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Issue no: 1184/197

• SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2

Summertime Sadness! Business Confidence Index Q3 2019 ISET PAGE 4

FOCUS ON THE NEW PM A look at PM Gakharia's economic plans for Georgia

PAGE 3

The 5th Tbilisi International Conference Kicks off in Rooms Hotel

The Economic Roots of Georgia’s “Defection” to the West BUSINESS PAGE 7

Executive Chairwoman, CEO of VEON, Ursula Burns Visits Beeline Georgia

BUSINESS PAGE 9

Success of the Night Serenades Festival

BY LORRAINE VANEY

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he 5th Tbilisi International Conference started on September 9 for the 5th consecutive year under the title “Now What”. Organized by the McCain Institute for International Leadership and the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), the two-day event will focus on solutions and actions on topics related to the future of the Georgian democracy, its Western ambitions and the issues posed by current Russian politics in the region. Panels will also discuss the Baltics, Ukraine,

CULTURE PAGE 10

Georgian Museum of Fine Arts and Art House – The Place to Meet CULTURE PAGE 11

Turkey, Russia, state capture, Brexit, and US foreign policy. Welcoming high-ranked political and diplomatic staff, security experts, activities, policymakers and the business community from the US, Europe and Georgia, the conference is a major political event for Georgia, underlining the strategic importance of the region in international political affairs. In his opening speech, Ambassador Kurt Volker, the Executive Director of The McCain Institute for International Leadership, reminded the audience that Georgia is “a small country facing very serious challenges” in a difficult geopolitical context. He said he hoped that the move towards the elections can “be seized by the Georgian people and by the politicians to make the Georgian democracy stronger and prove that Georgia deserves all the support and engagement of its foreign partners.” The first panel, composed of Archil Talakbasdze, Parliament of Georgia, Giga Bokeria, European Georgia and Salome Samadashbili, UNsM and of Stephen Nix from the International Republican Institute, on Monday debated the future of the Georgian democracy.

Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof06ͲSepͲ2019

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GBP13.30

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GBP10.14

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GEORG04/21

105.93(YTM3.02%)

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GBP2.04

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109.97(YTM4.00%)

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GBP12.20

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102.93(YTM5.16%)

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61,54

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1506,82

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3,2661

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19705,52

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8103,07

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171,42

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2978,71

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2620,80

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NEWS

@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: In a contest launched by the British Council and bringing together 90 participants from 7 countries, Georgian startup SAPO was named the winner. The innovative concept of Naili Vakhania and Tengiz Kavkasidze. SAPO is handmade soap made of natural ingredients, aiming to encourage children to love handwashing. The soap comes in the shape of an animal, each with its own character story in a booklet. The stories are missing the last page, which are rolled up and hidden in the soap. To find out how the story ends, children are motivated to use the soap frequently. SAPO was launched on the base of the Art Incubator at the Business and Technology University.

GEORGIA TODAY

SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

Parliament Unanimously Expresses Confidence in Renewed Government

The first wine bar and library has been launched in Tusheti. An economist by profession, Mari Lavilava was inspired to do more with her husband’s century-old house, which has been serving as a guest house for years. The bar was named Odila and the founders say they wanted to create a pleasant environ for tourists and promote local viticulturists. Plans for the future move beyond the limits of the region: guests of Odila will soon be able to taste wines from different regions of Georgia. To add more comfort to the venue, a library was also launched on site. Meet Izolda Kvitsiani, a Georgian emigrant, has launched a Georgian restaurant with Georgian spirit in the city of The Hague, The Netherlands, and named it Sokhumi. Kvitsiani was displaced from Abkhazia and carries a very difficult story. However, after moving to The Netherlands, life improved. She is a great cook and her choice of career came easy. Hard work for 18 hours a day made it possible to launch the idea inspired by her homeland’s national spirit. As a result, the restaurant has already gained popularity among the residents of The Hague, as well as guests of the city. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on business@entrepreneur.ge

BY ANA DUMBADZE

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he Parliament of Georgia has unanimously expressed confidence to the renewed composition of the government. The New Cabinet of Ministers was confirmed with 98 votes. The members of the National Movement, European Georgia and the Alliance of Patriots did not take part in voting.

The lawmakers expressed confidence in the following ministers: Prime Minister - Giorgi Gakharia; Minister of Defense - Irakli Gharibashvili; Minister of Internal Affairs - Vakhtang Gomelauri; Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport - Mikheil Batiashvili; Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture - Levan Davitashvili; Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development - Natia Turnava;

Minister of Justice - Tea Tsulukiani; Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs - Ekaterine Tikaradze; Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure - Maia Tskitishvili; Minister of Foreign Affairs - Davit Zalkaliani; Minister of Finance - Ivane Machavariani; State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality - Ketevan Tsikhelashvili.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

Image source: marneulifm.ge

On the New PM’s Economic Plans BY THEA MORRISON

O

n September 8, with 98 votes in favor to 0 against, the Georgian Parliament approved a new Cabinet under Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. Gakharia, who has occupied multiple posts in the Georgian government, was nominated to the PM’s post after the former PM, Mamuka Bakhtadze, announced his resignation on September 2. During Bakhtadze’s time in office, Gakharia was the Deputy PM and Interior Minister, as well as the Secretary of the National Security Council. Before that, from November 2016 to November 2017, he served as the Minister of Economy and Sustainable development of Georgia. The PM has said he does not think new initiatives are necessary at this stage, noting that first, all projects that are underway need to be concluded. “We also have to do an audit of what we have already done, be it programs or initiatives. We have to bring these to a close and analyze the results. We need less talking and more work and results. We need to have something we can compare and rely on,” he told Parliament prior to his team being approved. Gakharia says discipline and effective bureaucracy are also necessary to achieve effective economic results. “This government will be focused on that. Effectiveness will be the most important criterion and, of course, discipline,” he said, adding that without effective bureaucracy, no reform can come to a logical end nor make sense to citizens. The Prime Minister noted that, conceptually, the solution to the problem of poverty ultimately comes down to employment. “We’ve seen some positive trends in this regard. The poverty level is down, jobs are up, but this is not satisfactory: we need more. We have to agree on a concept at the formula level, and that concept is simple,” he said. The Prime Minister said the country needs both political and macroeconomic stability and a transparent and predictable business environment in order to create jobs.

