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Issue no: 1204/207

• NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

In this week’s issue...

FOCUS

ON REDUCING PLASTIC WASTE

CENN and USAID's #SayNoToPlastic campaign goes from strength to strength

PRICE: GEL 2.50

Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2

PAGE 10

Eastern Partnership Countries Work Together to Counter Climate Change NEWS PAGE 3

Improved Trade Balance & Resilient External Sector Keep Georgia’s Annual Growth Projections in Line with Last Year’s Performance ISET PAGE 4

Georgian Economic Climate (Q4, 2019) Prepared by PMC Research & ifo Institute BUSINESS PAGE 7

Medical Round-Up of the Election Protests Mardaleishvili Group Organizes Press BY THE GT TEAM

Tour in Diagnostic Center of Modern Standards

A

t time of going to press, special forces were actively mobilized around the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, where a demonstration was underway. Law enforcers removed the tents erected by protesters in front of the parliament building as rally organizers called on the demonstrators not to resist. Protesters were removed from all the entrances of the parliament building, as were barricades, and the avenue was reopened. Several people were injured after the riot police started to disperse the rally-goers using water cannon, and a number of demonstrators were arrested. Reportedly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs had given demonstrators a

SOCIETY PAGE 9

Georgia’s Dilemma of ‘Centralization Vs Decentralization’ 30-minute warning to leave the territory and stop picketing the building. However, they refused and continued to block entrances to the legislative body. Early on Monday, Giorgi Vashadze, an opposition leader of New Georgia, had called on MPs not to come to Parliament. "I urge MPs not to come to Parliament in order to avoid agitating the crowd. Cleaners, police, staff members will not have any problem. The MPs irritate society and it is better for them not to come here," he said, noting that protesters are acting peacefully and he hopes the police will not use force. Rallies have been ongoing since last Thursday’s vote in Georgian Parliament whereby MP’s rejected the electoral bill aimed to move Georgia from a mixed electoral system to a proportional one, as they promised society during the June demonstrations. Opposition and civil movement representatives started gathering in front of the parliament building on Thursday and every evening since has seen more people joining them. A camp was set up to picket parliament, essentially closing Tbilisi’s main traffic artery, Rustaveli Avenue. Continued on page 2

POLITICS PAGE 11 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof15ͲNovͲ2019

Price

w/w

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BankofGeorgia(BGEOLN)

GBP14.92

+2,5%

+9,3%

GeorgiaCapital(CGEOLN)

STOCKS

GBP9.90

Ͳ2,6%

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GBP1.80

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Ͳ11,8%

GRAIL07/22

GBP13.30

Ͳ1,5%

+7,3%

GEBGG07/23

CURRENCIES

GHG(GHGLN) TBCBankGroup(TBCGLN)

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

Price

w/w

GEOROG04/21

104.41(YTM3.57%)

+0,1%

Ͳ0,2%

GEORG04/21

BONDS

105.76(YTM2.65%)

Ͳ0,1%

Ͳ0,2%

109.85(YTM3.80%)

+0,2%

+0,2%

105.10(YTM4.48%)

+1,0%

+1,9%

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w/w

m/m

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m/m

63,30

+1,3%

+7,8%

GEL/USD

2,9697

+0,3%

+0,1%

1468,21

+0,6%

Ͳ0,9%

GEL/EUR

3,2801

+0,6%

+0,2%

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GEL/GBP

3,8310

+1,3%

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INDICES

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3,0004

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FTSE100

7302,94

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+1,3%

GEL/RUB

0,0466

+0,4%

+0,9%

FTSE250

20404,40

+0,2%

+1,0%

GEL/TRY

0,5166

+0,6%

+2,9%

DAX

13241,75

+0,1%

+4,8%

GEL/AZN

1,7500

+0,9%

+0,5%

DOWJONES

28004,89

+1,2%

+3,6%

GEL/AMD

0,0062

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8540,83

+0,8%

+4,8%

GEL/UAH

0,1226

+1,5%

+2,6%

185,01

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+7,2%

EUR/USD

0,9049

Ͳ0,3%

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NASDAQ MSCIEMEE

1048,79

Ͳ1,5%

SP500

3120,46

+0,9%

+4,2%

CHF/USD

0,9900

Ͳ0,7%

Ͳ0,9%

MSCIFM

2654,97

Ͳ0,8%

+2,0%

RUB/USD

63,7610

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Ͳ0,8%

GTIndex(GEL)

1582,68

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TRY/USD

5,7477

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Ͳ2,8%

GTIndex(USD)

1208,13

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AZN/USD

1,6981

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MSCIEM

+2,9%

GBP/USD

0,7750

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

Round-Up of the Election Protests Continued from page 1

@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: Sergey Romanenko and Lia Morozova established the 23-room ‘Kartuli Hotel’ in Batumi using Sergey’s skills in hospitality management learnt in Switzerland, and Lia’s interior design profession. In Kartuli Hotel they managed to create non-standardized rooms that showcase the Georgian culture, design, wine, music and more while ensuring an atmosphere that guests will find unforgettable. The Georgian market recently welcomed a new tea brand, titled ‘Green Gold’ produced by Tamuna Khabeishvili’s ‘Laituri’ in Ozurgeti. The natural tea made with ancient Chinese tradition is grown on 25 hectares in the village of Nagomari and can be found on the shelves of Goodwill, Europroduct, and in the restaurants ‘Keto and Kote’, ‘Barbarestan’, and ‘Shushabadshi’. The company plans to get involved in the Horeca sector and to start exporting. ‘Chirdili’ is a social enterprise based in the mountains of Khevsureti, functioning as a touristic center, planning touristic routes and camps, and supporting the development of the region. It was established by an inhabitant of Barisakho, Nino Arabuli, and 5 Khevsuri youngsters. It offers nights away, nutrition, team-building, guides, cars, renting horses, and more. At the same time, the center is a kind of moderator between tourism businesses and locals. They have been welcoming guests since the summer of 2018 and say tourists from France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Germany have been particularly active in the region this year. 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

