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Issue no: 1221



In this week’s issue... Government Publishes Letter Sent to PM Gakharia by US Congressmen NEWS PAGE 2

Ombudsman Asks State Inspector to Study Lawfulness of Justice Minister Disclosing Prison Footage NEWS PAGE 3




The PM makes and expands contacts to boost investment and productivity in Georgia

Georgia Ranks 89th out of 165 Countries in EIU's Democracy Index


On Putin's Plans for Maintaining His Leadership POLITICS PAGE 5

Change in the Borrowing Patterns of the Georgian Private Sector BUSINESS PAGE 6

Supporting Georgia’s Recycling Sector – Kriala Ltd. Receives over 100k Grant from USAID / CENN Waste Management Program BUSINESS PAGE 7

Powerless Again: Etseri, Svaneti SOCIETY PAGE 9

Tbilisi City Hall to Fund Children with Autism



Triumphant Return to Sheraton for 11th Tbilisi Burns Supper and Ball


he latest edition of the Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper, reads that democracy is in decline in Georgia. The survey, which rates the state of democracy across 167 countries based on five measures: electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties, reads that Georgia ranks 89th out of 165 countries, and its score is down 0.08% from the previous year. Continued on page 3


NY Times on Georgian Restaurant Chama Mama in Chelsea Image source: londoncitytower.uk





JANUARY 24 - 27, 2020

WHO Rep on Coronavirus: All Countries Should Prepare BY ELENE DZEBISASHVILI


t this time, it is vital for all countries to prepare and check their capabilities facing the outbreak of coronavirus, said representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Silvio Domente. WHO has declined to declare the growing viral pneumonia outbreak in China a public health emergency of international concern, claiming its expert committee shall meet again on Thursday for

further discussion. “We know that such acute respiratory viruses have created many problems in the past. [The coronavirus is from the same family that caused 800 deaths globally from SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, in 2002-03 and MERS, the Middle East Respiratory virus, identified in 2012). It is potentially dangerous, but since we do not have sufficient information, we are monitoring the situation to find ways to resolve the issue. It is vital for all countries to begin preparation. No travel or trade restrictions are recommended at this time. Let's see how the situation develops," Domente told report-

ers at the Georgian Ministry of Health. A newly identified virus originating in Wuhan, China, can infect both animals and people. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses with some causing lesssevere disease, such as the common cold, and others more severe disease such as MERS and SARS. The virus primarily infects and spreads through the respiratory tract. As foreign media reports, an outbreak of the mysterious pneumonialike virus in China has killed at least 17 people and sickened more than 570, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and most recently, the United States.

The Chinese authorities have decided to close Wuhan by canceling flights and trains leaving the city. The sense of fear has been escalating among Wuhan’s residents in the face of the sudden lockdown and insufficient medical support (claimed by many). WHO continues to monitor the situation thoroughly and- together with its partners- is ready to provide technical

support to China to investigate and respond to the outbreak. “In the coming weeks, more comprehensive information is required to understand the current status and epidemiology of the outbreak, and the clinical picture. Further investigations are also required to determine the source, modes of transmission, extent of infection and countermeasures implemented”, reads the statement by WHO.

Government Publishes Letter Sent to PM Gakharia by US Congressmen BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


he administrative Government of Georgia has released a letter to the public, sent by four US Congressmen to Georgian PM Giorgi Gakharia. The letter is initialed by Adam Kinzinger, Gerry Connolly, Michael McCaul and Eliot Engel. The Republican Congressman and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Adam Kinzinger wrote about the letter on twitter.