"We need to have such communication with businesses that we can make a forecast in the medium term so as to create more jobs and have a more robust business sector. Of course, we, the state, must talk about social responsibility. Unless we do that, this social responsibility will be a burden on the state and we will have to bear it,” he added. Gakharia also stressed the need to concentrate on the development of the country’s industrial capacities. “We need to enhance human capital development, and this should be facilitated by an effective bureaucracy whose work will be a key principle and objective for the new government. Before we can achieve the ultimate reduction of poverty, of course, our social services and the social responsibility of the state must be focused on social protection functions,” he said. In addition to this, PM Gakharia noted that the economy of the country does allow for a further pension increase but that this is not the main priority. “We need to make fundamental changes in the system. We need to establish certain rules for retirement provision at the legislative level. We will try to make some changes here too. However, we have international commitments, and if we are to change our position in negotiations with the IMF, we will try to introduce some form of indexation where the increase in pension provision is not a matter of political speculation and is directly linked to economic growth,” he explained. The new PM also noted that everything related to logistics is critically important and a priority for the country, including the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project, which is of crucial importance to the state. Logistics, he said, is one of the most important components of Georgia's developing economic potential. “It should be understood by everyone that each Lari the state spends on this project, and it has already spent hundreds of millions, is the contribution of each of our citizens. People should also understand that by doing so, the state, in all its steps, has the right to demand from private partners a fulfillment of their obligations in a timely manner,” Gakharia said. The Prime Minister underlined that the state will do its best to ensure the project is implemented.

Minister of Finance Candidate on Tax Legislation

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e will have one of the most liberal, flexible and effective legislations in terms of paying taxes, - the new Finance Minister Ivane Machavariani said at a joint sitting of parliamentary committees on Friday, noting that many important steps have been taken by the state in recent years to assist taxpayers. Machavariani noted that about 67,000 taxpayers were freed from debt payment as of January 1, 2013, totaling GEL 3.4 billion, including private entrepreneurs. “Such a move by the state came about for several reasons. One considered the difficult years for doing business. We know that many have been affected because business was at risk. The second factor was the August 2008 war, and the third, of course, was the fault of taxpayers themselves. For these reasons, the state has shown political will and these tax debts have been written off,” Machavariani said. He once again spoke about the need to adopt an insolvency law in order to improve the business

environment. “We had very inflexible legislation in this regard that prevented companies from going through rehabilitation or bankruptcy. Today, this legislation is practically ready. We often boast about being ranked #6 in the World Bank's Doing Business ratings, but if you look at the details, you will find that we have one of the lowest scores because of the lack of solvency law. This is important both in terms of practical considerations and in strengthening our country's position in the ratings. We have discussed the document together with the Ministry of Justice and I think we will have one of the most liberal, flexible and effective legislations in this direction,” he said. He also noted that while discussing the need to write off tax debts, the disadvantages should also be taken into consideration. "These kinds of decisions also have negative consequences, such as lowering the tax culture and putting the honest taxpayer, paying taxes for years, in an unequal position. Consequently, this type of amnesty is not being discussed at this stage,” he said.

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

Summertime Sadness! Business Confidence Index Q3 2019

O

verall, BCI has declined by 18.7 points compared to Q2 2019. Expectations in the private sector in Georgia decreased significantly by 23.7 index points, dropping to 21.7 index points. Business performance over the past three months decreased as well, reaching nearly 0 points (down from 23.0), indicating a downturn in production/ turnover/sales. Thus, reductions in both business

expectations and past performance have led to a fall in the overall BCI. BCI decreased in almost all economic sectors, namely in the retail trade (-45.5), financial (-24.4), construction (-21.5), manufacturing (-19.0) and service (-16.6) sectors. The exception was in agriculture, in which the BCI improved by 41.8 index points. Business confidence in the third quarter of 2019 dropped for both large firms (-20.2) and for SMEs (-1.9).

PAST PERFORMANCE Businesses’ actual performance decreased by 23.5 points compared to Q2 of 2019. In Q3 2019, sales (production or turnover) of the 149 firms surveyed decreased from 23.0 (Q2 2019) to -0.5 (Q3 2019).

next three months. Furthermore, only 16% of firms stated that they would employ more employees in the future. 38% of the surveyed firms expected that the economic condition of their businesses would improve over the next three months, and 42% did not expect

A significant drop in performance was observed in retail trade (-91.7), construction (-28.3), finance (-23.8) and service (-17.6). A significant decrease means that in these sectors, the weighted balance between positive and negative responses decreased compared to the previous quarter. In the remaining sectors, production/turnover/sales for the past three months improved: agriculture (57.0) and manufacturing (6.7). Business activities improved for SMEs and declined for large businesses.

any changes in the future, while a smaller share of businesses expect their business conditions to worsen.