Protestors demanded early parliamentary elections under an interim government and an impartial election administration. A large number of law enforcers had been in place around the parliament building on Rustaveli in connection with the rally since the decision was announced not to move to a proportional system. Vazha Siradze, the Chief of Patrol Police, presented a report on Sunday's protests in Batumi and Tbilisi. The Chief said that in Tbilisi, some 5,500 civilians had gathered around the parliament building and approximately 1,500 activists demonstrated at the Alliance of the Patriots protest near the First Republic Square, while 50 people showed up at the organized protest in Batumi. The report on the number of demonstrators as presented by Chief Siradze is especially interesting when compared with Reuter’s version. The latter claims that ‘tens of thousands gathered in the capital to demand snap elections’. “About 20,000 people rallied in the center of the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Sunday to protest against the government and to demand an early parliamentary election,” reads the article issued by the international news organization. Some activists temporarily left the Parliament territory on Sunday to protest in front of the Georgian Dream HQ. A clash took place between these protestors and the police when the officers prevented them from writing ‘Change’, ‘Go’, and ‘The System Must Be Destroyed’ on the asphalt in front of the party headquarters. Despite the confrontation, the members of the movement ‘Make a Change’ still managed to partly write what they wished near the office of the Georgian Dream political party, before returning to the main demonstration in front of the parliament building. The international community was quick to respond to the election decision. The EU Delegation and the US Embassy

to Georgia released the following statement: "The Embassy of the United States of America and the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia recognize the deep disappointment of a wide segment of Georgian society at the failure of Parliament to pass the constitutional amendments required to move to fully proportional parliamentary elections in 2020. “The decision taken last summer to accelerate the transition to proportional elections was understood as an important step forward in Georgia’s democracy, and there was a political consensus behind it and a joint commitment from all sides to work towards this end. The unexpected halting of this process last Thursday has increased mistrust and heightened tensions between the ruling party and other political parties and civil society. “In view of the current situation, we consider it essential to immediately work to restore trust through a calm and respectful dialogue between the government and all political parties and civil society with a view to finding an acceptable path forward. “We fully support the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. We call on all parties exercising this right to do so in a lawful manner and within the framework of the Constitution. “We encourage all sides to act in the country’s best interests," the official statement reads. "We are now less than a year away from the 2020 presidential election. And so

the current government is holding off on any new initiatives pertaining to the electoral system," Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said on Monday. Kaladze accused the United National Movement opposition party of organizing the protests, with “the sole motivation to stir unrest.” "UNM ran the country with a constitutional majority in parliament and never thought to change the mixed electoral system,” the Mayor noted, adding that the 2020 elections will be held under the current constitution, within the set deadlines, in line with the highest democratic standards and with the involvement of the international community. “We call on our opponents to prepare for the elections and not blame the electoral systems for the lack of people's support. Every electoral system has its ups and downs. However, both electoral systems are legitimate and democratic. The elections in 2020 will be held under a mixed electoral system, as has been the case for the past ten decades. The elections are won by public determination and not by the electoral system. We would like to remind you that in 2012, we subverted the regime of violence and cruelty under the current electoral system,” Kaladze says. Kaladze went on to say that the ruling team will be patient, but if the demonstrations persist, the authorities will have no choice but to respond. The Government released a special statement regarding the protests which you can read on page 3.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

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Gov't Statement on Recent Events

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he Government of Georgia released a statement to the public on Monday following the dispersal of protesters outside parliament by riot police using water cannon: On behalf of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party, we would like to explain to the public the processes that have been taking place in recent days. Yesterday, everyone clearly saw that the National Movement, along with its branches, was the real organizer of the protest rally. The demand for a proportional electoral system was the pretext for this demonstration, while the real aim was to shift the political process to a destructive trajectory. We would like to remind you that this political force ruled the country with a constitutional majority for nine years, and it never once considered replacing the mixed electoral system with a proportional one. Moreover, the constitutional reform of 2010 was implemented in such a way that neither the National Movement, nor any of the political forces or other entities involved in the constitutional process, which we saw at the protest rally, even discussed the issue of changing the electoral system. Later, in 2012-2016, the State Constitutional Commission was led by Davit Usupashvili, another participant of yesterday’s protest rally, who had not even

touched the issue of constitutional reform, including transitioning to a proportional electoral system, for four years. In 2017, following a boycott by precisely the same political forces, the Georgian Dream, led by Irakli Kobakhidze, carried out a successful constitutional reform and, for the first time in the history of Georgian constitutionalism, introduced a proportional electoral system, which will come into force in 2024. This was the maximum – the complicated internal party consensus that was reached through great effort, against the backdrop of an overwhelmingly negative attitude of the largest part of majoritar-

ian deputies. Furthermore, had the parliamentary opposition of that time (which is manning the barricades today) supported the immediate change of the electoral system, that is, the transition to a proportional electoral system in 2020, this decision would now have been inscribed in the Constitution. Correspondingly, whether the opponents like this or not, the Georgian Dream will be remembered in Georgian political history as the sole initiator and author of the transition to the proportional system of elections. Naturally, every electoral system has its pros and cons. However, both elec-

toral systems are legitimate and democratic. The 2020 elections will be held using a mixed system, as they have been for the past three decades. It is public confidence, rather than the electoral system, that wins elections. We would like to remind you that in 2012, we replaced the regime of violence and cruelty, which was practically in full control of all the institutions and instruments connected with political processes, under conditions of precisely this electoral system. The main slogan of the National Movement – power at any cost – remains unchanged. Since they have no chance

of victory under any electoral system, they are trying to return to power together with Saakashvili (who was convicted by all three instances of the court) by introducing destructive processes. Naturally, this attempt is also doomed to failure. Given the lack of resources to mobilize people, which was clearly demonstrated yesterday, they are now trying to introduce disorder into the political processes using cheap, destructive performances. We will be as patient as possible. However, we would like to clearly state that if the destructive processes continue, the authorities will have an appropriate response. The position expressed by our main international partners on the current developments is especially appreciated in this process. Georgia is an integral part of the civilized world and civilized rules of the game, naturally, require everyone to act within the law. Less than one year remains before the elections. Correspondingly, we are no longer planning to discuss any new initiative regarding the electoral system. The elections will be held within the rules and timeframe established by the current Constitution, with highest democratic standards and with high involvement of the international community. Therefore, we urge the opponents to prepare for the elections and to refrain from blaming the electoral system for the lack of popular support.

foundations for regional cooperation.” The Tbilisi workshop is part of a regional discussion series organized under the EU4Climate program. Two previous workshops were hosted by Moldova focusing on low-emission development and adaptation to climate change. The EU4Climate program is an EUfunded initiative implemented by UNDP.

EU4Climate builds on the achievements of the past cooperation programs in the Eastern Neighbourhood, such as the EU ClimaEast program, which supported climate change mitigation and adaptation in 2013-2017. Drawing on a total budget of EUR 8.8 million, the four-year EU4Climate program will continue until the end of 2022.