As Kinzinger underscored, the Congressmen directed the letter to the Georgian Prime Minister "with grave concerns over political targeting and a declining economic trend that spells trouble for Georgia’s path towards democratic reform and Western integration.” The letter informs that the 2020 elections must be held legitimately and without any interference. It also draws attention to the Facebook scandal in which the Georgian Dream government was involved. “As Georgia moves toward the 2020 parliamentary elections under Georgian Dream’s leadership, we continue to

encourage you to protect the legitimacy of these elections and ensure they are guarded against both internal and external interference. In your response letter, dated December 17, 2019, you pledged that the 2020 elections would be held to the highest standards. Yet, recent reports indicate that Facebook had to shut down an extensive network of accounts funded by the Georgian Dream. The fact that these accounts were apparently spreading anti-democratic, antiWestern sentiment is simply unacceptable,” the letter reads. The letter similarly mentions the business environment in Georgia, specifically the Anaklia Deep Sea Port Con-

sortium, which has faced serious problems regarding its funding and investments from abroad. “Decreased foreign investment not only hurts the Georgian people and their hopes for deeper integration with Western institutions, but it also strengthens Vladimir Putin’s hand in the region,” the letter reads. The Congressmen observed as well that these questionable developments seem to mirror a gradually hostile business environment and could dissuade future US investments in Georgia. Furthermore, the letter accentuates critical judicial difficulties, such as the open pursuasion of leading opposition

political leaders, journalists, international corporations and civil society members. “We are troubled by reports that prosecutors appointed by Georgian Dream are reopening old legal cases against the party’s opponents. While some of these cases may have merits, others are perceived as targeting leading opposition political leaders, news operators, international corporations, and civil society members. Respect for the rule of law and an impartial justice system are key to a healthy democracy and to ensuring the free and fair elections which were guaranteed by your party,” reads the formal letter.




Ombudsman Asks State Inspector to Study Lawfulness of Justice Minister Disclosing Prison Footage Public Defender of Georgia prohibits any kind of video-audio surveillance of meetings between the Public Defender's representatives and prisoners by the Ministry of Justice. “As the video footage depicting a meeting between one of the representatives of the Public Defender and an inmate shows, no unlawful action took place, and as the purpose of archiving the video is not clear, the Public Defender considers that an unlawful action was taken by the Ministry in archiving videos and retaining them for a long time. In addition, the disclosure of identifiable video footage of two representatives of the Public Defender violated the requirements of the Law of Georgia on Personal Data Protection,” Lomjaria stressed. Justice Minister Tsulukiani released the prison footage in order to criticize representatives of the Public Defender for their choice of clothing during their visits to prisons. She says one of the representatives was wearing “torn jeans” and a beret during a meeting. “In this video, I find it difficult to identify who is the prisoner and who is the Ombudsman’s representative...The only thing that helps to differentiate them is the hat, which inmates are not allowed,” she added. Tsulukiani also noted that the representative of the Public Defender ate the prisoner’s chocolate and had coffee during the interview, adding this “is not appropriate behavior”. Non-governmental organizations criticized the Minister for her actions, saying this act on the one hand grossly violates the principles of Georgian legislation, and on the other hand contradicts international obligations undertaken by Georgia.

Image source: Ombudsman.ge



he Public Defender of Georgia, Nino Lomjaria, has called on the State Inspector to examine the lawfulness of public disclosure of video footage by the Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani at the sitting of the Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration on January 21, where the Ombudsman was presenting a special report about the monitoring carried out in a num-

ber of penitentiary institutions. During the Committee sitting, two of the video recordings disclosed by Tsulukiani showed certain episodes of meetings between the Public Defender’s representatives and prisoners at Georgian penitentiary establishments. On the same day, the videos were posted on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Justice. The Ombudsman claims that during the disclosure, the faces of the Public Defender’s representatives were not blurred out in the publicly available videos and they can be easily identified. She also stressed that the Organic Law of Georgia on the

