed to pay $5.5 million for Payme, suggesting Payme is valued at around $10.8 billion. “The purchase of Payme is another important step taken in Uzbekistan’s planned expansion,” said Vakhtang Butskrikidze, General Director of TBC. “This will enable us to get direct access to a large number of consumers by using our digital power to make some innovations in the Uzbek market.” Payme provides payment solutions for its customers in Uzbekistan, for example by enabling P2P transfers, loan repayments, utility payments, mPOS for QRbased payments and e-commerce transactions. It also enables customers to purchase loans from some Uzbek banks. Having increased their number of customers by 70% in 2018, Payme has demonstrated the potential Fintech has in the region. In 2018, the company’s revenue and net income also grew year-onyear by 41.9% and 24.5% respectively. By
Image source - Wikimedia Commons
the end of the year, Payme reported $1.6 million total revenue and $800,000 profit before tax. TBC bank’s acquisition of Payme aligns with its international strategy to expand within the region. With a population of
Ozurgeti Hosts First Local Festival of Georgian Tea Producers
ore than 20 Georgian tea producers took part in the first edition of a local Tea Festival, hosted by the city of Ozurgeti on May 5. Organized by Ozurgeti Municipality, the Festival was supported by the Administration of Guria Governor, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Georgia and the governments of Switzerland and Austria. “Georgia has a rich history of tea production,” said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Head in Georgia. “Reviving this tradition in Guria is bringing benefits both to tea producers and to businesses catering to tourists keen to experience authentic local culture. Given Georgia’s diversity of local identities, this is a dual approach that UNDP is confident can be replicated across the country.” Zurab Nasaria, Guria Governor; Jirí Preclík, chargé d' Affaires a.i. of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tbilisi; and Mzia Giorgobiani, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and
Ozurgeti sweet green tea. Source: teespeicher.de
Infrastructure of Georgia, also addressed the Festival participants and guests. The Ozurgeti Tea Festival is part of a Tea Route project which aims to promote the culture of tea-growing in the context of industry and tourism. The fair was accompanied by the contest of “Tea Masters of Georgia,” initiated by the Georgian Association of Organic Tea Producers. The Festival participants were invited to attend a conference on the industrial and tourism opportunities of Georgian tea, visit an ethnographic corner and taste traditional dishes and local products. The UNDP and the governments of Switzerland and Austria have been supporting regional and local development in Georgia since 2012, aiming to promote strong local self-governance and economic growth and increase citizen engagement in local decision-making process. Since 2015, this large-scale program has assisted over 30 local projects initiated by civil society and community groups in six regions of Georgia.
32 million, Uzbekistan is an attractive market with good business promise. In the past, Islam Karimov, who ruled Uzbekistan from 1991 to 2016, had allowed Uzbekistan’s economy to stagnate through its Soviet-era command economy. How-
ever, since Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016, he has shown some willingness to reform and diversify the economy. Despite Uzbekistan’s reliance on oil, natural gas, and gold, the economy has been steadily growing, with retail
lending ration at 7.2% of the GDP at the end of 2018. Through its acquisition of Payme, TBC Bank aims to develop banking ecosystems for business and retail services in Uzbekistan. They are using the digital bank “space” to develop a new main banking system in the country. “With Payme, we plan to expand the payment business and use Payme as a platform for developing a new ecosystem in the country,” said Butskrikidze. “I’m glad to be collaborating with the successful team of Payme and look forward to starting working together with our partners, in developing and implementing the strategy of the Bank in Uzbekistan.” TBC Bank purchased part of the shares of managing owners Sarvar Ro-zmatov, Bakhrom Khodjayev and Farrukh Ziyatev, as well as business development directors Abdul-Azziz, Abdul-Akhadov and Oleg Geverges. “We are pleased to partner with the leading bank in the region, which has developed digital capabilities and a strong interest in Uzbekistan,” said Rozmatov Sarvar Nazrulaievich, founder of Payme. “We are confident that together with our company we will move to the next stage and in the short term, we will offer our customers new, modern solutions and services.” The current Payme team will continue to work in the company after the acquisition and will be involved in developing and executing Payme’s strategy in the future.