Eastern Partnership Countries Work Together to Counter Climate Change

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he six Eastern Partnership countries met in Tbilisi on Monday to discuss their progress in mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects by introducing climatesensitive policies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Organized by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), under the EU4Climate program, the two-day regional discussion assembled high-level officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as participants from the Western Balkans, the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Netherlands’s Royal Meteorological Institute and the World Recourse Institute. The regional workshop supports policymakers from the six Eastern Partnership countries in implementing the Paris Agreement, the landmark document that

unites the world in fighting climate change. “Climate change poses threats to ecosystems, economies and people throughout the world,” said Maia Javakhishvili, Deputy Head of Environment and Climate Change Department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia. “As Georgia is currently updating our Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, we welcome the opportunity to deepen cooperation with the EU and Eastern Partnership countries in facing this global challenge together.” "The EU is in the frontline of the international efforts to fight climate change," said Alexandre Darras, Team Leader on Connectivity, Energy, Environment & Climate Change at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. “We are happy to be working together with Georgia and the other countries of the Eastern Partnership in adapting to climate

change, moving towards green economies and building further public support for climate action.” The first day of the workshop focused on the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that countries committed to make under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Participants agreed that national pledges should become more precise and ambitious as implementation of the Paris Agreement moves ahead. “Climate change poses challenges but also creates opportunities,” said UNDP Georgia Head Louisa Vinton. “We have a chance now to rethink our assumptions about economic growth, question the consumerist lifestyle and create green jobs that preserve rather than destroy our natural resources. By sharing solutions across the Eastern Partnership countries, we strengthen our defenses against climate change and also build

Georgian National Bank: Income from Tourism Up BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

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he National Bank of Georgia (NBG) has said that income from tourism has finally started to increase after a three-month decline as a result of Russia’s ban on direct flights to and from Georgia implemented in July. The NBG stated that Georgia's tourism revenue in October totaled $266.9 million, which is a 5.2% increase compared to the same period last year. In relation to the period directly after the travel ban was imposed by Moscow, revenue fell by 8.6% in July, 6.8% in August, and 4.9% in September, according to the National Bank. “735,100 people visited Georgia in October 2019, which is 11% more than in October 2018,” the NBG said. Along the same lines, the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) reported that in the 3rd quarter of 2019, the number of arrivals of international travelers to Georgia equaled 3.4 million, which is 4.6% higher compared to the previous year.

Image source: exploregeorgia.com

The agency noted that the largest number of visits (19.9%) came from citizens of Azerbaijan, which is 10.6% higher compared to the 3rd quarter of 2018. In the same period, the second largest

number of visitors (413,800) was from the Russian Federation, which amounts to 18.8% of the total number of visitors and is a 16.5% decrease compared to the 3rd quarter of 2018.

“The number of visits by international travelers from the above-mentioned countries totaled 2.8 million, which is 3.9% higher compared to 2018. In the 3rd quarter of 2019, the number of international visitors equaled 2.2 million. That is a 1% increase compared to the previous year. International visitors to the country made 1.9 million tourist-type visits, which is 1.4% higher compared to the previous year,” the agency reports. 67.3% of international visitors were tourists, with the number of excursionists amounting to 26.3%, while 6.4% of visitors were tourists on same-day visits. What’s more, 41.6% of these visits were made by travelers between the ages of 31-50 and the number of women equaled 43.8% of the total number. The purpose of 52% of visits was holiday, leisure and recreation. In the 3rd quarter of 2019, the average number of nights spent during visits equaled 4.8 nights, which is 0.4% lower than the figure indicated in the same quarter of 2018 (4.9 nights). 69.4% of visits were at least their second time in Georgia. Expenditure during visits made in the 3rd quarter of 2019 totaled 3.3 billion

GEL ($1,112,984,796), which is a 4.1% increase compared to the previous year. Average expenditure per visit increased by 2.6 GEL compared to the 3rd quarter of 2018 and amounted to 1,181.7 GEL ($398.55). Russia imposed a ban on flights to and from Georgia at the end of June 2019 following the large-scale anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi. Since then, the possible resumption of flights has been mentioned many times by both countries. Last month, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani stated that direct flights between Georgia and Russia should be restored because it is “beneficial for both countries,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also stating that he supports the restoration of direct flights. In mid-October, Russian media reported that the Russian aviation agency will allow S7 Airlines to carry out flights between Kutaisi and Moscow as soon as direct flights between the two countries are restored. However, the agency explained that permission to carry out flights “is a standard procedure,” and that companies which were granted the right will be able to fly to Georgia after the flight ban is revoked.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

Improved Trade Balance & Resilient External Sector Keep Georgia’s Annual Growth Projections in Line with Last Year’s Performance impact of REER on real GDP growth is ambiguous (on the one hand, cheaper national currency contributes to higher prices for imported goods, but on the other hand real depreciation increases competitiveness of Georgian exports in the longer run). Nevertheless, the negative impact of lari depreciation in September was likely small and counterbalanced by significant growth in the external sector variables.

HIGH INFLATION

BY DAVIT KESHELAVA AND YASYA BABYCH

I

SET-PI has updated its forecast of Georgia’s real GDP growth rate for the fourth quarters of 2019. Here are the highlights of this month’s release:

HIGHLIGHTS • Recently, GeoStat has released its preliminary estimate of real GDP growth for the third quarter of 2019. The Q3 growth rate now stands at 5.7%, which is 1.4% below the ISET-PI’s last forecasted value. As a result, the estimated real GDP growth for the first nine months of 2019 amounted to 5.0%. • ISET-PI revised its forecast of real GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2019 to 4.4% - down from 5.5% in September. • Based on September’s data, we expect annual growth in 2019 to be 4.9%. This number is in line with the National Bank of Georgia’s growth forecast for 2019 (the forecast remained unchanged at 4.5%). According to the latest Monetary Policy Report, there are two groups of factors which pull growth in opposite directions: (1) the tightened monetary policy (to prevent emergence of the inflationary expectations) negatively affecting the growth forecast, and (2) improved trade balance and strong fiscal stimulus positively contributing to the growth estimation. According to GeoStat’s recent release, the official estimate for the third quarter of 2019 (based on VAT taxpayers’ turnover data) now stands at 5.7%. The newly estimated Q3 figure was lower than initially anticipated by our forecast. Consequently, the ISET-PI Q4 forecast has also been revised downward to 4.4%. Thus, the revision of the forecast has to do with the update of the Q3 growth estimate rather than significant changes

in the model’s core explanatory variables. Yet, a few variables in the model did change substantially, both in annual and in monthly terms. In particular, increased national and foreign currency deposits, improved trade balance (positive influence), depreciated nominal and real effective exchange rate and high inflation (negative influence), which notably exceeded the targeted inflation, had a significant impact on the growth predictions.