Georgia Ranks 89th out of 165 Countries in EIU's Democracy Index Continued from page 1 Georgia had exactly the same place in the 2018 rating but last year its score was 5.50, down from 5.93 in 2017, however, in the 2019 index it has 5.42. Georgia got the worst score (3.21 points) in the functioning component of the Georgian government, and the best (7.83 points) in the electoral process and pluralism. It showed 6.11 points in the component of political participation and 4.38 in the component of political culture, while it got 5.59 in the component of civil liberties. Georgia’s scores in the index since 2010 are as follows: 2010 – 4.59 points, 2011 – 4.74, 2012 – 5.53, 2013 – 5.95, 2014 – 5.82, 2015 – 5.88, 2016 – 5.93, 2017 – 5.93, 2018 - 5.50 and 2019 – 5.42 points. Regarding the regime type, which in the index are full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime, Georgia is in the category of hybrid regime. The Democracy Index 2019 reads that Eastern Europe’s average score in the Democracy Index remained unchanged at 5.42 compared with 2018. In this region, Ukraine and Armenia saw improvement and precede Georgia with scores of 5.90 and 5.54 respectively. Russia and Azerbaijan were ranked 22nd and 24th and they Georgia with 3.11 and 2.75 points. Turkey has 4.09 points

and takes 110th place in the ranking, while Estonia remained the highest ranking country in Eastern Europe, with a score of 7.90 and a global ranking of 27th. The index reads that no country moved category in 2019, meaning that there are still no “full democracies” in Eastern Europe. There are, however, 12 countries that are classed as “flawed democracies”, including all of the 11 EU member states plus Serbia; and nine that are classed as “hybrid regimes” including Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and the Kyrgyz Republic. The remainder are “authoritarian regimes”. The report reads that the global score, 5.44 out of ten, is the lowest recorded since the index began in 2006, noting that only 22 countries, home to 430 million people, were deemed “full democracies” by the EIU. “More than a third of the world’s population, meanwhile, still live under authoritarian rule,” the report says. EIU’s Democracy Index is topped by Norway with a score of 9.87, followed by Iceland – 9.58, Sweden – 9.39, New Zealand – 9.26 and Finland with 9.25 points. The worst indicators were shown in the following countries: Chad – 1.61 points, followed by Syria at 1.43, the Central African Republic at 1.32, Democratic Republic of Congo at 1.13 and North Korea at 1.08 points.

“We believe that this act of the Minister of Justice of Georgia should come under her political responsibility,” the NGOs said in their joint statement released on Wednesday. The organizations added that the National Preventive Mechanism under the Public Defender is currently the only body authorized to enter detention and penitentiary facilities without special permission and to examine the legal status of persons held there. “Even if a representative of the National Preventive Mechanism decides to interview a prisoner under video surveillance, public disclosure of the footage is categorically unacceptable and grossly violates the principles set out by the law,” the statement reads. To note, during the presentation in Parliament, the Public Defender stated that according to information obtained during monitoring carried out in penitentiary establishments N2, N8, N14 and N15 in July and August 2019, there is no violence-free environment in the detention facilities and the criminal subculture creates the risk of ill-treatment, including physical and severe psychological violence. “Psychological violence is mainly manifested in extortion, humiliation, marginalization and other acts...The problem is complicated by the fact that inmates are not properly aware of their rights and responsibilities and refuse to exercise their right to complain due to the influence of the criminal subculture and fear of repression,” Lomjaria declared in Parliament on Tuesday, to which the Justice Minister angrily responded with the above-mentioned video footage.




JANUARY 24 - 27, 2020

Georgia in Davos, Part 1

Georgian PM participated in a panel discussion on New Ambitions for Europe


he Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, is participating in the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, from January 21 to 24. The Georgian delegation, led by Gakharia, consists of Finance Minister Ivane Machavariani, the Prime Minister's Advisor on International Affairs Irakli Chikovani, and Economic Advisor Beka Liluashvili. The Georgian delegation's working visit includes meetings with heads of international financial institutions and the world's largest companies, including Siemens Energy, Camille Bloch, Cocacola, and OneWeb. GEORGIA TODAY took a look at some of the highlights to date.