EXPECTATIONS The Expectations Index decreased by 23.7 index points in Q3 2019. Expectations about the next three months worsened for all business sectors except agriculture (18.7). The greatest reduction was reported in retail trade (-63.0). Business expectations worsened for both large firms and SMEs. The majority (72%) of surveyed businesses do not expect any changes in employment over the

SALES PRICE EXPECTATIONS The Sales Price Expectations Index decreased from 16.9 points (Q2 2019) to 12.9 points (Q3 2019). This fall is mostly driven by a decrease in the manufacturing and service sectors. The overall Sales Price Expectations Index increased for SMEs while the index decreased for large companies. 48% of all surveyed firms are not going to change the prices they charge over the next three months. Only 12% of firms expect to decrease prices, and 34% expect to increase prices in the future. Lack of demand and limited access to finance continue to be two of the most significant obstacles for SMEs and large companies. 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.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

Dreamland Oasis Chakvi BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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hen you think of holidays, the first ideas that spring to mind are usually comfortable accommodation, nice infrastructure, beautiful nature and a turquoise sea with calm waves. If you want to discover all of this in one place, Dreamland Oasis Chakvi, a wonderful resort on the Black Sea, is for you. Separated from the noisy, crowded cities and other tourist attractions, Dreamland Oasis Chakvi is a small town with unique infrastructure, representing a home to the best facilities and ensuring an unforgettable experience

for all visitors, whether they seek an active holiday or quiet relaxation. Sprawled across 10 hectares, Dreamland Oasis Chakvi offers a multifunctional complex, of hotel and apartments. Both the accommodation options have been smartly designed by a team of professionals and come with all the necessary facilities, thus representing an ideal venue for holidays with friends and family. The infrastructure of the complex is certainly nothing short of spectacular. While you can lie back on the private half-kilometer beach and enjoy the endless stretch of sea and breeze carrying the fresh salty spray, various other entertaining facilities, including billiards, bowling, a video games room and even a cinema are also ready to serve you on site. The enormous colorful slides in the

open waterpark, built in a rocky fortress style, are ready to host adventure-lovers. Those wanting a calmer stay are very welcome to try the Finnish and Turkish sauna, as well as an excellent array of treatments at the Spa Center. The founders of Dreamland Oasis Chakvi had the importance of greenery very much in mind while launching the complex. There are almost 8,000 plants of 85 varieties on site, creating a wonderful synthesis of colors and enabling guests to delve into the atmosphere of tranquility and harmony from the very first step. Sport has become an inseparable part of many people’s life. Therefore, Dreamland Oasis Chakvi offers guests a wide range of sport facilities. You can enjoy tennis courts, as well as football, basketball and volleyball pitches with your

friends, or team up with other guests. Ensuring a pleasant stay for minors is also of vital importance for the administration of Dreamland Oasis Chakvi. That is why there are fabulous and safe children’s playgrounds and a kindergarten supervised by animators and other carers. The exceptional culinary is not to be missed. Various restaurants are ready to serve guests the best specialties of Georgian and European cuisine and ensure a unique gastronomic experience of fresh and healthy food. Bars on the complex are equally significant, as they provide a wide assortment of colorful and mouthwatering cocktails, as well as other refreshments. Dreamland Oasis Chakvi is an everdeveloping complex in accordance with the latest world trends, which has

recently launched yet another facility focused even more on the comfort of visitors – a bracelet pay system, removing the need to carry cash with you during your stay. We can’t end without mentioning the professional staff, who are available 24/7 to ensure the positive mood and fine stay of their guests. Through its well-developed and diverse infrastructure, integrating a huge number of facilities, as well as immaculate services, Dreamland Oasis Chakvi has certainly established itself as one of the treasures of the Georgian hospitality industry, and despite the Russian tourist embargo, which raised various problems for the tourism sector this year, Dreamland Oasis Chakvi has managed to complete the summer season with success.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

The Economic Roots of Georgia’s “Defection” to the West

Photo by Katie Ruth Davies/GT

BY EMIL AVDALIANI

A

n important part of a country's foreign policy lies in its economic moves. This is particularly true in the case of large states seeking a bigger role in the international arena. For example, China has been implementing the 'Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI), while the US during the Cold War brought in the famous Marshall Plan to help Europe restore its shattered financial strength. Both projects pursue(d) projection of political power through economic means. Long gone are the times when it still was possible to occupy territories solely through military power. Increasingly, as modernity enabled the rise of selfconsciousness and nationalism among small states and ethnic minorities in large countries, it has become difficult to rely on repressive measures. A policy of active economic initiatives targeting one ethnic group inside the country or a separate state has thus gained additional importance. Looking at the last 30 years of Georgian-Russian relations, there has been almost everything one could imagine: from cordial talks to wars to a fullscale economic embargo. More negative than positive, but well illustrative of the limits of Russia's foreign policy. It is true that Georgia has not been economically so important to Moscow as, for example, Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Belarus, but Russia is always interested in influencing Tbilisi. Still, Georgia is a vital transit corridor between west and east as well as north and south. Moreover, without Georgia, it will always be difficult for Russia to effectively control the restive North Caucasus in the long run. The Russian political establishment failed to see that a major reason in Georgia's shift to the West in the early 2000s was a shattered post-Soviet economy and no help from Moscow. Russia was not perceived as an enemy when the Rose Revolution was about to happen in 2003: there were simply no concerted efforts from the Russian side to lure Georgia economically. Russia was also experiencing turbulent times and was self-absorbed with internal problems when Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999. Even when Russia became financially stable in the late 2000s, no viable long-term economic vision was offered to the former Soviet countries. The announcement of the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union

(EEU) did not produce the expected results nor did it stop Ukraine drifting from Russia in 2014. Again, Russian political thought failed to recognize that Kyiv's choice to move closer to the European Union was based on the latter's economic attractiveness. As no brotherly relations with Russians could stop Ukrainians' drift to the western economic space, much less surprising is Georgia’s eagerness to join the European market. Simply put, Russia has not been attractive enough. Even those countries which are economically close to Russia are so because they have no alternative. Take for example Armenia, the large population of which is not inclined to Russia but is close to the Russian economy because there is no other option. The same goes for the Central Asian states, which still prefer the Russian economy to the Chinese market (however even this trend based on Central Asia's cultural and historical closeness with Russia has been shifting and the region's economic relations with China now thrive). When it comes to choosing between Western and Russian economic spaces even countries culturally closest to Russia still choose the West. The roots of this problem for Russia are its inability to build powerful state institutions and a thriving economic space with opportunities for peaceful development across the former Soviet territories. What is troubling is Russia's failure to understand the source of that weakness – the need for a rapid restructuring of the economy to yield higher industrial and technological results. When high-level politicians openly discuss this, it often ends with no specific results. It can be argued that for the last 30 years, Russia has not pursued a consistent economic policy towards Georgia. Investments were occasional, while other political decisions only further hampered bilateral relations. The case of Georgia's "defection" to the West well reflects how less attention is paid nowadays in Russia to economic components in the country's foreign policy. There are even hints that Moscow now prefers military moves to economic ones. Even from a strategic point, one can say that Russia simply has not had a foreign policy towards Georgia, except for militarily preventing the country from joining NATO and the EU. No long-term approach of economic, cultural and other components was ever formulated. As a result, by 2003 it was already too late to reverse the existing trend in Georgia, while a similar process is now being seen in Ukraine.