NATIONAL AND FOREIGN CURRENCY DEPOSITS The first set of variables that have had a significant positive effect on our forecast relate to the national and foreign currency deposits in commercial banks. Almost all types of deposits increased significantly both in yearly and monthly terms. In particular, the total volume of domestic currency deposits increased by 12.2% annually, while the total volume of foreign currency deposits went up by 18.2% compared to the same month of the previous year. The growth of foreign currency deposits is mainly driven by the sharp depreciation of the national currency. Nevertheless, growth rates are still pronounced even after excluding the exchange rate effect.

same period, import experienced slightly higher 4% growth year-over-year. However, the trade balance (net-export) improved by 0.5% (trade deficit was reduced to 446.3 million US Dollar). In addition, remittances and tourism inflows continue growth in September. Money inflow increased by 13.9% compared to the same month of the previous year (mainly driven by increased remittances from Kazakhstan (101% yoy), EU (21.7% yoy) including Italy (27.2% yoy), Greece (12.3% yoy)and Germany (29.2% yoy), and small increase of the money inflow from USA, Israel and Turkey), while the number of tourists (visitors staying in Georgia for more than 24 hours) increased only by 0.6% yearly (growth rates decreased notably after banning flights from Russia), while the number of international visitors raised by 2.7% year-on-year. Overall, an improved trade balance, increased money inflows, and a dramatic rise in the number of visitors and tourists in September had a significant positive impact on our growth forecast.

TRADE BALANCE External sector had a positive effect on the GDP forecast. In September, Georgia’s export of a merchandize goods increased only moderately by 0.5% relative to the same month of the previous year. This was largely driven by an increased export/re-export of copper ores and concentrates to Romania, significantly larger export of mineral fertilizers to Republic of Lithuania, increased re-exports of motor cars and trucks to Ukraine and Armenia. However, Georgian exports of ferro alleys to Russia and export/re-export of motor cars and cigarettes to Azerbaijan experienced a notable drop in September. During the

Source: National Bank of Georgia

NOMINAL AND REAL EFFECTIVE EXCHANGE RATE Georgian lari depreciated against nearly all of the trading partner currencies in September. The most significant depreciation was observable with respect to the Russian ruble (3.4% in month and 15.5% in annual terms) and Turkish lira (3.2% in month and 19.8% in yearly terms). The GEL/USD exchange rate depreciated by 0.3% and 13.0% monthly and yearly respectively, while the GEL/EURO exchange rate depreciated by 6.5% yearly and appreciated by 0.7% monthly. The depreciation of the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) had a negative contribution to the Q4 real GDP growth projections. REER depreciated by 0.4% monthly and 11.2% yearly in September (see the graph below). The lari real exchange rate (RER) depreciated yearly with respect to the national currencies of the United States (7.9%), Russia (13.5%), the EU (1.8%), and Turkey (22.7%). Theoretically, the negative impact of REER depreciation should not be surprising, given that the overall

The recent depreciation of the lari against the currencies of major trading partners has already led to increased prices of imported products, which further exacerbated the upward pressure on prices. The annual inflation of the consumer price index (CPI) amounted to 6.4% in September (notably higher than the targeted 3%), while the main contributors were increased prices on tobacco and alcohol (driven by increased excise tax on tobacco and accounted for 0.9 ppts of annual inflation) and raised food prices (driven by exchange rate depreciation and increased food prices in the world market , and accounted for 3.3 ppts of annual inflation). The core inflation also reached to 3.2% in September. Hence, the National Bank of Georgia increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) twice in September by 0.5 percentage points each, and once in October by 1 percentage point, reaching a level of 8.5%, which restricts borrowing and is expected to have a negative impact on the future growth rate. Our forecasting model is based on the Leading Economic Indicator (LEI) methodology developed by the New Economic School, Moscow, Russia. We constructed a dynamic model of the Georgian economy, which assumes that all economic variables, including GDP itself, are driven by a small number of factors that can be extracted from the data well before the GDP growth estimates are published. For each quarter, ISET-PI produces five consecutive monthly forecasts (or “vintages”), which increase in precision as time goes on. Our first forecast (the 1st vintage) is available about five months before the end of the quarter in question. The last forecast (the 5th vintage) is published in the first month of the next quarter.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

TBC Bank Predicts 5% Growth for Georgian Economy in 2020

Image source: project-syndicate.org

BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

T

he largest bank in Georgia, TBC, has predicted that the Georgian economy will grow by around 4.7% this year and by around 5% in 2020. Otar Nadaraia, Chief Economist of TBC Bank, told the National Broadcaster that economic growth is within the projected range and that external factors, which had a negative impact on economic growth last year, have improved. Nadaraia noted that the third quarter of this year had been fairly successful and that overall the economy will have grown by about 4.7% by the end of the year. As for next year, Nadaraia says that growth will be lower in the first two quarters compared to 2019, though in the second half of 2020 the situation will improve and eventually will see an increase of at least 5%. “The economic growth will accelerate in the second half of 2020, which will be closer to the longterm growth rate, and we think we will have at least a 5% or higher baseline increase,” the economist added. Nadaraia noted that this year, the increase of loans is less than last year and that next year this is likely to be at least maintained or even reduced. As for external factors which have a significant impact on economic growth, these will improve in all directions in 2020, Nadaraia noted. “The impact of reduced tourism flow from Russia will decrease and the FDI reduction will not be as sharp as this year,” he said. The TBC Bank chief economist predicts that, since there will be an election next year, business and consumer interest may show some negative

results in Georgia. With regards to inflation, Nadaraia stated that in order to maintain their target, the National Bank will have to tighten its monetary policy course, especially if political stability in the country deteriorates. 1. “If the political, consumer and business situation deteriorates, we think the monetary policy will be further tightened,” Otar Nadaraia stated. The TBC Research October update, published recently by the bank’s economic team, displayed the same predictions as Nadaraia. “For the full years of 2019 and 2020, we project around 4.4% and 4.2% growth respectively, with low growth in the first half and close to or above 5% in the second half of 2020,” it says. The publication reads that the downside risks are related to a greater-than-expected worsening of the international/regional environment, a global strengthening of the USD, uncertainties related to the election year, credit slowing at an even higher pace and a further weakening of the GEL, Georgia’s national currency. Furthermore, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) left the forecast of Georgia’s economic growth for 2019 and 2020 unchanged at 4.5%. The EBRD’s latest Regional Economic Prospects report reads that GDP in Georgia grew by an estimated 4.7% year on year in the first half of 2019. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered the prediction of Georgia’s economic growth for 2020. “GDP growth in Georgia is projected to reach 4.3% in 2020, while the previous prediction was 4.8%” the IMF stated. In addition, the World Bank foresees a 4.6% economic growth in Georgia in 2019.