New Law Makes Sexual Harassment a Punishable Offense
Image Source: Flickr
BY LUCY PAPACHRISTOU
he Georgian Parliament unanimously approved a bill on sexual harassment last Friday, with 102 votes in favor and 0 against. MPs serving in Parliament’s Gender Equality Council, formed in 2004, drafted the legislative package this February. The Labor Code of Georgia will now include the following definition of sexual harassment: “Undesirable sexual behavior towards a person,” the law reads, “aims or/and tarnishes his/her dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or abusive environment for him/ her.” Using sexual words, exposing one’s genitals, or any type of verbal or nonverbal actions of a sexual nature will be considered harassment, as well as forcing someone into a sexual relationship against his/her will. Sexual harassment is now punishable
by a 300 GEL ($112) fine and 500 GEL ($187) or one month correctional labor for a repeated offense within one year. Furthermore, deliberate sexual harassment of a minor, a pregnant woman, someone in a critical medical condition or in the presence of a minor will be punishable by a fine of 500-800 GEL ($187-$299), and if repeated, by a fine of 800-1,000 GEL ($299-$374) or ten days’ imprisonment. Recent sexual harassment scandals have brought greater public and political attention to the issue. Last December, an appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that has been named as Georgia’s first sexual harassment court case. Journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze accused her boss, the famous TV host Shalva Ramishvili, of sexual harassment. Ramishvili appealed the January 2018 ruling of a Tbilisi court, but lost. Activists celebrated the ruling, calling it a “landmark case on workplace sexual harassment in Georgia.” In another notable case, at least 10 women
came forward and accused the head of the nonprofit Civic Development Institute, Zviad Devdariani, of sexual harassment. Devdariani resigned less than a month after the accusations were made, but said later he was planning to sue the women. Just this week, a famous Georgian weightlifter by the name of Tatia Lortkipanidze announced in a press conference that she has plans to sue the Georgian Weightlifting Federation and its head coach, Temur Janjgava, for sexual harassment and discrimination. Lortkipanidze was absent from this year’s European Weightlifting Championship, which kicked off on April 6 in Batumi. At the championship’s opening ceremony, President Salome Zurabishvili lamented the young athlete’s absence. “As a female president, I cannot but resent the fact that Tatia Lortkipanidze, one of our distinguished female champions, could not participate this year due to reasons not clear so far. I hope this is not connected with discrimination against a woman,” Zurabishvili said.
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Investments Welcome: But What is Their True Intent? BY VICTOR KIPIANI
pgrading infrastructure, developing logistics, adopting modern technologies, keeping up with major trends for boosting quality of life, laying solid foundations for economic (read: civic) inclusiveness: accomplishing these and many other priorities is unthinkable without heavy and ‘smart’ investment. Whilst the sources of domestic investment are nearly always identifiable, inbound foreign investment poses the greatest challenge, especially for weaker developing countries, given the need to fend off undesirable political or economic consequences by identifying and potentially blocking inbound investments which might threaten state interests or even compromise national sovereignty. The financial importance of investments from abroad cannot be overstated: and beyond their importance for the economy, investments are equally vital in terms of cultural exchange and interaction with the rest of the civilized world. However, given the speed with which the global (dis-)order is developing and the once formidable structure of the post-Cold War system is unravelling, no observer can fail to discern the emerging pattern whereby aggressive policy-making is increasingly equivalent to clear interference with national statebuilding processes. Equally evident is a shift away from overt forms of influence towards covert meddling and a growing preference for wielding sharp rather than soft power. In this context, overseas investments, once upon a time unilaterally admitted as a typical reflection of economic activities abroad, are nowadays used as weapons in order to trap, undermine and dominate vulnerable countries and nations in need. It is an undisputable fact that, for the past two decades or so, the two ‘geos’ (geopolitics and geo-economics) are rapidly being fused into a single phenomenon whose precise name remains unclear.
POST-INTRODUCTORY According to official data, FDI to Georgia was worth approximately $1.23 billion in 2018, 34.9% less than in 2017. A number of reasons were given for this significant drop, but the real question is whether such an amount is enough to develop the Georgian economy at the required speed. The most important task is that of identifying the countries that could hold the promise of extra investments. When looking at recent statistics, three countries (Azerbaijan, the UK and the Netherlands) represented 49.6% of total investments, followed by (in order of importance) the US, Panama, the Czech Republic, China, South Korea and Russia. But this is merely a glimpse of the bigger picture: at this point, we would rather mark a pause before proceeding to voice certain thoughts on the matter. Besides, any discussion must rest upon the specific characteristics of the major flows of international investment to Georgia as well as a number of matters that must be taken into consideration given the sensitivity of this issue.