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

Chevening’s 13 BY KYRA DEVDARIANI

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hirteen Georgian hopefuls are on their way to the UK as you read this, financed by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to continue their graduate studies as a part of a long-running and overwhelmingly successful, on a global scale, Chevening Scholarship program. In the last 25 years, over 250 scholars from Georgia have benefited from it; a number which would likely have been even higher had the winners not had a tendency to drop out at the very last moment. This year, for example, the financing was in place to cover 18 scholarships, but Georgia lost several spots when, even after activating the reserves, they could produce only 13 people ready and willing to go. On a positive note, we have interviewed twelve of them, and they are every bit as deserving as one would imagine: bright, talented, eager to learn, and bringing their life stories and experiences to the table. Ninutsa (Nino) Nanitashvili will be studying Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics and Political Science, having found her true calling in “bridging tech with social good”. The 26-year-old, who has earned a B.A. in Sociology and Mass Communications as well as an M.A in Public Policy, has managed to build a network in the budding startup ecosystem in Georgia, creating a team of likeminded people, and is not afraid to dream big. The main challenge she identifies, and hopes to get tools to tackle, is achieving commercial sustainability in the projects she’s involved in. A self-proclaimed cheerful workaholic, Ninutsa manages to balance her workload and social life with the help of the robust support system of parents, siblings and friends. Now that the LSE will be adding studies to her already overflowing plate, her husband and biggest cheerleader is leaving his job in Georgia and relocating to London to stand by her. Michael (Misho) Golijashvili is 26, too, but his life path is distinctly different. Born in Akhalgori, he joined the thousands of IDPs when he was too young to understand what was happening, as the family fled to Tbilisi. Perhaps the feeling of helplessness and inability to change anything on an individual level that he describes as his biggest fear and driving force, is what pushed him into a military career. A 4-year degree in West Point Academy instilled discipline and values of “duty, honor and country”, as Misho explains in somewhat scripted phrases – one gets the sense that he is repeating the points made many times before – to him, by him. His field is Intelligence and Securities Studies at King’s College, London, so we talk of the upcoming studies and the security field in Georgia where he hopes to work one day. Since Misho is the first male Chevener whom I get to interview, I ask about his

take on the gender composition of the group: 10 females, 3 males. He says he’d be comfortable with any ratio, as long as it is merit-based, he says in a straightforward manner. The UK Embassy-provided demographic stats show that over the years, an average of 72% of the Chevening applicants have been female, with males slightly boosted for the winning, up to 35%. I found it perplexing: where are all these brilliant women in Georgia’s public life? Why don’t we see more of them in top positions, both in the government and in private corporations? That is the question I ask all of the class 2019/20, and the answers go along the same lines: women in Georgia are more driven and geared toward self-development. Tiko Kurdghelashvili, 33, who holds a Ph.D in English Philology, the highest academic rank among the group, mentions that at the interview stage, in April, most of the male applicants have yet to select three universities, as required by the Program. For a Kaspi native who is heading to Birmingham to study Special Education Management, this is a lapse in organizational skills. Tiko won the scholarship on her second try, but last year’s setback only served to increase her enthusiasm and motivation. Finding her way in a field that is barely supported by the Ministry of Education, misunderstood and stigmatized by parents and students alike, she laments not having sufficient knowledge to deal with autism, cerebral palsy, PTSD (post-2008 war) and other conditions that she has come across, or helped fellow teachers with. Setting high standards for herself and constantly striving to improve, Tiko is sure to absorb every bit that the university program will provide. Two Cheveners who hail from Borjomi, Mariam Chaduneli and Ana Beridze, have picked LLM programs in Scotland: Innovation, Technology and Law at Edinburgh, and Environmental Law at Dundee, respectively. Ana will suspend her LLM in Business Law at Free University for a chance to study environmental regulations and help shape relevant policies in Georgia upon return. Mariam leaves

behind her full-time work at the Ministry of Internal Affairs to concentrate on cybercrime and data protection, approaching studies with the same impeccable professionalism and work ethics as her role model, Roger Federer. Mariam will be joined in Edinburgh by the youngest in the group, Koka Kapanadze, who is set to study Public Policy. The 23-year-old Tbilisi native’s work experience revolves around Parliamentary Committees, covering issues from sexual harassment and domestic violence to labor policy and mediation. Koka plans to concentrate on labor rights in his thesis, and to change parental leave regulations in Georgia, citing a “very selfish prospective, as a future father”. His biggest champion, confidante and friend, his older sister has been a powerful influence, impacting Koka’s views through sacrifices she had to make in her career in order to raise children. Unlike many of his peers, he doesn’t go to the “making an impact” or “raising awareness” clichés when asked about his biggest achievement: instead, Koka recalls saving a random person’s life by performing CPR. A valedictorian graduate of GAU, with Quantitative Finance under her belt, Ana Bakuridze, 25, would like to make an impact, too, but “not on the scale of being the first person on Mars”: she’d be happy to have her own securities brokerage firm in 10-15 years. Until then, this bubbly Batumi native would try her hand at NBG, Georgia’s Central bank, writing regulations and developing international markets. That’s after she gets a Finance Degree at the University of Manchester, of course. If you’ve been following the Facebook page of the UK Embassy, you’d notice that the photos of the September 3rd farewell dinner show only two male winners. The third, 29-year-old Beka Phutkaradze of Batumi, is already in London, as his Master’s in Finance started midAugust. Unlike most of the Georgian Cheveners, he doesn’t need much adapting to life abroad, having lived in Poland for several years. In that time, Beka completed not only his undergrad and