Georgian Wines Showcased at Wine Festival in Hong Kong, China BY ANA DUMBADZE

F

ifteen Georgian wine producers have presented their wines at the ‘Georgian Wine Festival’ in Hong Kong, China, on November 15, the National Wine Agency of Georgia reports. The goal of the Festival is the diversification of Georgian wine export markets, to increase awareness of Georgian wine and to boost its export potential.

Photo Source: National Wine Agency of Georgia

The event was attended by wine importers, representatives of restaurants and hotel chains of China, as well as media representatives. The event, organized by the National Wine Agency of Georgia, was held within the framework of the 'Asian Wine Tour of Georgia,' which includes presenting Georgian wine in different cities of China. The festival has already been held in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, in China’s biggest city of Shanghai and in the provinces of Fujian and Sichuan. In January-October 2019, China was in the top three Georgian wine importing countries along with Russia and Ukraine.

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

Beeline's New Tariff Line ‘Everything Max’ Offers Even More Megabytes & Minutes

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eeline, a member of the international group VEON, offers users a new tariff line ‘Everything Max’ - with updated tariffs, even more mobile internet and minutes. ‘Everything Max’ includes 4 packages tailored to different customer needs: • Tariff Yellow Max - monthly fee GEL 2; unlimited in-network calls; 50 minutes

with other local mobile operators; 500 MB; 50 SMS. • Tariff Green Max - monthly fee GEL 2; unlimited in-network calls; 200 minutes with other local mobile operators; 700 MB; 700 SMS. • Tariff Blue Max - monthly fee GEL 10; unlimited in-network calls; 300 minutes with other local mobile operators; 1.5 GB; unlimited SMS.

• Tariff Red Max - monthly fee GEL 25; unlimited calls to all local mobile operators; 3 GB; unlimited SMS. Beeline offers a wide range of tariff plans, internet packages and other products tailored to the needs of any customer, across 3G and 4G / LTE networks throughout Georgia. “Since day one, Beeline has been constantly updating tariff plans in response

to the ever-changing needs of customers,” says Lasha Tabidze, COO at Beeline. “With the introduction of the ‘Everything’ tariff back in the day, we sought to assemble in a single package all the services customers need to have from a mobile communications company. With the debut of ‘Everything Maxi,’ we made available to our customers an amplified variety of services and offers even better tailored

to their needs.” “IT and Digital are a priority for us. Beeline’s products are out in front due to our constant mastering of digital technologies and the systematic analysis of users’ needs. Beeline holds more than a 30% of Data Users market share and 77% in terms of the number of internet users in own subscriber base, and is a market leader in that respect,” Lasha Tabidze adds.

The Telegraph on Georgian Mountains: Europe's Greatest Untapped Skiing Destination ki season is just around the corner so the mountainous regions of numerous countries are being spotlighted by the press and the lovers of winter sports. The Telegraph UK decided to focus on Georgian resorts, naming the country “Europe's greatest untapped skiing destination”. For readers looking for a change from the ski resorts of France, Austria, Switzerland or Italy, the Telegraph offers an alternative – the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. “Georgia is blessed with an impressive snow record and a long winter season – an ideal combination for powder-hungry skiers and snowboarders,” reads the article.

The article goes on to describe the capacities of the Georgian ski resorts: Gudauri, Bakuriani, Mestia, Tetnuldi, and Hatsvali, highlighting the advantages of visiting each location. The Telegraph underlines what is the most attractive about the Georgian mountains: “the potential for backcountry and off-piste trips is what makes a ski holiday to Georgia most appealing. Many resorts offer off-piste guiding and heliskiing for adventurous visitors.” The piece features ski lovers that are now choosing Georgian winter resorts for their destination, including British chalet operator Mountain Heaven that is about to host its first ski holiday to the country, in March 2020. “We chose Georgia because it’s an interesting and affordable destination that few people have been to,” said Nick Williams, managing director of the company.

country. On December 2nd, the UAE celebrates its 48th National Day, and accordingly the Embassy is preparing an event in regard to the day honoring the unification of the Emirates. The Ambassador extended its gratitude

to Georgian government for their cooperation and openness towards the business sector. The two countries share a similar approach to the free enterprise economy and will collaborate in many fields to strengthen this valuable and healthy relationship.

BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

S Image source: The Telegraph

The Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates Hosts Representative of Emirati Investors in Georgia BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI

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mbassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Georgia H.E. Essa Albasha Alnoaimi hosted major Emirati Investors, CEOs and representatives at his residence. The gathering encompassed introductions and forewords by the Ambassador and the business representatives, followed by a lunch comprised of traditional Arab cuisine.

The meeting was attended by representatives from wide-ranging global companies, such as the Biltmore Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, Carrefour and the Fortune Group. The hosting also included representatives from Tera Bank, Fly Dubai and Air Arabia. These corporations are seven of the largest UAE investors. Reportedly, UAE companies are going to expand their field work in the future. Moreover, according to the Ambassador, many other investors are in preparation to enter the Georgian market. As of 2019, the UAE investments in Georgia hit $1 billion. The UAE Embassy

is profoundly operational and is functioning very effectively, introducing Georgia to the UAE population as an impressive touristic and business destination, as well as organizing and hosting many different events aiming at improving brotherly relationships between two


GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

BUSINESS

7

Georgian Economic Climate (Q4, 2019) Prepared by PMC Research & ifo Institute

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eorgian Economic Climate is a joint product of PMC Research Center and the ifo Institute for Economic Research. In this bulletin, we discuss Georgia’s economic climate as assessed by Georgian economists. PMC Research Center is a regional partner of the ifo Institute, one of the leading economic research institutes in Europe, specializing in applied economic research, policy advising and other services for governments, businesses, researchers and the public. The ifo Institute publishes the World Economic Survey (WES) on a quarterly basis, accurately presenting the current economic situation and forecasts for industrial, emerging and developing economies. 30 experts are participating in this initiative from Georgia. The survey was conducted in October 2019, assessing October 2019 - March 2020 period. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the Georgian economic climate has slightly worsened. In this period, Georgian economists assessed Georgia’s present economic situation positively; moreover, the assessment of the present economic situation in this quarter has improved compared to the third quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2018. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Georgia’s economic situation in the next six months has been assessed negatively by Georgian economists. In this quarter, expectations in six months has deteriorated rapidly compared with both, Q3 of 2019 and Q4 of 2018. In addition, experts predict Georgia’s main economic indicators. According to the results, in the fourth quarter of 2019, the expected real GDP growth for Q4 of 2019 is 4.7%. Other main economic indicators are forecasted as follows: • The inflation rate is expected to increase in the next six months, on a year-on-year basis; • The Georgian Lari is currently undervalued against the US Dollar and the Euro, about the same against the British pound, and overvalued against the Yen. • The export volume is expected to increase in the coming six months; • The import volume is expected to remain about the same in the coming six months; • The export volume is expected to increase more than the import volume, resulting in an improved trade balance in the next six months.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