A ‘CONQUEST OF EURASIA’ THROUGH INVESTMENT? This does indeed appear to be the case. As we mentioned above, investment in its various forms clearly serves various broader political purposes and has longterm implications for the economy and security of recipient countries. Although the number of self-evident front-runners in this race for a ‘conquest’ of Eurasia is of course limited, their identity comes
Image source: moneycompass.com.my
as no surprise, since only very few countries are large and powerful enough (according to Mackinder) to compete for the command of the Heartland followed by that of the World Island on their way to global domination. Every actor therefore needs to be considered individually. The Western strategy is commonly held to reflect practical aims and purposes that meet the expectations of those counties of Eurasia that aspire to become members of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance and consider themselves as belonging to Western civilization, and this approach to the Eurasian continent indeed contains several basic elements that fit smoothly with the long-term goals of countries like Georgia. First of all, in terms of international security, the Alliance bears the brunt of the costs and risks of seeking to counter rogue and revisionist states and to contain their geopolitical and military expansion. Secondly, and no less importantly, the Western sphere of influence over Eurasia (i.e. its western end) is, economically speaking, based upon trying to compete effectively (albeit with varying degrees of success) on local markets. More specifically, this competition is about maintaining international norms and standards for trade and investment and compelling (or trying to compel) revisionist states to abide by them. Overall, the success of any Western enterprise in the region could therefore be measured by the extent to which it encourages others to behave as responsible stakeholders. This ultimate goal (among others) can be accomplished by securing preferential access to Eurasian markets, by boosting direct investments, or by partnering with local industrial, trade and logistical hubs. It is also imperative that the West become more actively involved in various ‘megainitiatives’ (‘streams’, ‘belts’, ‘roads’, etc.) in order to defend its interests against the claims and inclinations of some of their stakeholders. All in all, the West must ensure its competitiveness in the
region and follow the principle of ‘the flag follows trade’—a principle that greatly benefits China’s geopolitical agenda. So far, the hallmarks of China’s ‘anchor’ geopolitical projects, particularly the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative (BRI) and ‘Made in China 2025,’ are allegedly insufficient transparency and a willingness to exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of exposed economies in order to increase the precariousness of their positions. Various examples of Beijing’s ‘debt trap’ and ‘strings attached’ diplomacy via Chinese investments have led many observers to doubt the real economic intentions behind different projects and deals. Although some argue that it may be somewhat premature (but is it?) to jump to such conclusions, what is already clear, and indeed a historical fact, is that China does not see the world in the way we tend to. It is high time to admit this truth by recognizing the fundamental differences that distinguish our world view from China’s. A notable point for more mature discussions are Beijing’s European investments, which have skyrocketed from USD 850 million in 2008 to $43 billion in 2016. Behind this dramatic increase is China’s clearly discernible goal of creating a Sino-centric Eurasian order by ‘locking’ countries into exclusive bilateral economic relationships and creeping into geographically remote regions by attempting to downgrade or marginalize the presence of competitors. As for the Middle Eastern mode of doing business, it is noticeable that one of the principal drivers of their decision to invest abroad is obtaining access to valuable knowledge and greater operational efficiency. It is also interesting to observe that it is primarily Middle Eastern sovereign funds rather than companies that act as ‘icebreakers’ seeking to chart a course in new territories. Lately, however, as the geopolitics of the Middle East encourage and sometimes force local players to diversify outside of the
region, there has also been a notable increase in investing non-sovereign capital. More Middle Eastern companies are looking for safe havens for their funds by investing through long-term generating assets (e.g. real estate commodities, the financial and health sectors, etc.). These are all ‘trademarks’ of Middle Eastern companies’ activities, with the latest trend shifting towards China, India and the Asia-Pacific region—i.e. regions promising higher liquidity than the limited number of remaining options elsewhere in the world. This search for investment opportunities should clearly also focus upon emerging Eurasian markets, but it seems that the latter currently offer little potential for added value to Middle Eastern businesses. In general, investment from the Middle East, although not being (overtly) politicized, is nonetheless a ‘wholly different animal’ which needs to be studied closely given the profound differences (and oppositions) which exist in terms of cultural (mis-) perceptions. According to the US National Security Strategy, Russia wants to ‘shape a world antithetical to US values and interests’— to which we would add that Moscow will continue to confront not only US interests but also those of other actors. In any case, these efforts will be sharply focused upon countries that Russia considers as belonging to her ‘zone of influence’ and will be expressed through hard power and economic coercion. Faced with this danger, we must remain extremely vigilant and block any interventionist investments which seek to dominate assets vital to the sustainability of our national economy. That said, maintaining a proper equilibrium and ensuring the transparency and democratic nature of ‘Doing Business in Georgia’, free from discrimination, will require masterly diplomatic and economic policy-making skills which we, as a small nation facing powerful winds in one of the most volatile regions of the global, must learn.
