Page 1 georgiatoday

Issue no: 1046/128

• MAY 8 - 10, 2018


In this week’s issue...


Renowned Alpinist Messner Back to Plan Caucasus Mountain Center

ON BOOSTING BUSINESS PM announces extension to Startup program and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Director General talks Vocational Education



Manufacture in Georgia! ISET PAGE 4

Electricity Market Watch GALT & TAGGART PAGE 8

Spotlight on Georgian Telecommunication

Image source:


Radisson Blu, French Embassy Invite Michelin-Star Chefs to Bring Georgia to a New Level of Gastronomy

Guria: The New Paradise of Tourism



uisine, as it stands today, is the product of the generations which have preceded us. Each of those involved has added his or her brick to this great edifice of gastronomy. – said world renowned French Chef, Guy Savoy. Echoing this sentiment, the innovative vision of the Ambassador of France to Georgia, Pascual Meunier, and the General Manager of Radisson Blu Iveria, Tbilisi, Jordi Kuijt, has begun to strengthen the “edifice” of culinary artists in Georgia. April 25th saw two Michelin star French Chefs, Gilled Chesneau and Stephane Laruelle, of the Guy Savoy restaurants in Paris, visiting Tbilisi to give masterclasses and special guest dinners at Radisson Blu Iveria’s exclusive restaurant, ‘Andropov’s Ears.’ Continued on page 5


Putin’s Monumental Task: Derailing the Western Expansion POLITICS PAGE 15 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof04ͲMayͲ2018


COMMODITIES CrudeOil,Brent(US$/bbl) GoldSpot(US$/OZ)


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GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

Tbilisi Court Bans Georgian Condoms for Depicting Religious Symbols BY THEA MORRISON


bilisi City Court has fined Georgian condom producing company AIISA with GEL 500 and banned four of its condoms from the market for unethical advertising. The company was also tasked to withdraw the advertisement and the distributed items, as they had “violated the morality and dignity of society.” Tbilisi City Court judge, Lasha Tavartkiladze, found the following imagery on the condom packaging unethical and offensive to the religious feelings of a particular group as well as national dignity: 1. Queen Tamar, a Medieval ruler of Georgia who has been sanctified by the Georgian Orthodox Church, with an inscription – Gate of Thrones in Tamar; 2. A left palm, with a condom on two fingers. The court considered this as representing the Blessing Right Hand by which the clergymen of the Orthodox Church depict the cross; 3. A photo of a panda with the text – Would Have a Wank but it’s Epiphany. As the company itself explains, these are lyrics from a Georgian band’s song; 4. Packaging that refers the 12th Century Battle of Didgori between King David the Builder and Seljuk Turk forces, which in Georgia is regarded as a historic

Photo: Banned AIISA condom. Source: AIISA

turning point and respected both by the State and the Church. The owner of AIISA company, Anania Gachechiladze, believes the court verdict contradicts freedom of expression and endangers the democratic state and society. She says she will appeal the court verdict and if the upper instance court upholds

the decision of Tbilisi City Court, she plans to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasburg. “This is censorship and restriction of freedom of expression. I am not going to remove the production from sales until the case is considered by all instance courts,” Gachechiladze stated. Non-Governmental Organization

(NGO) Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI), which protects Gachechiladze’s interests, says the judgment is not in line with the Constitution of Georgia. “We believe that the court’s judgment contradicts the Constitution of Georgia, the Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court

of Georgia and the case-law of the European Court. Therefore, we believe the court’s judgment limiting freedom of speech on account of protecting religious freedoms and national dignity is a dangerous precedent of censorship,” the NGO stated. The lawsuit against AIISA was filed by Tbilisi City Hall, which, on its own, was addressed by the far-right and nationalist group, ‘Georgian Idea,’ asking for an “adequate reaction” regarding the packaging of the condoms. AIISA condoms also depict prints of various famous persons, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Stalin, Adam and Eve and many quotes from Georgia’s famous poem The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, written in the era of Queen Tamar. On March 20, the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church released a statement regarding the company, saying AIISA had insulted religious feelings and naming their actions “blasphemy.” Moreover, a rally against the company was held in Georgia’s western city of Kutaisi, where protesters demanded proper punishment of the company representatives. A similar rally was held in Tbilisi on April 19, when the students of Georgia’s Theological Seminary, run by the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, gathered at the old building of Parliament and called on the state to “protect Christian society from insults.”

Passenger Traffic at Renowned Alpinist Messner Back to Georgian Airports Plan Caucasus Mountain Center up by 34%


Photo source: TAV Georgia



n January-April 2018, Georgian airports served a total of 1,208,430 passengers, 34% more compared to the same period of 2017, which saw 903,878 passengers. During the first four months of 2018, Tbilisi International Airport served 1,020,104 passengers, 35% more compared to the number of passengers transferred in the same period last year (754,783).

Batumi airport has seen over 68,261 passengers so far in 2018, 59% more compared to the same period of 2017 which posted a result of 42,983 passengers. Passenger traffic in Kutaisi International Airport has increased by 14%. The airport served 104,082 passengers in the same period of 2017; while, this year the indicator reached 118,433 passengers. The local destination airports in Mestia and Ambrolauri received 1,632 passengers in four months. In January-April 2018, 91 flights were conducted in local airports of Georgia.

ast year, acclaimed mountaineer Reinhold Messner visited Georgia at the invitation of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, to familiarize himself with Georgia’s mountains, in the company of experts for spatial planning and representatives of the Mountain Resorts Development Company. This time, together with prominent architect Werner Tscholl, he visited Svaneti and the site allocated for construction of the Caucasus Mountain Center, followed by a detailed discussion with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. According to the Head of the Government, the Caucasus Mountain Center will have a significant impact on Georgia’s mountaineering and the country’s further development in this direction. “The Caucasus Mountain Center project will be designed by the best architects. In his visit, Reinhold Messner was accompanied by Werner Tscholl, one of the best architects in Italy and 2016 Architect of the Year. He will design the museum as a partner facility of Messner’s network of museums. This means that everyone visiting his museums throughout Europe will receive information about Mestia, Svaneti, and Georgia,” the PM stated. According to Messner, the project is a great opportunity for placing Georgia in the spotlight of world mountaineering, the potential for which the country certainly possesses. “The Caucasus Mountain Center will tell the world the story of relations between Mankind and the mountains,' Messner told the PM. "Most likely, we will start building next year. Your landscapes are some of the most beautiful in the world, especially Ushba, a key mountain in the history of alpinism. Your mountains are perfect for mountaineering and hiking. I believe that the Caucasus will be as strong as the Alps as an attraction for hikers and mountaineers from all over the world."

The PM recalled Messner’s previous visit and praised the Caucasus Mountain Center project as unique. “I have saved the project’s blueprint drawn by Messner. This museum will be open on all sides to offer unique views in every direction, in perfect harmony with the mountains, notably Ushba. It is located high in the mountains, accessible by cable transport and road. It is a truly unique project, and I am excited about launching it,” Kvirikashvili emphasized. He then discussed the details of the Caucasus Mountain Center with the acclaimed mountaineer, the First Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Dimitri Kumsishvili; Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Maya Tskitishvili; Head of the Mountain Resorts Development Company, Alexandre Onoprishvili; and mountain planner Giorgi

Gotsiridze. The meeting was also attended by Executive Director of the Georgian Wine Association, Tina Kezeli. Along with Georgia’s mountains, Messner has taken a liking to the oldest Georgian winemaking traditions. Reinhold Messner was the first mountaineer in the world to ascend Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and technical equipment in 1980, and to have ascended all 14 peaks over 8,000 meters. The mountaineer was 13 when he started climbing difficult routes. Together with his brother, 11 years of age at that time, he was recognized among Europe’s best alpinists. Messner is the first to have crossed the Antarctic, Greenland, and the Gobi Desert on foot. He has authored more than 80 books describing his travels an adventures. Messner is a former Member of the European Parliament.


GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018


Gov't to Tighten Sanctions for Violating Fire Safety Rules BY THEA MORRISON


he Emergency Management Service of Georgia has prepared a draft law which envisages stricter penalties for breaching fire safety

regulations. According to the draft, in case of violation of fire safety rules, fines will be ten times greater than previously. Violation or failure to comply with the requirements of the fire safety rules and conditions shall be subject to a fine of GEL 500. However, if violated during a special fire-fighting regime, the same action will be subject to a fine of GEL 1000. Currently, according to the Code of Administrative Offenses, the breach of abovementioned rules envisages GEL 50 and GEL 200 fines, respectively. According to the draft, the absence of fire-fighting systems, special equipment and fire extinguishers in buildings will result in a GEL 1,000 fine instead of the current GEL 100. According to the project, buildings subject to state fire supervision will be: buildings owned by the state authority and municipality bodies; educational, sports, medical and cultural heritage monuments; more than 28m-high public buildings; Public buildings with two or more underground floors; multi-func-

tional buildings and complexes; shopping centers, complexes and hypermarkets; clubs and entertainment-leisure centers; hotels, guesthouses, tourist bases and campsites; sanatoriums; leisure houses; public catering facilities (restaurants); 2000 m2 or more general retail and wholesale trade buildings / territories; railway and motor transport stations, as well as metro, air and sea buildings (ports); oil bases and terminals containing 500 m3 or more tank volumes; petrol and gas stations; thermal and hydro power plant buildings; storage and construction material warehouses; and grain storage and / or processing enterprises (mills). Violation of rules of evacuation and emergency exits, fire alarms, safety announcements during a fire, and evacuation management, will be fined from GEL 1000 to GEL 5000 while the current law only implies a GEL 200 fine. If the law regarding access to buildings has been violated, it will be followed by

a GEL 100 fine. If the safety rules are violated by a private fire-rescue unit, the owner company will be fined from GEL 5000 to GEL 10,000. Violation or failure to comply with emergency situation prevention or to react to requests on important buildings shall be subject to a fine of GEL 1000. If the fire-fighting brigade is sent to the fire location late, this will result in a 1000 GEL fine. Failure to meet the requirements for the protection of the population, material and cultural values during an emergency situation will be subject to a fine of GEL 3000. Several Georgian markets and shopping centers were destroyed in blazes in 2017 due to the absence of proper safety systems in the buildings.

However, the worst incident happened in the Leo Grand Hotel in Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city Batumi, which left 11 people dead in November last year. Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs assessed that the 5-star hotel had been functioning without observing the safety norms, being unequipped with an automatic fire and alarm system and not possessing the right ventilation system, which would have

facilitated the evacuation of people from the building during the fire. The new draft law has already been submitted to Parliament for consideration.



GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

Manufacture in Georgia! a lower share of businesses expect their business conditions to worsen.



verall, the BCI gained 8.3 points compared to Q1 2018. Expectations in the private sector in Georgia increased significantly, by

period, sales (production or turnover) of the 236 firms surveyed increased from 35.1 (Q1 2018) to 41.6 (Q2 2018). A significant increase in performance was observed almost in all sectors: construction (+40.2), manufacturing (+34.2), retail trade (+12.3), service (+6.3) and others (+17.2). Significant improvement means that in these sectors, the weighted balance between positive and negative responses decreased compared to the previous quarter. In the agriculture and financial sectors, production/turnover/sales for the past three months worsened by -64.0 and -16.2 points, respectively. Compared to the previous quarter, a lower share of surveyed firms (57%) stated that employment remained the same over the past

18.1 percentage points, and reached 67.0 index points (up from 48.9 points in Q1). Business performance over the past three months increased, reaching nearly 41.6 points (increasing from 35.1), indicating an upturn in production/turnover/sales. The synergy of improved performance in the past three months and higher expectations have led to a raise in overall BCI. The BCI index increased in all sectors except agriculture: manufacturing (+41.6), retail trade (+14.6), construction (+10.0), financial (+2.6), service (+4.1) and other (+7.1). The agriculture sector worsened by -28.0 points.

PAST PERFORMANCE Businesses’ actual performance increased significantly compared to the first quarter of 2018. In the Q2 2018 reporting

and construction (-14.5). The highest increase was reported in the manufacturing and retail trade sectors (see the table). As one can see from the table below, business expectations for the three-month period April through June 2018 increased for large size and decreased for SMEs firms. The majority (58%) of surveyed businesses do not expect any changes in employment over the next three months. Furthermore, 33% of firms stated that they would employ more employees in the future. Meanwhile, 57% of the surveyed firms expected that the economic condition of their businesses would improve over the next three months, and 35% did not expect any changes in the future, while

The Sale Price Expectation Index increased from 11.2 points (Q1 2018) to 11.7 points (Q2 2018). The increase in the Index is driven by significant improvement in the manufacturing and construction sectors. The agriculture sector's sales price expectations decreased the most, by -49.5 points. The manufacturing sector expects a noticeable increase in prices over the next three months. (for more information, see Table). The overall Sales Price Expectations Index increased for large companies and decreased for SMEs. The majority (72%) of all surveyed firms are not going to change the prices they charge over the next three months. Only 7% of firms expect to decrease prices, and 21% expect to increase prices in the future.

lack of demand as the main limiting factor for further business development.


A low level of consumption activities and lack of access to financing continue to be two of the most significant obstacles for businesses. From a total of 236

The ISET Policy Institute, working in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia (ICC), implemented the Business Confidence Survey in December 2013, and publishes the Business Confidence Index (BCI) on a quarterly basis. Confidence is measured through a simple survey instrument targeted at top business executives. The survey is online. Answers obtained from the surveys are aggregated in the form of “balances.” Balances are constructed as the difference between the percentage of respond-

firms participating in the survey, 26% of large sized firms and 36% of SMEs noted that lack of access to finance was their main obstacle. Meanwhile, 16% of large firms and 27% of SMEs chose

ents giving positive and negative replies. The methodology for compiling the indices is based on the Joint Harmonised EU Programme of Business and Consumer Surveys.


three months. More businesses reported an increase and fewer decrease in employment. Moreover, 42% of firms claimed that their business activities remained unchanged over the past three months, while 36% of participants stated that they had improved their performance, and 22% stated the decline.