The Kidnapped Doctor

Image source: agenda.ge

BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

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etween 9 and 11 November, the occupation forces detained three Georgian citizens for “illegally crossing the border:” Ramaz Zadishvili, David Mishelashvili, and Zurab Tukhashvili. These three Georgian civilians were released by November 14. However, a renowned Georgian physician and traumatologist, Vazha Gaprindashvili, who was illegally detained by Russian-controlled occupation forces, remains in custody. The Georgian State Security Service has confirmed that the Georgian doctor has been under arrest since November 9. The Georgian Public Broadcaster reported that Gaprindashvili was detained near the village of Orchosani [under Russian control] for “illegally crossing the border.” His family members believe that the Tbilisi-born doctor was there to aid a patient as the border being closed prevents the ill from seeking medical help. The "security committee of Tskhinvali" released a statement regarding the illegal detention of the doctor on November 13, four days after the man was kidnapped. The famous Georgian doctor and traumatologist has been sent to two months of pretrial detention, Ossetian media reported on Friday. The trial was held the same day, on November 15. Gaprindashvili was charged with 'illegally crossing the border,' of Georgia’s Russian-occupied Tskhinvali region. The verdict was made by the occupational regime on November 15. Vazha Gaprindashvili was allegedly incriminated for “illegally crossing the border” under Article 322 of the Criminal Code of Russia. The illegal detention of the Georgian doctor, who could only be blamed for taking his Hippocratic Oath seriously, has raised much unrest in local and international society. While the hotline was activated by the European Union Monitoring Mission and negotiations are in progress regarding his release, international media dedicates articles to the Gaprindashvili case. Euronews and the New York Times have called the occupational forces who detained Gaprindashvili ‘separatists’, giving historical context to the conflict of South Ossetia. “Georgia on Sunday demanded the release of a doctor detained by separatists after crossing into breakaway South Ossetia, which is controlled by Russia after a war between two ex-Soviet republics in 2008,” wrote Euronews. And it isn’t just international media, as society has expressed as much concern over the detention of the well-established Georgian doctor. On Satur-

day November 16, the US Embassy in Georgia published a statement urging for the immediate release of Doctor Gaprindashvili. “The US Embassy calls for the immediate release of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili, a well-known Georgian physician and President of the Association of Orthopedists and Traumatologists of Georgia, who was sentenced by the de facto authorities in Georgia’s South Ossetia region on November 15 to two months of pretrial detention. Additionally, we again call for the immediate end to closures of the crossing points along the administrative boundary line. We reiterate our full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. We once again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of its forces to pre-conflict positions and the provision of free access for humanitarian assistance to these regions, as well to reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states,” reads the statement of the US Embassy published on Saturday. Justin McKenzie Smith, the Ambassador of the UK to Georgia, spoke up about the illegal detention of the Georgian medic on November 17. “Sincerely hope reports #Georgia|n Dr #Gaprindashvili will be released soon are confirmed. When access to healthcare & education is becoming critical for many in #SouthOssetia, hard to understand what Russia-backed de facto authorities gain by locking up medical professionals,” wrote the British Ambassador on his official Twitter page. Before the British Ambassador’s Tweet, Georgian State Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said the talks are ongoing and she is “certain” Vazha Gaprindashvili will be released in a few days. During the Georgian angst and support for Doctor Gaprindashvili, the movement 'Freedom for Doctor Vazha' was established. The movement released a statement on Monday morning, reporting a rally of 'White Coats' was to be held at noon on Monday in front of medical facilities. “The rally will be held to express our support for Vazha Gaprindashvili and to protest his illegal detention. We will stand together and hold a fiveminute silent protest,” the statement reads. Especially in the last few days, a close-up of Georgian society revealed that nothing unites this nation as a uniting protest does, be it against the government or the abduction of a heroic doctor. Georgians have become so much of a ‘one entity’ and they have spoken up about their concern so much that even Facebook profile pictures of many have specific frames that read: Freedom for Doctor Vaja.

Director of Georgian Film Shindisi Awarded at Asian World Film Fest BY ANA DUMBADZE

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imitri Tsintsadze, director of Georgia’s Oscar-nominated film Shindisi, has won the Best Director award at the Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) held in Los Angeles, Hollywood, between 6-14 November, the Georgian National Film Center reports. “All films that participate in the festival have a unique chance to be guided through the challenging awards season, and showcased to members of the Motion Picture Academy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and all guilds for enhanced exposure, media attention and awards consideration,” AWFF says. The Asian World Film Festival, founded by Kyrgyz public figure Sadyk Sher-Niyaz, brings the best

of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles to draw greater recognition to the region's wealth of filmmakers and strengthen ties between the Asian and Hollywood film industries. Shindisi is a 2019 Georgian drama film. It was screened at the 2019 Shanghai International Film Festival. It was selected as the Georgian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. It won the Grand Prix at the 35th Warsaw International Film Festival in 2019. The plot of the patriotic movie is based on the real story of the Shindisi battle from the RussoGeorgian war in the summer of 2008. During the Shindisi battle, 17 Georgian soldiers lost their lives. Actors Goga Pipinashvili and Dato Bakhtadze play the leading roles in the film. On October 15, the Hollywood Reporter published a review of Dito Tsintsadze’s Shindisi, calling it “a model of quietly powerful filmmaking”.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

9

Mardaleishvili Medical Group Organizes Press Tour in Diagnostic Center of Modern Standards "The Mardaleishvili Diagnostic Center is staffed by specialists who have received a good education not only in Georgia but abroad. Today, they have returned to us and therefore, leading physicians recognized in Georgia as well as in America and Europe will provide patients with medical research and consultations. A diagnostic center arranged in accordance with modern standards will be able to meet the medical needs of the Georgian population with high quality,” says Konstantine Mardaleishvili, Head of the Oncology Research Center. Representatives of the Ministry of Health, Tbilisi City Health and Social Services and Parliamentary Health Committee, practitioners and other health professionals were also invited to the presentation of the diagnostic center.