RESILIENT IDENTITY, REMAINING RECEPTIVE Several basic principles need to be reconciled. Firstly, Georgia cannot contain malign, dominant geoconomic powers on her own, and therefore needs to be part of the Western alliance. Secondly, the country cannot turn its back on its own neighbourhood, and must seek to maintain good relations with its neighbours. Thirdly, Georgia has her own national interests which must be pursued regardless of regional ups and downs, and whose maintenance is critical for her sustainability as a nation-state. Explaining in detail the policies and instruments through which these principles could be applied goes beyond the scope of this article, but a few points can briefly be mentioned. Abroad, Georgia must ceaselessly pursue projects in her own interests that aim to increase or deepen development in Eurasia; since 1992, for example, the EU has launched several such projects within the framework of its ‘Transport Corridor— Europe-Caucasus-Asia’ (TRACECA), and various US initiatives seek to support the creation of a New Silk Road, to name but a few. Domestically, we must be wary of promises of debt investments—always carefully considering the type of debt involved, its ratio to GDP and the availability of the sources required to service it. In addition, given the varying (and sometimes controversial) nature of global investment flows, the government might consider designing and introducing a mechanism for screening or pre-approving investments. This mechanism should in no way be seen as ‘anti-investment’ or ‘anti-democratic’, but should instead match Western efforts to safeguard strategically important assets. At the end of the day, however, it is important that we Georgians ask ourselves what we want and need in terms of development, and that we consider how the latter can be made to correspond to the expectations of our partners and the civilized world. Only such an approach can safeguard our own interests without letting others down.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Government to Restore Historic Houses along Rioni River
Image source: FactCheck.ge
BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE
he Municipal Development Fund (MDF) of Georgia has announced plans to restore 41 historic homes along the Rioni River in Kutaisi. The Mayor of Kutaisi, Giorgi Chigvaria, is calling the plan the “project of the century.” On April 26, the MDF, an agency of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia (MRDI), officially opened the bidding process for the design of the Kutaisi historical residential district and Davit Kakabadze Art Gallery. The rehabilitation project will include residential houses and public buildings from the 19th century, lining both of the banks of the Rioni River. A pedestrian area will also be installed from the Red to the Chain bridges, connecting residential and public areas of the central historic district. Along with residential buildings, the Davit Kakabadze Art Gallery will be renovated. The gallery was founded in 1976 and is located in the historic district of Kutaisi on Rustaveli Avenue. It has the official status of a cultural heritage monument of Georgia. It houses nearly 3,000 paintings, sculptures, and applied arts exhibits. The massive rehabilitation works have a projected start date in 2020. The MDF and Kutaisi City Hall have already begun meeting with architects and experts, including specialists from the Cultural Heritage Agency, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure.