graduate degrees in Finance at Kozminsky University, but also three-plus years of experience working for the local branch of Citibank. Upon return, he hopes to transform state-owned enterprises into modern corporations with western values and vision. While London and Edinburgh have multiple members of the Georgian class of 2019/20 descending on them, Nino Gorgiashvili is the only one heading to Cardiff, Wales. The sociable 28-year-old, hailing from the small Lagodekhi village of Apeni by the way of Rustavi, has a B.A. in Business Administration and Finance, but chose Computing and IT Management for her Master’s degree. Her longterm goal is to improve online educational programs and ensure their accessibility in rural areas, especially remote ones, such as Racha, the region from which her ancestry is traced. Nino knows of the educational opportunities being vastly different not just up in the mountains where villages are cut off due to harsh weather conditions for several months a year, but also in rural valleys, having spent most of her childhood and early schoolyears in the village. Lucky for her, her dad’s job took them to Rustavi when Nino was 14, and she got more opportunities which led to undergrad studies at the Georgian-American University. Ambitious, but “not too much, or else you’ll overestimate yourself” and amicable, Nino doesn’t find the prospect of spending a year away from family for the first time all that daunting. In fact, she plans to bring a flavor of Georgia to Wales, introducing culture via culinary exploits, with staples like khinkali and khachapuri! The oldest in the group at 41, Gvantsa Meladze is a seasoned professional with a very unique story of passion, pioneering and patriotism; her achievements span from being a managing partner of the Regional Development Association and Export Agency to consulting both the private sector and the government on policy issues. With an academic background in Economics and an MBA from Caucasus University, Gvantsa is seeking a degree in Comparative Public Policy at

Edinburgh: her goal being to move beyond the economic targets and policies driven by the electoral cycle. She plans to dive into the methodology that is geared towards sustainable, inclusive social policies; to have the voices of the marginalized population heard in a meaningful way. Gvantsa’s two kids, aged 14 and 9, initially questioned her decision, but she is true to herself, stepping out of her comfort zone, riding that development curve – not for the first time, either. In 1998, at the peak of the brain drain from Georgia, she came back from the USA, leaving her family there, readjusted to the life of hardships, and interned at a computer school, getting into website design before it was cool – all that at the age of 19! Biggest achievement? “Being happy with who I am,” she says. Likewise, Natia Zoidze, 28, has come to the conclusion that “you cannot please everyone, nor should you”, and is not seeking external validation. This is no small feat in the culture where women apply to high-level positions only when they’re significantly overqualified, and if accepted, have to work twice as hard to prove their worth. Natia will take on an LLM in Human Rights Law at Queen Mary University in London, to ensure that those who haven’t been afforded the full protection by the state, who have been persecuted for gender identity or religious affiliation, get justice. Intelligent and compassionate, she is pragmatically content with the incremental changes, and plans to roll her sleeves up for NGO work once again upon her return from the UK. While most of the Cheveners I’ve spoken to learned of their applications’ success back in June, Keti Vashagashvili got her Final Acceptance Letter literally the day before we sat down for an interview. She knew she was in reserve, but had very little hope left by August 17th, when she got a congratulatory email and realized there was little time to tie all the loose ends. With an M.A in Media Management and Journalism from GIPA and years of professional experience at various TV stations, Keti has filmed and directed several successful projects, from a Channel 9 documentary on the tough life of a homeless mother to a US Embassyfinanced short on urban development. It comes as no surprise that she will study Journalism and Documentary Practice at Sussex, with plans to return and cover a wide range of topics that her NGO is involved in. A classical selfdoubting perfectionist, this 37-year old Tbilisi native gets encouragement from her family – her husband is a feature filmmaker and understands her need to develop professionally. As Keti’s biggest fan, her 9-year-old son, put it, “all kids need successful mothers!” A diverse group as they are, the Chevening class of2019/20 is united in one goal: to get a quality education and return to Georgia with skills needed for the country’s progress and development. We wish them the best, and hope to follow up with them in the fall of 2020.

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

9

Executive Chairwoman, CEO of VEON, Ursula Burns Visits Beeline Georgia ogy, Engineering and Math (STEM) in 2009-2016, during the rule of President Barack Obama, and she served as Chair of the President's Export Council in 2015-2016. She has been listed multiple times by Forbes as one of the 100 most powerful

TRANSLATED BY ANA DUMBADZE

E

xecutive Chairwoman, CEO of VEON, Ursula Burns, came to Tbilisi to visit Beeline Georgia, member of the VEON Group. The purpose of the Company’s highestranking official was to personally meet the team of Beeline, summarize results and discuss future plans. Within the scope of the meeting at Beeline HQ , Burns spoke to company staff and positively apprised the work of the Beeline team, noting that the turnaround at the

women in the world. In addition to her business activities, she actively supports various educational and non-governmental organizations. She is the Founder of an organization aimed at the development of STEM education. VEON Group is an international com-

pany operating in 10 countries throughout the world. In Georgia, it is represented by the Beeline brand. The plan of the company’s highest-ranking official includes paying visits to each country and holding meetings with local staff.

company is impressive. To close, she thanked her colleagues for their motivation. Ursula Burns is one of the most successful American businesswomen and the director of Fortune 500 Company. Currently, she is the Executive Chairwoman and CEO of VEON as well as being a member of the supervisory boards of corporations such as Uber, Nestle, ExxonMobil, MIT, and others. Prior to joining VEON, she was Chairwoman of the Board of the Xerox Corporation from 2010 to 2017 and Chief Executive Officer from 2009 to 2016. Burns was a leader of the White House national program on Science, Technol-

TBC Status Introduces New, Digital Package Georgia’s Finance Minister TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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BC Status has introduced a brand new, Digital Package to clientele. The Package is designed for those individuals for whom the use of banking products represents an inseparable part of life, who actively consume non-banking products and offers, and who prefer to manage personal finances and banking operations independently, without the help of a banker. The Status Digital Package integrates all the superiorities and products of a traditional set, without a personal banker.