EXPECTATIONS The Expectations Index increased by 18.1 index points in the second quarter of 2018. Expectations about the next three months improved almost in all sectors, except agriculture (-57.3)

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GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018


Radisson Blu, French Embassy Invite Michelin-Star Chefs to Bring Georgia to a New Level of Gastronomy Continued from page 1 “We had a vision when we opened this restaurant to bring European gastronomy to Georgia and combine it with the best Georgian traditions,” Jordi Kuijt told GEORGIA TODAY. “There is a very rich Georgian food tradition which we wanted to show and develop, and we are ideally placed to do so with our Georgian chef, Irakli Todadze, trained by us to a level that can be Gault & Millau, and in future, perhaps Michelin.” In collaboration with the French Embassy, Andropov’s Ears hosted a full day of masterclasses with 10 of the best known and upcoming Georgian chefs, aiming, as Kuijt told us, to “bring Georgia to a new culinary level.” “We originally offered a masterclass for just four chefs, but demand was so high, we made space in the kitchen for 10,” Kuijt said. “It was a small, efficient kitchen, with all the chefs listening attentively to Gilled and Stephane- eager to learn. They truly made the most of the experience of having such high-level chefs in Georgia.” “It was an honor to have two Michelinstar chefs here, because, in Georgia, few understand the concept and quality that Michelin entails,” he noted. “We hope to help change this.” Ambassador Pascal Meunier knew Gilled from the Paris restaurant and, once he and Kuijt had a plan, they contacted Gilled and Stephane and, via conference calls, made all necessary preparations ahead of their special visit. Stephane Lareulle, who has been working for Guy Savoy at Le Chiberta, l’Etoile, since 2007, in a rare moment’s break from the kitchen between courses, told us of the positive experience of being in Georgia. “There is amazing hospitality,” he said. “The country is very beautiful.”

We asked the two chefs about the masterclass and how they felt it had gone. “I was very impressed with the competencies and adaptability of the Georgian chefs,” said the experienced cheftrainer, Gilled Chesneau, titled ‘Mobile Chef: Spiritual Defender of Guy Savoy.’ “And it came as something of a surpriseafter all, our only experience of Georgia before this was by talking to the organizers here through conference calls.” Gilled mentioned their eagerness on arriving to try the local cuisine, including the world-famous khachapuri. “Georgian food is something totally differentheavy on the herbs and salt, with plenty of fresh vegetables. Of course, we tried khachapuri, and ended with a drink or two of Chacha.” The day after the masterclass, the two chefs, with their Georgian colleagues, prepared a three-course meal for local appreciators of fine dining. We asked how they had chosen which dishes to prepare. “When we arrived, we had a careful look at the Andropov’s Ears menu,” Gilles said.

“The first thing we were looking for was the focus of the restaurant; what we could bring to the table that would surprise. We chose to start with artichoke soup and black truffle. We saw that they had salmon on the menu and chose that as a main, with chocolate ice-cream in a light biscuit edging for dessert, topped by a chocolate coin ‘engraved’ with Guy Savoy’s logo.” Georgian guests spoke of their pleasure and enthusiasm at being able to taste such cuisine in a high-class Tbilisi setting. The truffles especially impressed them. We found out from Kuijt that many of the ingredients, as standard, are brought into Georgia from Europe. “We have two flights per week flying in fresh products for us- oysters from Britannia, lobsters, crab. When the shellfish arrive, they are still alive,” he said. “This is something unique to Tbilisi, and an investment for us. We checked out the fish markets in Dubai, Batumi, Istanbul and Italy. But the best quality and best delivery came from Rotterdam in The Netherlands. Once a week, our ingredients come on a direct flight with

Air Zena, and once with Baltic Air, which includes a one-hour stop in Riga.” “We chose to start our restaurant with a Georgian chef,” he added. “Irakli did great things for us in the Radisson Blu Hotel and now Andropov’s is his baby. Trained by European chefs, he’s changed the way he cooks. If he continues this way, within four years he could be the level of Michelin. Andropov’s Ears and

any restaurant of this level needs to have so many things taken into consideration: food, service, menu; all the small details.” “There are many great Georgian restaurants,” Radisson’s GM went on. “But in looking at the variety of upscale European style venues, we found a gap. In Andropov’s, we had the location, the décor [by French designers Gilles et Boissier] and a French kitchen, and we decided to take a risk and focus on seafood. Georgia is very much a meat-loving country and fish is decidedly missing, especially considering the growing number of businesses coming to Georgia and the increasing tourism; with the Georgians travelling more, experiencing and seeing more and becoming more receptive to novelties.” With the abundance of Francophiles and lovers of fine dining now here in Tbilisi, and with city-dwellers being ever more exposed to the delights of European cuisine, thanks to the work and dedication of the Andropov’s Ears team and the French Embassy, the “edifice” of Georgian gastronomy is guaranteed to go from strength to strength in the coming years.



GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

Green Diamond: Delivering Apartments Ahead of Schedule


he residential complex Green Diamond continues to surprise future residents in Tbilisi with its unprecedented results. The delivery of all 731 apartments, sold nine months before completion of the construction, began one month earlier the agreed deadline. However, this is not the first such case for the developer company MAQRO Construction, as, in 2016, its project Green Budapest was delivered to residents an incredible five months earlier than the agreed deadline. Oguz Kaan Karaer, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, explains that the early delivery of apartments has become a tradition for MAQRO Construction. “It’s of multilateral importance for us not only to meet the deadlines, but to

deliver units earlier and surprise customers,” he notes. “It highlights the company's credibility and service quality that we take the interests of our future residents into account.” “Green Diamond is a unique project in Tbilisi in terms of infrastructure and quality,” he adds. “This is not just a residential complex, this is a different lifestyle, where residents can enjoy greenery, fresh air, beautiful gardens, playgrounds for children, sports areas, pools, and more. Living in Green Diamond will change their and their family’s everyday lives. I’m also planning to move with my family and start a new life in Green Diamond,” he confesses. The delivery process began in April and will last for the next few months. Mr. Alekhsandre Piranishvili was one of the first residents to receive his unit.

“I’m one of the first residents of MAQRO Construction’s complex Green Diamond. I’ve very pleased with it and I’d be happy to cooperate with this company again in future. During the construction period, all the safety rules were observed- I could see it all online through their live webcams. I also appreciate that even when I turned up at the site without warning, I was allowed to check on the progress on my apartment.” Another resident, Mrs. Nino Turashvili, who has long planned to start living independently, decided to make this dream to come true in Green Diamond. “I had been planning to buy a unit for a long time, but it was Green Diamond that finally pushed me to do it: the model and the showrooms I saw in the sales office were so perfect that I made a decision within 15 minutes. A few days after the contract was signed, I decided to visit the construction site and it came as a complete shock to me to see this empty space without fences. But I wasn’t worried because I’d heard about the company’s reliability and how it had delivered early on its Green Budapest construction. Two weeks on, I went again and saw how much progress had been made. For the next two years, I found my dealings with the company to be flexible and comfortable and I was offered a flexible payment term.” Mrs. Nino has visited the construction site often since first making her purchase and says it is the only project in Tbilisi where you have all the facilities inside. “You don’t need to go out for your daily needs as it comes with a green area, playgrounds, swimming pools, an ecologically clean area with fresh air – a rare project in the city.”

“I am so happy that my children will grow up in such a healthy atmosphere,” she adds. Green Diamond is the first large-scale complex to be located in Dighomi, near the city center in an ecologically clean area and in this regard, MAQRO Construction was a pioneer. It is an approach which has been justified. In modern cities, more and more people are inter-

ested in moving away from the city center to escape the noise and pollution: residents of Green Diamond have the opportunity to enjoy fresh air and tranquility. Green Diamond will launch the 3rd stage sales in September, so people still have the chance to join and enjoy a happy and healthy lifestyle!



GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

The Galt & Taggart Research team comprises Georgian and Azerbaijani finance and economic experts who have broad experience of covering the macro and corporate sectors of the two countries. Our current product offering includes Georgian and Azerbaijan macroeconomic research, Georgian sector research, and fixed income corporate research. For free access to Galt & Taggart Research, please visit or contact us at



ector research is one of the key directions of Galt & Taggart Research. We currently provide coverage of Energy, Healthcare, Tourism, Agriculture, Wine, and Real Estate sectors in Georgia. As part of our energy sector coverage, we produce a monthly Electricity Market Watch, adapted here for Georgia Today’s readers. Previous reports on the sector can be found on Galt & Taggart’s website -

before the enforcement of the law.

ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION DRIVERS IN 2017 Consumption growth in 2017 was mainly driven by the consumption of the nonresidential sector: 1) The direct consumers increased their consumption by 18.1% y/y, due to increase of the Georgian Manganese production level and 2) the

Domestic electricity consumption increased 9.3% y/y to 1.1TWh, slightly above the planned level (+2.9%). The sole contributors to consumption growth were distribution licensees: 1) EnergoPro Georgia subscribers’ consumption increased by 18.8% y/y. The growth can be explained by addition of new commercial subscribers; 2) Telasi consumption was up 10.2% y/y.

low base (-21.7% y/y) in March 2017. Enguri/Vardnili generation almost doubled, increasing 87.5% y/y from last year’s low base when Enguri had low generation due to its halted operation in February 2017. The Abkhazian region consumed 87.4% of electricity generated from Enguri/Vardnili. The generation of other regulated and deregulated HPPs also increased significantly by 20.4% y/y


EXPECTED CHANGES IN LEGISLATION The draft law on electricity and natural gas sets the new threshold for mandatory registration for direct consumers at 15.0 GWh of average monthly consumption from May-2018. This law is expected to be approved by Parliament by mid May 2018. The current law requested mandatory registration of direct consumers from all companies connected to the high voltage (35kV+) transmission grid from May 2018. After approval of the law, companies eligible to register as direct consumers will be reduced from the expected 60 to the 4 following companies: Georgian Incorporation, BFDC Georgia, Tsekhi-1, and Block Power. Other companies will retain the option to be registered as direct consumers, with the exception that they will no longer be able to go back to the distribution companies’ services. Notably, BFDC Georgia and Geo Servers already voluntarily registered as direct consumers on April 30,

increased demand for imports drastically. Most of the imported electricity came from Azerbaijan (77.3% of total imports of Mar-18), while the rest came from Turkey. Notably, it was first time since 2008 that Turkey served as import country. This import was reflection of ESCO’s tender on barter of electricity won by Aksen Enerji in February 2018.

non-residential subscribers of distribution licensees increased their consumption by 8.4% y/y, in line with the average growth rate over 2012-2017. New commercial entities added to the distribution grid are the main drivers of the growth. Electricity consumption by residential subscribers of distribution licensees was down by 2.0% in 2017 and accounted for 20% overall domestic consumption. Notably, the average growth rate of residential consumption is 1.9% over 20122017 and we do not expect significant changes to this trend in the near future.


There was no Electricity export or transit in March 2018, although the annual balance envisaged the export of 28.0 GWh. Georgian Urban Energy, owner of Faravani HPP, has a long-term transmission and dispatch agreement, enabling the company to export the predetermined volume of electricity from March to November each year to Turkey. For three consecutive years, Georgian Urban Energy has voluntarily sold electricity to ESCO instead of exporting it. In 2018, Georgian Urban Energy will export only in May, June and July. Electricity generated by domestic sources increased by 34.5% y/y. Hydro generation showed significant increase (+42.4% y/y) in March 2018 from a very

and 42.8% y/y, respectively, due to high water flow and the addition of new HPPs (Dariali and Khelvachauri) to the group of deregulated HPPs. Thermal generation was up 14.4% y/y, but significantly below the planned level (-29.1%). Wind generation showed a 21.1% y/y decrease to 7.1GWh and contributed 0.6% of total supply. The surplus in hydro generation reduced electricity imports by 48.4% y/y from last year’s high base, when interruption in Enguri

The average import price increased by 26.9% y/y to USc 5.0/kWh, from USc 3.4/kWh last year. In March 2017, there was subsidized electricity import from Russia via Salkhino line to satisfy the excess needs of the Abkhazian region. Despite higher import price, the wholesale market price was down by 2.3% y/y to USc 5.0/kWh, due to low electricity imports. Electricity traded at the wholesale price through the market operator was 24.4% of total electricity supplied to the grid, down from 30.7% in March 2017. The average price of electricity in Turkey was up 2.4% y/y to USc 4.1/kWh, 17.2% below the wholesale market price in Georgia.

PM Introduces Startup Friendly Initiative


tartup Friendly, an extension of the 'Startup Georgia' program, aims to serve as yet another tool to encourage new business in Georgia. It was introduced by Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili at Tech Park, Tbilisi, earlier today. Hailed by the PM as "the latest promising project under the government's Four-Point Plan," the initiative will help startups establish relations with large businesses. while allowing large businesses to engage in the development of various fields and to make mutually beneficial investments. "Startup Georgia in itself has a great return as it transforms young people's thinking into a newer, more dynamic, future-oriented brand," the PM said today, going on to congratulate the winners of the latest Startup Georgia contest. "You won a transparent competition in which not only local startup experts but also venture capitalists, CEOs of leading companies from Silicon Valley and from various other countries took part. We have launched a bright new phase in the

development of Georgia's economy," he noted. He opined that startups are the most dynamic and fastest growing parts of the country's economy. "Our goal is to have as many people as possible join this way of thinking. Startup Friendly seeks to provide a format for relations between rookie startups and large, established and successful companies," Kvirikashvili said. "Every startup needs access to technology and capital," he added. "This project is the bridge to providing young business persons with access to what they need to develop." TBC Bank was the first to engage in the startup concept, its founder himself having started the business with just $500. "Such examples help shape our economy, and demonstrate the enthusiasm needed to push this country forward," the PM said, pointing to the aim to have startups become a form of social responsibility for larger companies investing in and guiding them. "Banks will no longer look down on startup businesses," Kvirikashvili said,

Image source:

concluding with the information that the Startup Friendly initiative will not

be the last step in this direction as the Georgian government has more plans

to develop enthusiam and innovative thinking in its youth.



GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

Spotlight on Georgian Telecommunication ments projects that meet international standards, in addition to those of individual companies. Everything it does is connected to the tourism sector in some way. The number of tourists is growing by the year in Georgia, and the country needs to prepare ahead of time through more constructions, more hotels; something Georgian Telecommunication is experienced in, at present counting hotels Ibis styles and Mercury among its clients.



eorgianTelecommunication is a company established by Ericsson employees on June 6, 2017, for the purpose of project planning, installation and post-installation service provision. The company soon earned the partnership of Turk Telekom, Turkcell and Avea. Its official partners are EL-BI, Siemens, Honeywell, ABB and Rittal. Georgian Telecommunication’s installed optical transmitter infrastructure uses Ericsson’s optical web technology, which is how it meets consumer expectations. Despite its short existence on the Georgian market, Georgian Telecommunication has already gained the trust of such big companies as: BP, Maqro Construction, TAV Construction, TAV Georgia, Enka, Dorce, Worley Parsons, and Turkish Airlines. “Through brilliant teamwork, we offer individual solutions, reliable techniques and services to real estate owners as well as retailers,” a representative of Georgian Telecommunication states. “The quality of communication and continuity is the main feature of our field. Georgian Telecommunication offers continuous quality of communication to its customers throughout the whole territory of Georgia, and beyond.”