The targeted buildings, in the heart of historic Kutaisi, have not been updated or restored since their construction. The work will attempt to preserve the original look and style of the 19th century buildings. For the past several years, many have called for the restoration of Kutaisi’s historic district, which has been left to decay while Tbilisi historic areas are slowly being brought back to life, Mtskheta got a complete overhaul, and Dusheti was recently announced as the target of the next major rural historic restoration project. The major impetus behind the restoration of Kutaisi’s riverbank homes is increasing the city’s attractiveness to tourists, both foreign and domestic. Since Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air made the Kutaisi International Airport its hub for flights to a number of European destinations, the number of visitors to the area has dramatically increased. Many tourists, who otherwise may not have considered a stop in Kutaisi, are now tacking it on at the start or end of a trip if they are using the Kutaisi airport. Especially in the warmer months, natural wonders such as the Prometheus and Sataplia Caves and Martvili and Okatse Canyons are popular, a short drive from the Kutaisi airport, located about 25 km from the city center. Kutaisi now hopes to drive some of those visitors to spend a night or two in the city itself. Despite being the second largest city in Georgia (or third in the summer, pushed down the list by Batumi’s seasonal crowds) with a population of about 150,000 people, Kutaisi is known as a sleepy city without much to do. The restoration of the historic district should increase its charm, which City Hall hopes will help further develop leisure infrastructure that can be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
$60 Mln Development to Begin at Dashbashi Canyon
Photo source - Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia
BY AMY JONES
he Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia has announced that a large development project will begin at Dashbashi Canyon in the Tsalka region of Georgia. The project, costing $60 mln, will include the construction of a 240-meter long bridge across the canyon, as well as a zip line, restaurant,
and hotel. A space will also be created for musical festivals, with a capacity of 100,000 people. Carved by the Ktsia River, Dashbashi Canyon is known for its natural diversity and beautiful landscape. There are numerous waterfalls along the 8km length of the canyon which help to keep the canyon’s slope green and luscious. Krass Land, a Georgian company founded with Israeli investments, will oversee the project which is expected to be completed by July 2020. Construction will begin this summer.
MAY 7 - 9, 2019
Building a Strong & United Nation: Learning from the Israeli Experience BY ERIC LIVNY
was 13 when my family took the fateful decision to make ‘Aliyah’ to Israel back in 1977. ‘Aliyah’ (the act of going up in Hebrew) is a nice term describing Jewish ‘repatriation’ from the Diaspora (St. Petersburg, in my case) to the Holy Land. Etymologically, ‘Aliya’ originates in the ancient Israelite tradition of annual ‘pilgrimage tours’ to Jerusalem (situated almost 1km above sea level). Yet, there was very little ‘going up’ in the social status of my family during the first five years in Israel. My parents took more than two years to learn enough Hebrew to be able to land their first jobs. To cut on household expenses, I was sent off to Alonei Itskhak, a Jewish Agency-financed boarding school catering to immigrant kids: recent arrivals from the USSR, like myself, and children of barely literate parents who immigrated to Israel from remote rural communities in Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and other North African nations in 1950s. Needless to say, the two groups – the ‘Russians’ and ‘Moroccans’ – lived in parallel universes. We attended the same classes but had little else in common. We communicated in different languages, and were different in everything that mattered: from manner of speech and behavior to hobbies and intellectual interests. Things changed quite dramatically the following year. I passed entrance exams and was admitted (with a scholarship) to the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa, an elitist private institution that agreed to (very partially) open its doors to outsiders like myself. A more than 2-hour daily commute from Kiriat Ata (a small working class town in Haifa’s vicinity) seemed like a good price to pay for membership in this prestigious club, a hotbed of technological talent, intellectual, military and political leadership. As the only ‘Russian’ kid in the class, I worked very hard to hide my foreign identity and accent. Thus, I spent hours circling my (very) humble abode in order to practice the difficult Hebrew ‘r’ sound. Very soon I acquired near flawless mastery of the language, but all my efforts to ‘connect’
and become socially accepted fell flat. Ironically, my classmates and I wore the same uniform consisting of jeans and blue shirts with the school’s motto “Walk Humbly” (Micha, 6:8) sewn to the pocket. Yet, these blue shirts could not conceal the differences in social status between outsiders and those born into upper middle class Israeli families from Haifa’s upscale neighborhoods on Mount Carmel. By the age of 16, I gave up on desperate attempts to acquire ‘authentic’ Israeli friends and found refuge in the company of other ‘Russians’ closer to my proletarian neighborhood. This could have been the end of my Israeli dream, except that at the age of 18 I was drafted by the Israeli military.
THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET The year was 1982. Israel was at war in Lebanon and volunteering to serve in an elite paratrooper unit seemed like the right thing to do. Very soon I found myself in a boot camp with 25 other young guys: Dov Zilber from Moshav Kfar Kish and Ofer Cohen from Naharia; Yair Itzhaki from Kubbutz Kineret and Roni Almagor from Tel Aviv; Amir Halkin from upscale Savion and Pinki Zuaretz from crime-infested Netanya; Arik Libman (myself), son of recent Soviet emigrants, and Omri Sharon, son of the then Minister of Defense and future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
NATIONAL ARMY, ISRAELI STYLE Military service is a universal duty for Israelis (certainly for the Jews among them). Every young Jewish Israeli man and woman, regardless of their social status, education, or skin color is required to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Moreover, military duty is not only mandated by law but is considered to be a privilege. About a year prior to being drafted, young Israelis start going through a battery of tests designed to examine their psychological fitness, cognitive and physical abilities. The purpose is to optimally match future soldiers and officers (based on their skills and motivation) to military occupations and units. Those selected into occupations that require prior training are assigned to intensive
prep courses in programming, technology, languages, etc. Depending on IDF needs, hundreds are allowed to acquire higher education degrees in fields ranging from IT and engineering to medicine and law (yes, the army also employs lawyers!) in order to serve in a professional capacity. Once again, I was the only ‘Russian’ in the pack, but this time it seemed to be of little significance. What mattered was your willpower and physical strength; the agility with which you would wake up to substitute for your friend on a night duty or stick your shoulder under a heavy stretcher. It was about who you were yourself and not “what is your father” (a line that stuck with me from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). This was the moment when I finally started feeling a proud Israeli citizen.
GEORGIA’S NATION BUILDING PROJECT CELEBRATING 130 YEARS Most Georgians are acutely aware of the fact their country is home to many ethnic and religious minorities – Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Ossetians and Yazidis, Jews and Greek. Yet, few would doubt that despite being divided and ruled by dominant regional powers for much of its history, the Georgian nation has been in existence since times immemorial. The truth is that, just like all modern nations of our time, the Georgian nation is very a recent creation. Until well into the 19th century, Kartvelian tribes were just that: tribes. Of course, they spoke closely related dialects and had a com-
mon religion, but one would have a hard time discerning anything like a common national sentiment. And, indeed, how could there be any unifying sentiment in a territory divided by impassable mountain ranges and artificial borders imposed by rival empires and competing feudal rulers. Georgia’s revival as a nation started with the country’s political unification under the Russian rule in early 19th century. However, it was not until 1860s and 70s, when influenced by other national movements on the fringes of the Russian empire and elsewhere in Europe, Georgian intellectuals were able to take the country’s nation-building project to the next level. Two notable milestones in this process were the publication, in 1876, of Mother Language (დედა ენა) by Iakob Gogebashvili, and the establishment, three years later, of the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians. Led by Ilya Chavchavadze, Iakob Gogebashvili and other literati, this charity supported the teaching of the Kartuli vernacular in newly founded schools across the entire country, seeking to establish it as a common national language for all Georgians. Kartuli books, newspapers and magazines published by Chavchavadze et al were just another means of achieving the same goal. Celebrating its 130th anniversary in 2016, Georgia’s nation-building project is not much younger than most national movements in Europe. However, having achieved independence only in 1991, Georgia is still a very young nation, lacking in maturity and confidence of its
older siblings. As we wrote on these pages, to date, Georgians tend to cluster in family groups and clans, and many of the country’s challenges – in business, politics and government – stem from people’s limited ability to let go of these primitive parochial bonds. Sadly, instead of breaking existing divides, Georgia’s education system and institutions, such as the military, are major detractors from the country’s nation-building project. Instead of facilitating social mobility, Georgia’s public schools are sustaining and deepening existing social and cultural gaps (see “Like Teacher Like Son” blog). Instead of helping heal wounds in Georgia’s social fabric, the Georgian law on military duty and military service effectively divides the nation into haves and have nots. As a result, Georgia ‘national’ army is but an army of illiterate peasants, poorly motivated and unfit for the security challenges of the 21st century. *** The good news is that backwardness comes with an important advantage: ability to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. Israel may face its own share of challenges, but if there is one thing Georgia could learn from Israel it is how to use the military as the ultimate nation-building device.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Livny is Founder and President at Tbilinomics Policy Advisors and Chair of Economic Policy Committee at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC Georgia).