Tailored to the lifestyle, a customer is enabled to benefit from discounts at shopping venues, as well as the advantage of special offers at a number of events. With it, a Status Concierge will be ready to respond 24/7 to requests. The full list of the banking and nonbanking products of the Status Digital Package is as follows: Banking Products: • Premium class VISA/MASTERCARD PLATINUM card - Free cash withdrawal from TBC and partner bank ATMs - High daily limit for cash withdrawal at ATMs - Terms of interest accrual on card balance - Free "Premium" card security service • Fixed rates on bank transfers

• Preferential rates on withdrawals from savings and current accounts • Special offers on insurance products • Certificate and extract free of charge • Queue Priority Card • 24/7 Status Center service Non-Banking Products • Concierge Service • Discounts at more than 150 shopping venues • Training, masterclasses and events tailored to the interests of customers • Airport Lounge Access Card (Lounge Key; Priority Pass) Monthly fee for the Package – 10 GEL For more information about the Status Digital Package, please visit: https://www.tbcbank. ge/web/ka/web/guest/status-digital Or contact the Status Center: 2 272700.

Predicts GEL Will Gain Value BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia’s Finance Minister, Ivane Machavariani believes the national currency GEL (Lari), which has been depreciating against the US Dollar and Euro, will start gaining value soon. The Minister says the Lari depreciated due to external shocks. He also affirms that the Georgian economy is healthy. "First of all, this is due to the fact that the region is not developing rapidly ... Regarding the foreign shocks, the currency rate is the first to be affected and our main goal is not to let it move to the real sector. I believe the GEL will start to strengthen,” he said. Another reason for the Lari devaluation named by the minister, was the June 20 developments in Georgia, which started with anti-Russian protest rallies in the capital and was followed by a Russian ban on direct flights with Georgia. This, in turn, hit the tourism sector and according to the minister, resulted in a $60 million loss for Georgia. The minister says there are all preconditions to expect the national currency to gain value. “Real economic growth was 6% in July, we see it in August as well, and we can say that it will be quite high. This means that if there are enough jobs and the production of goods and services does not diminish, the economy is fundamentally healthy and it will undoubtedly lead to the strengthening of the GEL,” Machavariani said. He also noted that the budgeting process will start soon, during which he will be able to talk in detail about the 2020 economic plans. Chairman of the Committee on Finance and Budget, Irakli Kovzanadze, says that the real effective exchange rate of the GEL is more impaired than dictated by the economy. "The reality is that we have a 5.1% economic growth, including a 6.1% growth in July, a tendency of reduced unemployment

and expected employment growth. We have improved current account deficits, but the depreciation of the Lari covers any positive effects. It is such a heavy burden to our population,” he added. He said the authorities, the National Bank and the Ministry of Finance, need to take "more coordinated, bold and sometimes extraordinary steps" to stabilize the Lari exchange rate. Irakli Mezurnishvili, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream faction, also noted that the stability of the Lari is very important for the development of the economy. “It is clear that the Lari is excessively devaluated. In all other macroeconomic indicators we do have some stability, but when our country is dependent on imports, despite the current account deficit being at a historically lowest indicator, of course, the exchange rate clearly affects the prices of products as well,” he stated in Parliament. Mezurnishvili also noted that despite the objective factors causing the devaluation of the national currency - foreign shock, regional developments, economic situation in the countries with which Georgia has trade relations, the events of June 20, result in a difficult situation for the business. The official GEL rate set by the National Bank of Georgia, shows that $1 equals 2.9636, while one Euro is 3.2683 GEL. Around 10 days ago the dollar rate was GEL 2.9457 and Euro was at GEL 3.2523. New Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, whose cabinet was approved by MPs on September 8, says that Georgia has a small and absolutely open economy and the Lari exchange rate is an integral part of daily life, which is directly related not only to the Georgian economy but also to its main trading partners as well. “However, this does not mean that the GEL rate should fluctuate that way. It should also be remembered that the depreciation of the Lari has had very important effects on our population and our economy. With maximum coordination and work with the National Bank, we will do our best to maintain both economic and financial stability,” he added.


10

POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

Weekly Round-Up of the Gvaramia/ Rustavi 2 Case BY THE GT TEAM

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ews broke Monday morning that former Rustavi 2 Director-General Nika Gvaramia has, on the deadline, agreed to pay the 40,000 GEL bail set by Tbilisi City Court for his release. He had been refusing to pay it under claims of innocence. His turn-around decision came, as he said, because of the growing fears of his wife, team and investors that he would again be detained. “Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow is the last day of my bail. My team is very nervous, potential investors are also concerned. My wife is getting more and more nervous every day. I would not pay the bail. It is your decision to pay the bail and I obey it. I will borrow money and I will pay the bail since you wish so,

not me,” he wrote on social media. He has also been prohibited from leaving the country without special permission. Gvaramia was first charged in August by the Prosecutor’s Office for abuse of power and making decisions which were harmful to Rustavi 2 TV Channel. The investigation was launched based on the statement of the lawyer of Nino Nizharadze, former owner of 9% of Rustavi 2 shares, about the alleged crime committed by the management of the TV company. In addition, the statement of Paata Salia, the new director of the channel, about an alleged crime that significantly damaged the broadcasting company, was also attached to the case. Last Friday, the Prosecutor’s Office again charged him, this time for “embezzling Rustavi 2 property.” In addition to Gvaramia, an indictment was filed against Kakha Damenia, the former financial director of the channel, and Zurab Iashvili, director