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n November 15, the Mardaleishvili Medical Group organized a press tour for media representatives in its diagnostic center equipped to modern standards. The introductory tour was aimed at presenting the new diagnostic center at 4 Tamarashvili Street in Tbilisi. The invited specialists introduced the tour participants to the unique capabilities of its diagnostic center which offers patients a full range of radiological examinations, including a laboratory arranged in accordance with modern standards and closed automatic systems. A laboratory examination conducted in accordance with these standards ensures maximum accuracy when diagnosing.

Mardaleishvili Medical Group cooperates with General Electric and therefore the diagnostic center is equipped with modern equipment of the company, unique not only in Georgia but also in the region. Particularly noteworthy is the latest model, 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as mammography with tomosynthesis function, which greatly enhances the early detection and accurate diagnosis of malignant tumors. In addition, the Mardaleishvili Diagnostic Center is distinguished for it ultramodern models of computer tomography, densitometer, ultrasound, endoscope, X-ray and X-ray equipment. Zaza Koplatadze, Director of Mardaleishvili Medical Group, hosted the invited

media representatives. The diagnostic center is one of the first not only in the post-Soviet countries but in the world to have ultra-modern equipment of the highest standards, which is a huge success for the Mardaleishvili Medical Group and the whole of Georgia. “3 Tesla Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) represents the closest model of General Electric. This is equipment of latest generation that can diagnose, identify and detect any disease at a very early stage. This is a prerequisite for the detection of any pathology, its timely treatment and recovery,” Koplatadze explains. GEL 20 million was invested in equipping the Mardaleishvili Diagnostic Center. At present, the clinic employs 120 people.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

USAID/CENN Environmental Campaign #SayNoToPlastic Brings Together Increasing Number of Participants

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lastic pollution, the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the Earth's environment, which adversely affects wildlife, habitat and humans, represents one of the biggest challenges and threats to the environment. Consequently, more and more countries are taking important steps to reduce the use of plastic and save the planet. The reduction of disposable plastic is the only meaningful solution followed by proper waste management system. Georgia is also involved in this initiative and is developing multiple projects and environmental campaigns supporting development of its waste management system. On October 25, with the support of USAID, CENN launched the large-scale environmental campaign #SayNoToPlastic, aimed at reducing environment pollution from plastic. To raise public awareness of this problem, 48 conceptual posters created by Georgian designers within the Cannes Lions Georgia competition were showcased in the shopping centers of Galleria Tbilisi and Tbilisi Mall and the multifunctional space Fabrika. Visitors to the venues had an opportunity to view the posters featuring the designers' view of environmental pollution with plastic waste and the reduction of consumption of disposable plastics in everyday life. In addition to the exhibition of conceptual posters, within the campaign a public discussion titled ‘Creative Ways

to Raise Environmental Awareness and Waste Management in Georgia’ was held at Fabrika on November 14. The participants of the discussion included Cannes Lions Georgia representatives, authors of the posters of the Cannes Lions Georgia Competition and USAID / CENN WMTR Program Representatives Nana Takvarelia and Anna Petriashvili. The #SayNoToPlastic campaign is being implemented successfully and is growing by day, with the active participation of young activists, CENN partner organizations, international organizations operating in Georgia, businesses, wellknown actors and journalists and other stakeholders. The campaign has already been joined by Georgian youth interested in environment protection, as well as local celebri-

ties such as TV host, actor, publisher, marketer and radio presenter Bakhva Bregadze, model and TV host Manika Asatiani, actress Vika Kalandia and wellknown gymnast and TV presenter Ketevan Khatiashvili. They participate in the social media campaign with great enthusiasm, calling on the public to reduce consumption of disposable plastics and to replace them with reusable items. The participants of the campaign upload photos depicting their changes in behavior on social media under the title #SayNoToPlastic. By showing their own example of how to reduce plastic use in daily life, they aim to encourage the rest of the society to follow and to take better care of nature. Those interested in waste management challenges can follow the page WMTR Program and look out for a regular quiz to win a CENN / USAID gift package of environmentally friendly reusable items. The first winners of the #SayNoToPlastic campaign contest were recently awarded at Galleria Tbilisi by Manika Asatiani and Ketevan Khatiashvili with a CENN/USAID Program gift set. Along with certain individuals, various companies caring about ecology have also joined the new environmental campaign. ARDI insurance company has refused to use plastic cards and started to replace them with electronic health insurance cards. On November 11, the special electronic card portal ecard.ardi.ge was launched for all Ardi costumers. “Together, we will all contribute to the significant environment campaign #SayNoToPlastic” said the CEO of the Company Mikheil Japaridze. The move was positively appraised by the CENN Executive Director, Nana Janashia, who noted that the main purpose of the campaign is precisely to make such changes at the individual and company level, which ultimately promises a united, positive and powerful effect on the environment for the better future of

our planet. “We would like to thank Ardi Insurance Company for this exciting and modern initiative and for supporting our campaign. We hope that other companies will also follow its example and will bravely make moves for our future generations,” Janashia said. Along with Ardi Insurance Company, the eco-friendly cocktail and beer bar, ‘Pulsar Bar,’ has also joined the campaign, refusing to use all kinds of plastic and replacing it with reusable items.

School" also refused to use plastic. They even visited the exhibition in Fabrika and dedicated their musical performances to the current plastic pollution. Not only is the Musical School of the Conservatory involved in the #SayNoToPlastic. Other motivated students from #7 Khashuri Public School, #1 Experimental Public School or #169 Public school are also very engaged with this subject. Other companies such as the Plant Shop and Ceramic Studio 1300 both based in Fabrika have also joined the

“Did you know that 91% of plastic is not recycled and is dumped into landfills and the oceans?” Pulsar Bar writes on its Facebook page. “For these and other reasons, we refuse to use disposable plastic containers and straws in the bar. If you can't imagine your life without them, we offer paper straws. “The average time a polyethylene bag is used is only 12 minutes. However, it can take up to 1000 years to dissolve in nature. Accordingly, all the containers we use are reusable and with your support we plan to use them for years to come,” writes Pulsar Bar. The initiative got very positive feedback from customers, and they personally joined #SayNoToPlastic campaign following the example of the Bar. As part of the campaign, the Musical School of the Conservatory and "Our

campaign by using non-plastic wrapping and packaging. The eco-friendly Ringo bag for dogs, which is a local based product also expressed itself to join the campaign and replaced the plastic bags with biodegradable ones. The local natural cosmetics brand Quartz offers its customers a multi-use ceramic packaging and a discount if you will bring the tin back.