Georgia Launches New Quality Mark Regulations BY THEA MORRISON
ew Regulations, Rules for Assigning the Right of Quality Mark Use, have been developed by the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, representing another step from the State to promote the quality of Georgian products. Under the new regulations, there are 11 quality classifiers: the Protected Geographic Indication (PGI), Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Traditional Product, Georgian Quality, Grass Fed, Hand Made, Stemming from the Highlands, Forest Nurtured, Juice of Immediate Squeeze, Bio Product and Transitioning to Bio Production. Applications for the Quality Mark are
voluntary, and it is assigned in line with the rules adopted under the legislation of Georgia. The presentation of the Quality Mark regulations took place within the frames of the Tbilisi Tea and Honey Festival in Mtatsminda Park on May 5 and it was opened by the Environment and Agriculture Minister, Levan Davitashvili and the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze. Davitashvili explained that the presentation was symbolically held within the scope of the festival in order to underline that Georgia can offer highquality and clean products. “The new regulations of the quality mark ensure more reliability and protection for Georgian products. It will also increase the demand for Georgian products, promote agro-tourism and increase trust and export," the Minister said.
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Davitashvili explained that the Right of Quality Mark Use envisages development of a food quality system, product branding, implementation of international marketing practices and protection of legal / institutional mechanisms to improve the quality and origin of food. While delivering his speech, the Georgian Prime Minister said the demand for biologically clean products is increasing worldwide and Georgia has a unique chance to established itself on the global market as a country producing biologically and environmentally clean food. He added that increased competitiveness in the agriculture sector is one of the priorities of the Economic Policy of the Government of Georgia, which is achieved through environmentally clean, so called organic food production.
Bakhtadze also announced that organic food production will gradually become tax-free in the country. “We have waived taxes from a great portion of natural food production already, but we have a more ambitious plan - to make every enterprise that meets the highest standards and produces biologically clean, organic agrofood absolutely tax-free. It will happen step by step,” he said. The PM believes that such steps will facilitate the incorporation of a lot of small enterprises in the country to ultimately help in the eradication of poverty. “We believe that organic and highquality food production is the only right way for the development of agriculture. It is a solution enabling our population get tangible results in the shortest period of time,” he added.
GEORGIA TODAY MAY 7 - 9, 2019
On May 5, Georgia Stood at the Start Line for the Sixth Time! TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
n May 5, the Wings for Life World Run was held in Kakheti, bringing together 7,000 participants. Gaiane Ustian (32,53km) and Levan Chokheli (53,787km) were the local winners. David Mzee, the participant and patient financed by the Wings for Life Foundation, which supports spinal cord injury treatment, was at the start line in Switzerland, and then spent 30 minutes running the race. “I beat my record! Six minutes on a flat surface was my maximum at the clinic, while I managed to run 390 meters in 30 minutes in the new location and in such weather,” he said. The World Run took place in 323 locations in 72 countries this year. 120,000 participants covered 1,103,276km in total, and EUR 3.5 million was raised for spinal cord treatment. Donations are still coming in. The status of Global Winner of Wings for Life World Run was given to two runners from Russia: Nina Zarina (53.72) and Ivan Motorin (64.37). The Wings for Life World Run is a unique charity marathon which brings together professional sportsmen, casual joggers and wheelchair users aged 18+. The World Run has no restrictions, no
defined running distance or time and no traditional finish line. Half an hour after the race starts, a moving finish line, the ‘Catcher Car’ starts chasing runners along the course, gradually accelerating the speed from 14 km/h to 34 km/h. In comparison with previous years, this year the Georgian ‘Catcher Car’ was sped up every half an hour, driven by Sandro Tavartkiladze.