CULTURE

BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

T

he 11th edition of the Night Serenades Festival, one of the most outstanding musical events giving an incredible opportunity to classical music-lovers to enjoy the best compositions of the genre, was successfully completed on September 4. These days, society is offered more commercial music than classical; commercial focusing on the better financial gain. However, the Night Serenades Festival is on the list of those few musical celebrations that are completely devoted to the classical genre and its global promotion. Its story began 37 years ago, in 1982, when prominent Georgian violin-

of the company Intermedia Plus. “On the basis of the analysis of the evidence obtained in the course of the ongoing investigation, we are filing new charges against Nika Gvaramia – he is accused of a large-scale embezzlement of the property rights of Rustavi 2 broadcasting company, as well as of commercial bribery and production/use of counterfeit official documents, which caused significant damage," a representative of the Prosecutor General's Office said at the briefing. In addition to Nika Gvaramia, charges were filed against Kakha Damenia, the former financial director of the channel and Zurab Iashvili, director of Intermedia Plus. On leaving the Office on Friday, Gvaramia said that there was nothing new in the accusations and that he links the ongoing investigation to the fact that soon the opposition-minded new TV company, the Main Channel, founded

by him, will start operating. He added that he does not exclude the possibility of detention, but emphasized that if he is arrested, the channel will continue with another director. On Thursday, the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) granted a license of 'general broadcaster' instead of the expected 'specialized entertainment broadcaster' to Gvaramia’s newly established TV Channel, “Main Channel” (“Mtavari Arkhi”), meaning the channel now officially has the right to broadcast news and political talk shows. The representatives of Main Channel applied to the GNCC on August 26 to modify its broadcasting authorization. “The Commission has studied the documentation submitted by the company, which fully complies with the requirements of the law, and registered the channel as a private general broadcaster in the Registry. The Channel will start broadcasting on September 9. The

Main Channel is obliged to uphold the law on broadcasting, including the Commission's resolutions, decisions and all authorization requirements,” the GNCC stated. After being dismissed from the post of Director-General of Rustavi 2 by the current owner of the channel, Kibar Khalvashi, due to a conflict of interests, Nika Gvaramia informed media about the founding of a new TV channel named ‘Mtavari Arkhi’. Gvaramia also published a public registry document which shows how the ownership of the TV Company is shared: 51% of the channel is owned by Nika Gvaramia and 49% by Kakhaber Anjaparidze. Gvaramia serves as the Director-General of the channel, Irakli Nizharadze is Financial Director, while the former lawyers of Rustavi 2: Dimitri Sadzaglishvili and Tamta Muradashvili are mentioned as Directors in the document.

Success of the Night Serenades Festival

ist and conductor Liana Isakadze launched the first concert within the scope of the festival in the city of Pitsunda, Abkhazia. But, due to political developments, the event was suspended for a number of years and was given a new life 11 years ago, in 2009. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Giorgi Issakadze, Creative Director of the Festival and nephew of Liana Issakadze, to gauge the success of this year’s event. “2019 and the 11th edition of the Nights Serenades Festival has proved to be very successful indeed,” he tells us. “We launched four concerts in the incredible city of Batumi and hosted listeners in the Georgian capital at two concerts. The main concept was absolutely loved by the audiences in both cities.” Along with the diverse program of the festival, Issakadze emphasizes the warm recep-

tion the performers received from the public. “The fact the festival was attended by ordinary classical music enthusiasts as well as professionals in the field, is certainly yet another indicator of our accomplishment,” he says. “This year, we launched a very interesting and diverse program, and gave an opportunity to guests to travel in different epochs and styles, from Baroque to romance, as well as the contemporary world music of the 20th and 21st centuries.” The program of the five-day event boasted masterpieces of world-renowned composers, and included the Serenade of Tchaikovsky, Barber’s Adagio, and the Chamber Symphony of Shostakovich. Issakadze noted that the virtuoso orchestra managed to mesmerize the attendees of the concert in thee and also a variety of treasures from the Georgian classical music repertoire. Issakadze tells us that cellist Jan-Erik Gustafsson took to the stage with the concerto Vaja Azarashvili, first performed by Giorgi's father- National Artist of Georgia and Professor Eldar Issakadze. “Before the performance, Gustafsson expressed his gratitude to my father and focused on the strong influence of his recordings in the Azarashvili’s concerto, which I had sent them several weeks prior to the festival. It was certainly very emotional for all of us,” Issakadze tells us. The program also included the humorous miniatures of Georgian Sulkhan Tsintsadze and the incomplete composition of Aleksi Matchavariani. The September 2 concert was dedicated to the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. The next day’s event was attended by the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, who got to enjoy the rarely performed Beethoven’s 8th Symphony, not played in Georgia for over two decades. “This year’s Night Serenades Festival was completed by famous Georgian mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze, who

took to the stage with Manuel De Falla’s “El Amor Brujo” and offered an absolutely breathtaking performance,” says Issakadze with admiration. 2019 was also outstanding in that it was the first time in the history of the festival that performers from Kazakhstan joined the program, offering the work of Artyk Toxanbay to guests. “It is tremendously difficult to create a tradition, but it is very easy to forget them,” Issakadze notes. “Traditions need protection and remembrance, and it is of vital importance to introduce them to youngsters to enable the next generations to preserve and love them. That

is why we do our best to make it interesting to all age groups by inviting a number of excellent young performers.” The Creative Director of the Festival also focuses on the huge work done by Maestro Vakhtang Matchavariani and Lela Mtchedlidze, who joined the orchestra and raised the bar to a sky-high level, thus contributing to the success of the event. “The 11th edition of the Nights Serenades Festival was certainly nothing short of spectacular, as we managed to offer different moods and atmospheres to our Georgian and international guests. And I do hope this tradition continues in future,” he tells us with a smile.