As part of #SayNoToPlastic, CENN, through the USAID Waste Management Program, actively promotes raising public awareness of environment pollution with plastic. The organization spreads interesting facts about the global results of daily plastic consumption on the Facebook page of the Program. Those interested in protecting the environment can take a photo of how they are replacing single-use plastic items with reusable alternatives, upload it onto social media with the #SayNoToPlastic title and tag the page @WMTRProgram. With this campaign, everyone can contribute to protecting the environment. It is a part of the Waste Management Technology in Regions (WMTR) program implemented by CENN with the support of USAID. The program assists the Government of Georgia to modernize the country’s waste management sector and supports sustainable development and inclusive economic growth, ensuring responsible management of natural endowments that minimizing adverse impacts from waste on human health and natural resources.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY NOVEMBER 19 - 21, 2019

11

First Mission to the International Space Station in Middle East Completed by UAE Citizen BY ESSA ALNOAIMI - THE AMBASSADOR OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES IN GEORGIA

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he dream of the founding father and the first president of the United Arab Emirates, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to connect the citizens of the UAE to cosmos, was achieved by choosing Hazza Al Mansouri as prime astronaut and Sultan Al Neyadi as back-up astronaut for the mission to the International Space Station. Emirati astronauts spent challenging year and a half and more than 1,400 hours of tests and exercises in preparation for this mission.

The space mission of Emirati Hazza Al Mansouri, accompanied by Russian Oleg Skripochka and American NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, launched on September 25, 2019 from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome by the Soyuz MS15 spacecraft and after six hours successfully landed on the International Space Station. While being on the International Space Station, the UAE astronaut conducted 16 scientific experiments in cooperation with other international space agencies: US space agency "NASA", the Russian space agency "Roscosmos", Japanese "JAXA" and European "ESA", including six experiments in the environment of microgravity, to study the impact of living in space on humans and the reaction of vital indicators of the human body.

Moreover, according to NASA, Hazza Al Mansouri completed 128 orbits around the Earth and covered 4.9 million kilometers, which equals six round trips to the moon and back. In addition to scientific experiments, intercultural and social interaction was also a significant aspect of the mission, as Al Mansouri and crew members tasted three dishes from the UAE cuisine which was prepared according to the UAE recipes with the help of the Russian Space Laboratory Company. The aim of the UAE astronaut was to retest experiments previously conducted by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in the United Arab Emirates and to include participation of 16 schools in order to raise the awareness and passion of new

generations towards the horizons of future sciences. In this regard, the astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri had an extensive communication via video and radio means with students and shared his experience about his stay in outer space. He was also communicating daily with the Mohammed bin Rashid Center representatives to discuss his daily schedule. After returning to the Earth on 3rd of October, Al Mansouri undertook scientific tests at the Yuri Gagarin Center in Moscow which examined zero gravity effect and consequences on the first human from the Arab region. Landing at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi, Al Mansouri and back-up astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi were personally welcomed by Crown Prince of Abu

Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and citizens of the UAE. The first Arab astronaut to enter the International Space Station stated at the arrival in the UAE that such a tremendous and heartwarming welcome reception by a lot of people and high-level officials indicates the importance and value of science among the UAE citizens and its leadership. After completing the historic mission, the UAE Astronaut Program led by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center continues further preparing national representatives for manned space missions in order to carry out valuable scientific works to tackle challenges that in turn help to improve the human life.

POLITICS

Georgia’s Dilemma of ‘Centralization Vs Decentralization’ OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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n November 14, the Georgian parliament failed to enact the proportional system. While there are arguments and counterarguments as to why the new electoral system is problematic or beneficial, I would like to put this discussion into the context of Georgian history. From the very beginning, it is worth noting that one of the phenomena of Georgian history was either a government's (or a dynasty’s) attempts, however successful, at gaining total domination of the state institutions, which resulted in increased decentralization, often bordering on anarchy in the country or even its dissolution. From the time of the royal family Bagrationi’s rule in the medieval and postmedieval period in Georgia, there were always attempts to establish effective (near-total) control over the land. Though there is an innate tradition among the Georgian population to shake off increased government control, the true reason which fed this tradition has always been a relatively weak political center trying to dominate the political life in the country. Where David IV the Builder or Queen Tamar had successful reigns and there was an increased centraliza-

tion of power, still beneath the surface all was not so rosy. Powerful feudal lords, controlling far flung territories, were difficult to keep under royal sway. Personal authority mattered a lot and this explains why almost each new Georgian monarch faced internal troubles caused by those lords seeking to increase their autonomy. Since the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, though there is no longer a medieval feudal system, Georgia has continued facing the same problems. The political and economic center, Tbilisi, is powerful, but at time not as powerful as necessary to control far away territories. This caused constant challenges in the capital that regions might break apart the country. In a way, what happened in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region also reflects the center’s poor ability to exert effective influence in those regions. It is a kind of cyclic process when a weak center causes troubles countrywide, but the stronger one too in the end causes disturbances (constant demonstrations) as happens nowadays. Even following the 2004 Rose Revolution when a more centralized government was created in order to control far-away regions, the government in Tbilisi needed loyal people on the ground. This explains why the same people for more than a decade could run for parliamentary positions under the name of different parties. One could see the rea-

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soning behind the creating this system: The political center wants to control poorly connected regions with powerful figures who would be elected through the majoritarian system. Again, this all brings us to geography. Georgia, though a small state, has tough geographic landscapes which historically precluded the center, Tbilisi, of having effective control over various regions. There was always a lack of roads and connectivity in the country. Poorly interlinked regions led to the rise of many dialects and the ease with which the country disintegrated several times throughout history. These geographic reasons still work today. Thus what we see currently unfolding in Georgia is the dilemma within the ruling political elite ‘what if the center loses the regions to other parties?’, ‘what if many different parties enter parliament?’, ‘would this create complications, perhaps even perennial instability in Tbilisi and across the country?’ It is hard to say for the moment how the process in central Tbilisi will evolve in the coming days or weeks. But it is also worth saying that, notwithstanding Georgia’s above-mentioned historical dilemma, a proportional system would be a move forward. In the longer run, it could even produce new political entities which would serve as the third, fourth, fifth viable and competitive political forces so much needed in Georgia.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Tea Mariamidze, Ana Dumbadze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1204 Business  

November 19 - 21, 2019

Issue #1204 Business  

November 19 - 21, 2019

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