ABOUT THE RESEARCH The Nature and Neuroscience Magazine published a study supervised by Swiss scientists Gregory Korton (EPFL and CHUV/Unil) and Jacqueline Bloch (CHUV/Unil) in December 2018. The research brought together three patients with severe spinal cord damage, all of whom were ultimately given the ability to walk unaided. At the first stage of the research, wireless implants were installed in their spinal cords which were connected to their paralyzed leg muscles to provide electric stimulation controlled by a device like a wrist-watch that reacted to the owner’s voice to activate or deactivate the stimulator according to need. Following several weeks of work, the three patients had ‘control’ of their leg muscles. Five months of exercise later and they were able to walk totally unaided. The next stage of the research is to use the electric stimulator at the early phase of nerve damage, where there is a higher chance for the restoration of health. There are 191 ongoing projects financed
by the Foundation in 2019. All the money raised by racers goes to the Wings for Life foundation. All the donations are transferred to the Founda-
tion through the EMS (European Merchant Services) system. The Georgian Wings for Life World Run 2019 was organized by: Ministry of
Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, the National Federation ‘Sport for All’, as well as the team of Red Bull Company.
Georgians Countrywide Protest Animal Circuses BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA
n May 4, despite heavy rain, the idea of banning animal circuses in Georgia brought dozens of individuals to Heroes' Square, Tbilisi, to rally on the opening day of the Yuri Nikulin animal circus visiting Tbilisi from Moscow, Russia. Their message: Circus Without Animals (ცირკი ცხოველების გარეშე), a campaign highlighting the cruel and abusive methods used to train the animal "performers" in such circuses worldwide. People of all ages, even first-graders and a group of Georgian Girl Scouts, were among the protestors, holding banners and shouting slogans warning arriving circus attendees about the suffering of the animals they were about to see. Some of the children spoke to the crowd of their past visits to animal circuses, of seeing tigers and other animals whipped during performances, and of how upset and angry it had made them feel. "We don't need animal circuses for fun - let's see human acrobats instead!" they said. “Kids these days sometimes know more about dinosaurs than they do about tigers and monkeys- because they watch documentaries and read
books about them,” said Katie Davies, one of the campaign organizers. “Kids don’t need animal circuses or zoos to understand how beautiful animals are, nor do they need to see animals whipped to ride bicycles or starved so that a morsel of meat makes them jump through burning hoops, or to see them trapped in too-small enclosures. This is all about raising awareness of what
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is morally right.” The organizers had the importance of raising public awareness of circus animal cruelty at the forefront of their campaign prior to the rally. An initial petition against animal circuses got 10,000 signatures in three weeks while the online event itself caught the interest of 13,000 people. The organizing group, combining students, lawyers,
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journalists and others, has been on TV, and has encouraged celebrities to join them in spreading the message condemning animal circuses. At the rally, leaflets were given to circus attendees explaining that animals have their own rights, are not human property, and that their torture must not be tolerated. A petition was also available for signing during the rally, which is to push for legislative changes to ban animal circuses from the territory of Georgia. Despite the bad-weather turnout, it was signed by more than 500 Georgian citizens in just two hours, taking it far beyond the 300 signatures needed to get the campaign noticed by MPs. The ultimate goal is to follow the example of others, among them Colombia, Croatia, Costa Rica, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Scotland, Singapore, Israel, Finland, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, India, Peru, and, most recently, the capital of Ingushetia. One of the organizers of the campaign, Lika Batsikadze, explained that "the civilized world is well-aware of the significance of banning animal circuses, and more than 30 countries have applied relevant measures. Georgia should certainly be included on that list and implement progressive, ethical approaches to animals." She added that
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a request had already been sent to the Mayor of Tbilisi for consideration and that the rally is just the beginning of the fight for the freedom of animals used in entertainment in Georgia. David Mizandari, Director of biletebi. ge, the agency contracted by Tbilisi Circus to sell its tickets, responded to the requests of campaign leaders that the company stop selling tickets to the animal circus: “We have contractual responsibilities towards our business partners, including the circus, and can make no changes until the expiration of the current contract. We will certainly consider this issue and take the view of society into account, and will hold negotiations with circus management, as well as current and future organizers of such shows. We think it is of paramount importance to explore international best-practice and apply it to make relevant changes at the legislative level, and not to be limited only to stopping ticket sales.” Tbilisi was not the only city protesting animal circuses on May 4, as youth also came out in support of the campaign in two other major Georgian cities, in Kutaisi and in Zugdidi- where a traveling animal circus is currently pitched. The campaign is to continue and to grow, with animal-lovers and protesters saying they will not stop until Georgia bans animal circuses.
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May 7 - 9, 2019