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 10 - 12, 2019

11

Georgian Museum of Fine Arts and Art House – The Place to Meet

BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

T

bilisi counts a history of many centuries. There is plenty to see and to do in Tbilisi, but in addition, there are a number of ‘must-visit’ places in the heart of the Georgian capital. The Georgian Museum of Fine Arts and its extension Art House – The Place to Meet are certainly at the top of the list. Shota Rustaveli Avenue, the main artery of the city, is incredibly eclectic, bringing together a 19th century and modern style. While walking along this avenue, a building with interesting architecture and a huge eagle perched over its entrance is impossible to miss: this is the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts. The museum has a multifunctional complex called Art House which, aside from welcoming locals, always has its doors open to international travelers, too, offering them an incredible gastronomic experience and pleasant surprises.

GEORGIA TODAY sat down with David (Datuna) Aladashvili, a famous Georgian pianist among the most loyal guests of the museum and Art House, to learn about his experience and discover all the ‘treasures’ of the venue. We met at the MUSEUM CAFE, one of the jewels of the Georgian Museum of Fine Arts, where the dominating white walls and chandeliers ideally balance the bright furnishings, posters of outstanding cinematographic works and a wonderful palette of sweets and pastries. The beauty of the environ is completed by an airy terrace overlooking the stunning Kashveti Church of St. George, the frescoes of which were painted by the brilliant Georgian painter Lado Gudiashvili in 1947. “First let me say that I really can spend the entire day at the Art House,” says Datuna. “In general, I come here early in the morning and start my daily routine working out at the in-house FIT CLUB,” he says, highlighting the excellent infrastructure of the fitness club in Art House, where guests can benefit from facilities of sky-high standards and the service of professional trainers.

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“The swimming pool on the rooftop with an amazing city view is a real treasure, as it is almost impossible to find such a spacious outdoor pool in the center of Tbilisi so ideal for relaxation. There’s also a Finnish sauna on site, perfect for speeding you to health.” The founders of the Art House had the importance of nutrition for a healthy lifestyle very much in mind when launching the multifunctional complex, making sure POOL CAFE came ready to serve guests a wide assortment of healthy food, including fresh salads, wraps, detox cocktails and smoothies, to enrich the organism with the necessary proteins and vitamins for boosted energy and positivity. Membership of the Art House’s FIT CLUB has a number of other benefits too, including a 10% discount at all the venues found in the Art House and four-hours free parking in the threestory carpark, big enough to house up to 200 vehicles. The latter is certainly a special experience, as in Tbilisi it is a real miracle to find a parking space. Datuna continues telling us about his day at the Art House: “After a morning at Fit Club, I always try to spend some time at the museum, which brings together nearly 3500 outstanding works of Georgian painters, each a source of inspiration,” states the pianist. Like all world-leading museums, the Museum of Fine Arts also houses a gift shop, giving visitors the chance to purchase some nice souvenirs and a boutique MRKT.COM of Georgian Fashion Designers. “PUBLICA, the new American barlounge at Art House, is a special place for me, as a year ago we started a tradition called ‘PUBLICA TALKS’, where we launched more than 10 evenings for music and culture enthusiasts, and gave a new life to the history of this building,” says Datuna with enthusiasm. “In the 19th century, it was the hotel ‘Orient’, the favorite gathering place of the most outstanding Georgian public figures, including painters, poets and musicians, who spent entire nights here creating the history and culture of the country.” Currently, Publica integrates different zones for reading, painting, working or even playing piano, and welcomes everyone to use them free of charge. Publica also serves as an ideal venue for numerous exclusive events. PUBLICA CAFE represents a real gastronomic celebration and offers an impressive menu of mouthwatering dishes and often treats guests by broadcasting major football matches and screening outstanding works of world cinematography. Georgia is famous for its cuisine and it is no surprise when our conversation with Datuna Aladashvili moves on to focus on the Art House’s eateries. “KHARCHO is a fantastic Georgian restaurant, boasting a wide range of traditional Georgian dishes and offering a unique experience through the special touch and fusion of traditions with a sprinkle of modernity. Georgians enjoy the novelties in traditional cuisine, while the gourmet pleasures provided at Kharcho are a real discovery for foreigners,” says the interviewee, picking out his favorite dessert, the “ESMA CAKE,” which is made of Georgian pelamushi. “It was inspired by the prominent Georgian painter and poet Esma Oniani, who through her remarkable works left a priceless legacy to the Georgian people. Pelamushi was one her favorite sweets.”

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

The Art House is a diverse complex and therefore does not limit itself to only local cuisine: European dishes are equally terrific here. “My friends and I enjoy BRASSERIE BUVETTE at Art House very much. I can state for sure that this is the only French restaurant of such a high level on the Georgian market right now. It offers the best cocktails, of which I love the Buvette Smash,” says Datuna, nothing that the pleasant and super comfy atmosphere is ideal for holding various business meetings. Brasserie Buvette also integrates a wine cellar, where guests have an opportunity to enjoy a glass or two of fine wine. We then ask Datuna how important it is in the contemporary busy world for different facilities to be integrated in the same area. “When I was doing my studies at the Julliard School in New York, all the venues were located close to each other, much facilitating life there. Art House reminds me of those days spent in New York, thus it has a special meaning for me,” Datuna tells us. “It’s a perfect place

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for me, as I can play piano at Publica and practice, eat, work and exercise, as well as hold meetings here.” The Museum of Fine Arts and the Art House are certainly a new statement in modern Georgia, as they bring together numerous facilities, from thrilling eateries to a museum and business meetings in the CONFERENCE HALL. Through its smart design, each of the venues found in the building represents a new dimension, offering an unforgettable journey for visitors of all tastes. Here, you can delve into art and keep fit and healthy at the same time. Located in the very heart of the Georgian capital, it is also highly recommended as a starting point for discovering Tbilisi, as, surrounded with a number of significant sights, it blazes a path into the endless and stunning history of the ancient city. #foryourfirsttimeingeorgia Address: L. Gudiashvili St. 18 Sh. Rustaveli St. 7 Tel: 544 44 45 44 Art House - The Place to Meet @arthouse_georgia

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1184 Business  

September 10 - 12, 2019

Issue #1184 Business  

September 10 - 12, 2019

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