EASY WITH TECHNOLOGY Georgian Telecommunication’s motto is 'Easy with Technology,’ meaning it works through simple technologies. In the 21st century, we have the opportunity to simplify our daily lives with smart devices. Georgian Telecommunication’s mission is to simplify and improve the daily routine of society in the direction of technology. The main driving force is to protect people's lives and property,

ON SAFETY REGULATIONS Safety regulations are crucial, but the main focus is always on low price, and this is the Georgian business mentality that excludes work of international standards. In Georgia, you might see quality but not necessarily execution at the highest level. Safety standards are very important and should be adhered to in order to respond to customer demands. Georgian Telecommunication hopes that Georgia, as a developing country, will eliminate this problem step by step and all the companies on the Georgian market will eventually succeed in following international standards and be motivated to work to such standards within a competitive environment. as well as to create maximum comfort and customized services based on individual requirements. It is a highly competitive field, but Georgian Telecommunication says it stands above other companies like it in that it offers a complete suite of services, not only for the installation of a specific device, but also for further technical inspection. It inspects fire systems using Siemens testers, which are hard to find in Georgia. It also distributes products via partner international companies. Georgian Telecommunication always chooses the best producers, being focused on high quality products to ensure that safety results are 100% guaranteed. In

addition, it has qualified personnel in this area who are constantly being retrained. Preparation of a team for each project demands such professional growth.

RECOGNITION AND STANDARDS Even though Georgian Telecommunication only opened last year, it has already participated in numerous projects, the most noteworthy being the South Caucasus Pipeline Mill2 project which is being led by one of the largest energy companies in the world - BP. The construction of a residence for BP employees started in Gardabani.

Georgian Telecommunication designed, planned and installed fire systems using Siemens devices. As well as drawing up an internal network infrastructure throughout the residential area (with equipment manufactured by Cisco), through Georgian Telecommunication, the metal construction was designed and installed. After that, Magti Sat and Silknet carried out further works which were supervized by Georgian Telecommunication. In addition, according to the international standards of the company, Georgian Telecommunication numbered the equipment used in the construction. Georgian Telecommunication imple-

SERVICES • Fire systems • Observation and Safety systems • Smart house • IT service • Internal network • Projection • GSM Systems • Fibre Optic

Astana, Tashkent to Increase Trade Turnover to $3 billion BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


irst Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Askar Mamin, met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during his working trip to Tashkent. The sides discussed issues of trade and economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Mamin noted that “Uzbekistan is Kazakhstan's largest trading partner in Central Asia,” and highlighted that the foreign trade turnover between the countries for Q1 2018 had increased by 50% compared to the same period last year. By the end of the year, taking into account the significant potential for increasing mutual trade, the volume of bilateral trade is expected to be raised to $3 billion. During the meeting, President Mirzi-

yoyev and Deputy PM Mamin agreed to hold the first Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan Interregional Forum in Astana, the Regional Economic Forum of Central Asian countries in Tashkent, as well as the first meeting of the Business Council and a joint business forum in Shymkent. The parties spoke in favor of raising the level of investment cooperation, implementing joint investment projects with access to the markets of third countries, and also discussed further measures to intensify cooperation in the fields of construction, engineering, transport, logistics, tourism, space and militarytechnical sphere. Within the framework of the visit, a working meeting of the Co-chairmen of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission was held, on bilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with Askar Mamin and First

Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Achilbay Ramatov attending. Trade and economic and investment cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is conducted on a systematic basis. Joint trading houses have been established and are successfully operating in the main sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, petrochemicals, the pharmaceutical industry, and machine building. Agreements on the implementation of large infrastructure projects

have been reached, and interregional cooperation is actively developing. The First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan noted the favorable impact of easing Uzbekistan's excise policy on the activation of bilateral trade and spoke in favor of considering the possibility of further reducing excise taxes on imports of a number of goods having priority export potential for Kazakhstan. An agreement was reached that

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will continue to work together to increase trade turnover by ensuring the supply of Uzbek gas to the south of Kazakhstan in the autumn and winter period, as well as providing services for the transit of Kazakh gas through the territory of Uzbekistan. In addition, the first deputy prime ministers of the republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan decided to establish a joint working group to work out the issue of mutual recognition of visa regimes of both states for tourists from third countries crossing the Kazakh-Uzbek border to visit tourist sites along the Great Silk Route, and on the mutual promotion of tourism opportunities of the two countries. At the end of the working meeting, the co-chairs of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission signed the relevant Protocol.


GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018


Element Construction: The Right Way to Do the Job is to Do it Safely! BY ALEXSANDRE KORKOTADZE, HSE MANAGER, ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION


onstruction is one of the largest sectors, and at the same time one of the most dangerous, due to the high level of physical activity involved. In Georgia, the number of injuries that occur as a result of construction works is alarming. According to the official data of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2011-2017, there were 317 deaths in the workplace and 882 injuries. The risks for employees and visitors on construction sites include falling, being trapped under

An employee who speaks out about health and labor safety concerns in the workplace will be protected from discriminatory action, including termination of work and loss of wages

dropped equipment, and being injured by electricity or by the movement of objects. In order to protect workers against the risk of falling, safety means should be formed on ramps, crossing paths and throughout the whole construction site where potential injuries can occur. The person responsible for labor safety must inform both workers and visitors about the risks on the construction site. Before acquiring access to the construction site, everybody must be given safety instructions regardless of their occupation and work. Incidents often occur in the workplace because the HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) representative lacks information about health and labor safety, which is the first step toward preventing incidents. With timely delivered instructions, small risks at the workplace may be avoided. An employee who speaks out about health and labor safety concerns in the workplace will be protected from discriminatory action, including termination of work and loss of wages. Construction site management’s attitude towards

Georgian Wine Export Increases by 36% in January-April 2018 BY THEA MORRISON


eorgia’s National Wine Agency (NWA) reports that in January – April 2018, 25 million bottles of wine have been exported to 43 countries worldwide, 36% more than in the same period

last year. In total, the income from wine export in JanuaryApril 2018 amounted to $59.2 million, which is 43% higher than this time in 2017. The top five countries that imported the most bottles of Georgian wine in January-April this year are: Russia – (16246021), Ukraine - (2389280), China – (1802792), Kazakhstan – (1108938) and

Poland – (1012774). The export growth was also remarkable in European, US, Asian and other traditional markets: Japan 139% (73122), Czech Republic - 90%(21288 ), UK - 89% (40740), Kazakhstan - 84% (1108938), The Netherlands - 83% (29793), South Korea - 76% (31380), Belarus - 75% (321258), Germany - 66% (241540), Lithuania 51% (172020), Russia - 47% (16246021), Latvia 32% (526380), Ukraine – 27% (2389280), Poland - 24% (1012774), Estonia – 19% (1858926), USA 4% (105568) The Georgian National Wine Agency says that, in total, 147 Georgian companies exported wine from Georgia. Five million bottles of Georgian brandy and 84,000 bottles of chacha were exported abroad in JanuaryApril of this year.

health and labor safety is of paramount importance in terms of an organization's health and labor safety culture. Management should encourage employees to bring to light health and labor safety concerns and provide recommendations so that management and HSE representatives can immediately deal with the issues raised. After the risk is determined and a risk assessment is made, the management is responsible for the elimination or minimization of risks to ensure a safe work environment for employees. The Department of HSE helps management and employees in health, labor safety and environmental improvement in the workplace, through the following methods: • Provision of a communication channel between management and staff; • Regular checks and specific labor health, labor safety and environmental trainings; • Organization of meetings on healthcare, labor safety and environmental issues and recommendations for guidance on corrective measures to be taken to address these issues;

Investigation and accounting of accidents. For "Element Construction", the most important thing is the safety of our employees and those people directly or indirectly involved in the company's activities. Consequently, under the HSE policy, based on ISO 14001 (Environmental Protection) and OSHAS 18001 (Health and Labor Safety) standards, health, labor safety and environmental training is directed towards: • Preventing incidents; • Preventing harm to workers and visitors; • Environmental protection and minimal impact on it; • Full compliance with the applicable standards and legislation of Georgia; • Encouraging and rewarding secular employees. The right way to do the job is to do it safely! Tbilisi, Mgaloblishvili Str. 13 Tel: 032 2 309 490 Emal:



GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

SDC Director General Completes 3-Day Visit to Georgia BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


he Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, H.E. Manuel Sager, on Friday completed a three-day visit to Georgia, during which he met with the Georgian Minister of Education and Science and the First Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture, as well as representatives of the international community, civil society organizations and the private sector. On 4 May, the Swiss delegation, headed by Ambassador Manuel Sager, was received by the First Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture, Nodar Kereselidze. The parties discussed the development priorities of the agriculture sector in Georgia and opportunities for continuous cooperation. “Development of agriculture is a priority for the Government of Georgia. Switzerland, with the UNDP, FAO, Mercy Corps and HEKS/EPER, support Georgia in accelerating progress in this sector,” Ambassador Sager said. “With the First Deputy Minister, we discussed issues concerning small and medium enterprises, the role of sector associations, the transfer of knowledge and technical skills to farmers, as well as the introduction of new standards and regulations. These issues are important for increasing the productivity and competitiveness of Georgian agriculture. Overall, I am very satisfied with our engagement, partnerships, and cooperation for agriculture in Georgia, and SDC looks forward to continuous progress in this regard.” “Switzerland’s support is very important for us. Vocational education and training is a precondition for the development of any agricultural field; and it is gradually gaining more importance,” Kereselidze noted. On the same say, the Ambassador met with Minister of Education and Science, Mikheil Chkhenkeli. The parties discussed the ongoing education reform in Georgia and the increased role of vocational education in this reform. They exchanged views on ways to make vocational education more responsive to the needs of the private sector, which will reduce youth unemployment in the country and contribute to increasing their incomes.

“Switzerland has been supporting the development of the vocational education system in Georgia since 2012,” Sager noted. “Together with the UNDP, we closely collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Science to increase the quality of vocational education in the country and make it more tailored to the needs of the private sector. It will increase the employment and incomes of youth, thus contributing to improving the attractiveness of vocational education in general. Switzerland has a long established vocational education system, which contributes to keeping the youth unemployment rate low. We are sharing relevant practices and examples with Georgia as possible inspiration for continuous progress, and SDC looks forward to further cooperation and

support to this important agenda.” “Modernization of Vocational Education and Training (VET) is one of the most important reforms that are underway in Georgia these days,” said Munkhtuya Altangerel, Deputy Head of the UNDP in Georgia. “Its progress will address some pressing developmental issues, such as unemployment, rural poverty and local business development. With assistance from the Swiss Government, the UNDP helps introduce up-to-date VET models to create more opportunities for the young, as well as for those who wish to get new skills or try new professions.’ On 2-3 May, the Swiss delegation, together with representatives of the partnering UNDP, FAO and Mercy Corps, visited several project sites in Kvemo

Kartli and Samtskhe Javakheti regions, where they had the opportunity to review the progress of the Switzerland-funded projects and interact with local authorities and stakeholders, as well as the private sector, NGOs and the local population. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC is the development agency of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland. In 2017, the SDC, in cooperation with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and Directorate of Political Affairs, launched its new Cooperation Strategy for the South Caucasus 20172020. The Strategy targets the economic development and the strengthening of democratic institutions, as well as human safety and security in the region.


GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018


EU-Supported Project Reforms Georgia’s Prosecution Services BY BENJAMIN MUSIC


he name is convincing: “Promoting Prosecutorial Independence through Monitoring and Engagement,” in short - PrIME. The European Union has launched a new project to reform the prosecution services in Georgia. The aim is bridge the gap to other countries as Georgia’s judicial system lags behind more efficient systems. Although the usual processing time is faster than in neighboring states, the reforms build a multiple pillar system, including factors such as media and monitoring, into an effective judicial system. PrIME is a two-year project, running from 2018-2020. It aims to enhance the accountability of the PSG and empower information exchanges between the government, civil society, media and the public on the ongoing major reforms in the system. “Georgia has made significant progress in advancing the sequence of reforms across all sectors of the prosecution service,” said Giorgi Gogadze, Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Georgia. “In the upcoming years, the reform package calls for further actions to enhance the quality of institutional independence and integrity, to empower low-level prosecutors, actively engaging them in the decision-making processes, and to raise citizen trust in and awareness about the justice system of Georgia.” “We hope to see many new visions and initiatives,” he added. “Over the last 100 years of our history, it has been symbolic and essential to create such independent monitoring tools. Yet, it won’t be enough and there are many additional things we

need to do. We need to look for a direction to curb the crime rates and the violence. This pillar will also be included in our project. We’ve been involved in the process since the beginning of the reforms and we are very much looking forward to continuing our support and supervision of the reforms.” “It is our first project of such a major scale for us, we couldn’t have imagined carrying out such a project a couple of years ago,” Giorgi Kidiashvili, Executive Director of the IDFI, said. “We are very proud and excited to work with the support of the EU. We also see that the Georgian government strongly supports us and this is important- having the backing of the state ensures the improvement of the dialogue between the civil sector and the government.” “The European Union strongly supports Georgia’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law and human rights protection in line with its international commitments, including the Association Agreement. We are happy to see state institutions engaged actively in this action implemented together with civil society partners,” noted Mikolaj Bekasiak, Communications Attaché at the EU Delegation to Georgia. The PrIME project assumes a compre-

hensive approach, as part of which IDFI and its partners will work in four main directions: first, monitoring; second, media investigation; third, capacity building and awareness-raising aimed at ensuring impartiality and fairness in the Georgian prosecution and investigation systems; and, fourth, increasing capacity and awareness on hate crimes and violence against women. Looking at the fourth point, the trust of the population will measure the achievements. Some of the projects include focus groups, which are led by personnel who receive training beforehand to learn the methodology. The discussion of these focus groups will deal with addressing hate crimes and violence against women. The prosecutors will also have the chance to visit The Netherlands to understand how the country works against such crimes. This will enable them to learn from other systems which have proven effective in dealing with such issues. The inclusion of the media is often underrated during such reforms, something the organizations are trying to improve on this time round. Journalists are the mouthpieces for many legal cases; however, the necessary expertise

to cover them subjectively is often not present. Formal training for journalists and media representatives aims to explain the main pillars of legal procedures in Georgia and to create a media environment in which cases are dealt with in the most professional manner possible. Through such efforts, the reformers hope to remove ideological opinions from legal articles as they harm the impartiality of courts. The Office of the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, participating heavily in the reforms, has several objectives it hopes to achieve. In addition to the Prosecutorial Council, which elects the Chief Prosecutor for a six-year term, an Advisory Council will be set up and the advisor’s position strengthened in order to help the prosecutor with the handling of cases as well as the necessary research required to decide on contentious cases. The Advisory Council will also have the power to recommend a case promotion if they see fit. An additional point of the planned restructuring is the implementation of the 2017-2021 Action Plan, which revolves around the improvement of four essential points. The first priority is a constant observation and improvement of human rights, coupled with strict punishment for human rights violations. This is followed by the aim to increase the overall trust of the public in the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Third, the Office is to channel resources to the promotion of legal professionals in hopes of attracting more personnel of high quality to work under the banner of the Ministry of Justice. Creating publicity and raising the value of the profession will also heavily benefit the private legal sector. Lastly, the Action Plan implements additional measures to curb crime and lower the crime rate in all parts of Georgia. These objectives and the road to achieving them will be measured through the introduction of new indicators. This enables both public and reformers to observe

the evolution of the system while backing it up with figures and facts. Detailing the focus points of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the spokesperson highlighted several areas where improvement is imperative. One area is the persistent countrywide occurrence of domestic violence. Besides introducing additional campaigns to call for an end to domestic violence, the goal is to raise awareness among potential perpetrators by outlining the dangers and consequences. In addition to a broken family life and a mentally unhealthy environment for children to grow up, the victimization of women is a heavy consequence often weighing on their minds for the rest of their lives. Costly psychological therapy sessions add to the pain, as treatment is rarely sought. The Prosecutor’s Office highlighted the ratification of the Istanbul Convention as the basis for these additional steps. The Convention condemns violence against women, which is rooted in the mere fact of women being of the opposite gender. It calls for various measures to prevent violence to women, to support the victims and to implement an infrastructure to seek help when confronting violence as a woman. Besides special emergency phone numbers, additional educational training for the wider public and financial support for victims, it calls for prosecutors specializing in the issue to increase the leverage in court cases. An important point will be the setting up of collective complaint schemes, which women can use together to go against one or multiple perpetrators. Juvenile justice is also in the spotlight of the reforms, as a new juvenile law was recently enacted by the Georgian government hoping to raise perspectives of youth and to prevent them from engaging in criminal activities. New prosecutors have already been appointed, but the Chief Prosecutor’s Office hopes to engage more legal experts to create a long-lasting effect on society in this area. Overall, various organizations like IDFI, will heavily support the government in reforming the Chief Prosecutor’s Office and the prosecutorial framework of Georgia. It needs to be seen to what extent the Georgian public will experience these changes. Just days ago, the EU published an alarming report mentioning new indications of increased corruption in the legal sector in Georgia. As international eyes are watching, Georgians hope that the level of corruption in Georgia decreases further, continuing the trend of the past 15 years.

Ministers of Transport of Organization of Economic Cooperation Countries Meet in Turkmenistan BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation (ECO) was held on the Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea. The 9th meeting of the Ministers of Transport and Communication of the member countries of ECO: Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, was held in the Avaza National Tourism Zone, reports the State News Agency of Turkmenistan.

The forum saw discussion of a wide range of issues related to the development of regional and interregional trans-

port communications, enhancing international cooperation in a strategically important sector, as well as a particular

focus on the program ‘ECO Vision 2025 Prospects’ (ECO Vision 2025), within which ECO member countries intend to

develop and implement partnership strategies in such areas as economics and trade, transport and communications, energy, tourism, social welfare and the environment. The meeting discussed aspects of the development of the regional market of transport and communication services, freight and passenger transportation by rail, road and sea transport, and civil aviation. The need to synchronize legislation and tariffs, the gradual simplification of customs, visa and other procedures, was noted, measures designed to facilitate the activities of business structures and to significantly affect the growth of cargo flows and volumes of foreign trade.



GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018

Guria: The New Paradise of Tourism BY BENJAMIN MUSIC


logs and travel magazines seem to have recently discovered Georgia as a hidden gem nestled between the Caucasian Mountains. The figures are promising too; last year the celebration of the six-millionth tourist put the country into excitement as Dutch backpacker Jesper Black was voluntarily “kidnapped” by the tourism department to meet the Prime Minister in a perfectly orchestrated PR stunt. A little surprise turned into a year of fame for Jesper, and he’s still traveling the country, taking part in TV events such as the Georgian version of “Dancing with the Stars.” At the same time, tourism numbers keep on surging, putting the new predictions at over 7 million tourists this year. A massive success considering Georgia’s fateful economic and political difficulties just a decade ago. Yet, the crowds tend to gather at just a handful of spots around the country, neglecting the picturesque landscapes of many other locations well-worth their attention. Adjara, Khakheti, and MtskhetaMtianeti are the most frequented hotspots besides Tbilisi. All four regions considerably improved their infrastructure to cope with the soon-to-come seven-millionth tourist in 2018. A souvenir of the costly tourism promotion during the reign of Saakashvili, hotels and resorts mushroomed and new roads were constructed to facilitate quick and smooth transportation. The Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA), together with other governmental institutions, now hopes to detour some of the tourist buses to another regions, one of them Guria. Caught between Samegrelo and Adjara, 5-star hotels and audience-attracting events are still a rarity in this western

region. Roads are at times bumpy, and it takes a while to reach the small mountain towns and villages within. However, the lack of hype should not discourage visitors. The long beaches along the Black Sea coast offer a wealth of relaxation opportunities and Guria’s small part of that rich diversity, the village of Ureki, with its magnetic sands and access by train from Tbilisi, should definitely be on a visitor’s ‘must-visit’ list. The tourist village’s brutalist architecture is worth seeing, though be warned, these buildings are merely houses left unloved, not grand structures by Le Corbusier. Travelers of finer tastes can motor southwards into the neighboring Adjara region to stay at any of its many luxury hotels. Ureki is still awaiting its time in the

spotlight of grandeur, as its accommodation options currently comprise threestar hotels, guest houses, and flat rentals, with just the Kolkhida Sanitorium able to boast anything even close to luxury. Yet, the soft sands, gently sloping beach, warm, shallow waters and beach-side tranquility to be found at Ureki make even a day-trip there worth your time. Other recent investments aim to spur tourism figures in the Guria region. Opened in 2016, the Black Sea Arena is the biggest of its kind in the entire Caucasus region. Functioning as a concert hall and visited only be the crème de la crème of the music industry, it has so far successfully hosted artists such as Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera and the Scorpions. Adjacent to the arena, an impressive park stretches out, showing off bronze versions of the best musicians of Georgia and the West. From worldrenowned composers such as Beethoven and Mozart to big shots in Georgian classical music such as Viktor Dolizde, who created the first Georgian comic opera called “Keto and Kote,” music aficionados will delight in exploring. Elton John and Michael Jackson are definitely the highlights, but Georgian star Revaz Lagidze is just as worthy of your ears, creator of Tbilisi’s hymn “Tbiliso.” Wellspaced, paved areas surrounded by wooden benches exhibit the artists in the form of statues, while speakers blast out their masterpieces. Follow the path through the park to see the numerous marvelous animal woodcarvings on either side. It seems the entire animal kingdom is showcased, with artists hav-

ing created dolphins, grizzly bears, and penguins. The park and arena were both financed by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and Cartu Fund, who donated the constructions to the State after completion. Guria also offers fantastic hills and mountain ranges for backpackers and backcountry explorers. Though not nearly as high as the glaciers on the Georgian border to Russia, the region offers beautiful gorges and rivers untouched by mass tourism. The promotion of small settlements and their most famous children is a key area for the Tourism Administration right now. The museums of two writers give enough reason to venture out into the unknown and end up in a farmers’ village, where the writers spent most of their time. The tiny town of Kela, right across its main river, was the birthplace of Egnate Ninoshvili, whose drive for justice became evident in his works early-on, works which dealt with the oppressions the Russian Tsar exercised on the Georgian people. Writing about pain and looking for new solutions to catapult the country out of its misery, he found himself in Tbilisi creating the Marxist party “Mesame Dasi,” which later gave shelter to young Stalin’s ideological convictions. Another museum is located in the town of Chokhatauri where Nodar Dumbadze spent many summers enjoying the solitude and the view over the Guria valley. Little cypress trees dot the valley, reminding one of Tuscany. Photos, books and paintings cover the walls of his museum house, giving a first-hand glimpse into

his life. A friendly woman serving as both grandmother and tour guide provides the necessary background information upon request. South of Poti, a salt-water lake and its surroundings have been transformed into a National Park. Cut off from the Black Sea, an estuary created it, making it the largest of its kind in Georgia. Away from the coastline, Rangers take visitors into the Park via a 20-minute boat ride, which reminds one of the CIA Miami intro, the nature there resembling the Everglades (thankfully, minus the alligators). Hideouts offer inspiration for a camping adventure, including the essential bonfire-marshmallow combination, when handled with caution and respect to the surrounding greenery. Guria is experiencing a true transformation. The locals are eager to benefit in the same way as their surrounding regions from the tourism boom in Georgia. Be it a cultural trip or a plunge into nature, Guria offers an authentic landscape for all types of traveler. The government seems determined to promote the region, and support is coming from all sides. From the top national politicians to the municipality leaders and mayors; all are pulling on the same string, and campaigns reinforce the many endeavors undertaken by the authorities. Soon, Guria will be offering the same luxurious enjoyment and adventure as its neighboring region Adjara: during the nights new hotels will give shelter and during days, the mountains will give explorers the opportunity to get lost in a world of green solitude.

Georgia Takes 3rd Place in Wings for Life World Run 2018 BY THEA MORRISON


n May 6, Georgia for the fifth time joined the largest charity event in the world, The Wings for Life World Run, claiming third

place. The winners of World Run 2018 Georgia were: Alexander Cherbukin (74.72 km) among men and Nina Zarina (47.45 km) among women. Irma Zveriashvili and Merab Dukashvili were the winners among the wheelchair runners. The event took place in in Kakheti, with a trail that edged the Lopota section of the Caucasus Range. Aside from an 18+ age limit, World Run has no restrictions. A total of 7,000 people registered to take part in the race in Georgia, including professional athletes, amateurs, persons with disabilities and foreigners living in or visiting the country. 2017 winners from Poland, Germany, Turkey and Georgia participated in the run in Kakheti.

Wings for Life World Run 2018 was also attended by the Minister of Culture and Sports Mikheil Giorgadze, Olympic champions Lasha Talakhadze and Giorgi Asanidze, World Champion in Paralympic Fencing Irma Khetsuriani, and many others. This year’s Male Global Champion 2018 is Aron Anderson from the United States, who ran 89.85 kilometers. The 2018 Female Global Champion is Vera Nunes of Portugal who ran 53.78km in Germany. The world marathon 2018 was held in 200 locations in 66 countries. In total, 100,000 participants were able to cover 934,484 km. Georgian media reported that the event participants in Georgia littered the marathon area with plastic bottles and cups. However, the Wings for Life World Run Organizer and the President of the National Federation of Sport 'Sport for Everyone,' Maya Azarashvili stated that special clean-up teams were located in the area, and cleaned the whole territory after the race was over. Wings for Life World Run Georgia is supported by the Ministry of Culture

Photo source:

and Sports and organized by the National Federation of Sport 'Sport for Everyone.'

Last year, in Georgia, 5,000 people registered for the global run, and Georgian

national, Shota Samushia, 94, was the oldest participant in the world.


GEORGIA TODAY MAY 8 - 10, 2018


Putin’s Monumental Task: Derailing the Western Expansion OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI


n May 7, Putin was sworn in as Russia’s President, which will his fourth presidential term, extending his rule beyond the psychological mark of 18 years – the longest since the Stalin epoch. Putin enters his six-year term with numerous headaches over internal and foreign policy issues. Overall, Putin’s fourth term can be expected to be characterized by the challenge of an invigorated and united western front. Russian geopolitical influence in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova has diminished over the past decade. Western encroachment on what was always considered a Russian sphere of influence has reached new levels, unimaginable at the time of the Soviet break-up in the early 1990s. Russia’s entire western frontier (except for Belarus) is now under Western influence. To start, Putin’s primary focus will be Ukraine. The country is an underbelly to the Russian domination over Eurasia. One should not forget the importance of this country to Moscow. In the Russian mindset, Ukraine is part of the Russian world, an integral part of the Slavic world and what’s more, it is

Vladimir Putin speaks with his hand on the Constitution during his inauguration ceremony. Image source:

important economically for Moscow. Without Ukraine, Russia is far too detached from the core of the European continent. Nowadays, Russia is rather more “in Asia” than Europe, and this bothers the Russian political elites primarily not because of the fear of becoming Asia-oriented, but because Moscow might lose its foundational influence in



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Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

eastern Europe. To Putin’s credit, the task he faces is indeed monumental. His predecessors from the Soviet as well as Russia’s imperial times fought with various European monarchs, but they never faced a unified Europe in the long run. In fact, what Russia faced was a fundamentally divided Europe where Russia could always have

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

been a part of the settlement. Nowadays, Putin can only envy those times as Europe marches towards the East. Sure, there are huge problems with the EU enlargement and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have seen only a part of the benefits they were expecting. Nevertheless, it can be argued that Europe will not be easily defeated in its plans on expansion. Europe and its powerhouse, Germany, needs new markets, and Ukraine represents a large unchartered pool. Never in history has Russia’s hold on its former territories and in eastern Europe been so fundamentally challenged. Local elites as well as economies are now increasingly connected to Europe or third countries such as China, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. This creates the fundamental tension around Ukraine and Russia’s future ability to project its power. It was largely because of the loss of the Ukrainian market that the nascent Eurasian Economic Union for the moment lacks momentum. Among all the problematic issues accumulated between Moscow and the western powers, Ukraine will be of primary focus. Russia will have to make a decision. Dragging-on with the issue will not help as the EU will work further to solidify its positions in the former Soviet space. In addition, the US, too, is ratcheting

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up pressure on Russia by providing military cooperation and general diplomatic and economic support to Ukraine and Georgia (and, to a lesser extent, Moldova). The battle for the former Soviet states will play an important role in Russian politics over the next few years. Beyond Ukraine, Putin will also face three major foreign policy questions in his new term: 1) finalizing a settlement in Syria; 2) reaching a consensus with Japan over the Kuril Islands. Still, as outlined above, these questions are likely to be overshadowed by Russia’s fundamental problem positioned in and around Ukraine. To these large foreign problems will be added internal challenges. Among them, the economy is a top priority. Putin does not face strong opposition and this is unlikely to happen unless a radical worsening of the economic situation takes place across the country. And this is important, as the Russian economy, as projected, will see very little, if any, improvement. As a confirmation, recent statistics showed that the Russian defense budget was cut by almost 20% for the first time over the last two decades. Considering how prioritized this section of financing was for Russia, and for Putin personally, the cut signals significant economic problems in the country.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1046 Business  

May 8 - 10, 2018

Issue #1046 Business  

May 8 - 10, 2018