GREETING THE STARTUPPERS PM Gakharia attended the presentation of young Georgian startuppers in Davos, congratulating them on their success and emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurial spirit for Georgia. Within the Davos World Economic Forum, Georgian start-up 'Vault Wines' presented the Wine Authentication and Winemaking Assets Management program, which won the incubator contest of leading Swiss Venture Capital company CVVC in 2019, selected from among 1000 competitors. The CV Labs incubation contest has the most desirable grant for start-ups in Europe, offering winners up to $125.000 in funding. Developed by over 70 highly-qualified experts over more than 10 weeks, the Vault Wines’ program focuses on the wine e-commerce business and block chain-based management of wine authentication and winemaking assets. The Georgian startup already has Swiss and Austrian contractors providing it with authentic holograms and QR codes. Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Georgia, George Sharashidze, attended the event and prepared an interview with the successful startuppers. He also met Olaf Hannemann, Co-Founder, CIO, of Crypto Valley Venture Capital, an investor in 'Vault Wines', at the Davos Crypto Valley

Week 'Cool Kids on the Blockchain.' “It was a very special and important day in Davos today,” Sharashidze noted. “Not only for the Georgian startup, Vault Wines, which was in the top 10 among 800 applicants and was selected by the largest Swiss foundation Crypto Valley Venture Capital for creation of blockchain-based innovative technology, but for the entire Georgian startup ecosystem. It is an example that Georgian startups can also break boundaries, get investment and solve global problems”. “It is to be welcomed that the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia personally attended their presentation held before investors, which I would like to see become a signal of the strengthening of the Georgian state's support to the startup ecosystem. Soon, 'Entrepreneur' will be offering an exclusive interview with the young Georgian entrepreneurs,” the Editor of Entrepreneur Georgia noted.

MEETING THE BUSINESSMEN PM Gakharia held a meeting with the First Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Jürgen Rigterink, who highlighted Georgia’s success. “Georgia is the most successful among the countries undergoing a second wave of economic reforms. We welcome the reforms and their consistency,” he said. The Georgian PM, on his side, noted that the EBRD is a strong supporter of Georgia's development agenda and the government appreciates the fruitful cooperation. The sides additionally noted that Georgia is one of the largest beneficiaries of the EBRD's investments and its diversified portfolio. The meeting highlighted the importance of ensuring the inclusiveness of the economy and increasing access to finance for the private sector. “I am very proud that 2019 was the best year for us in terms of investment results in Georgia,” Rigterink noted. “We have invested almost $300 million over the years, and we have a total credit portfolio of nearly one billion. Thus, we are in a unique position and 70% of our investments are in the private sector. Coop-

eration with Georgia is obviously very good. We like the reforms and their continuous progress”. The Prime Minister of Georgia met with the Vice President of the Coca-Cola company, Michael Goltzman, who told the press that “Coca-Cola is interested in expanding production in the region and continues to invest in Georgia”. Goltzman officially invited the Head of Government of Georgia to the opening ceremony of the company's new production line in Georgia. “The investment environment in Georgia is a major motivator for setting up an additional production line and expanding business in the country. We are ready to continue our cooperation with the Government of Georgia in the development of a circular economy. The CocaCola system considers that its business in Georgia is very important. We are proud of the more than 200 people we have employed. We will continue to invest in Georgia. During our meeting with the Prime Minister, we talked about business expansion and the increase of investments, as well as new initiatives for sustainable development," the CocaCola Vice President noted. The Georgian delegation’s meeting with OneWeb also took place on the first day of the conference. OneWeb, formerly known as WorldVu Satellites, is a global communications company founded by Greg Wyler. The leading company in the industry, it has noted its interested in partnership with Georgia, with the aim of covering the whole Caucasus region from the country. The parties discussed the possibilities of partnership during the first phase of OneWeb’s project, which aims to establish special stations in different countries to ensure fast and affordable connection to the internet for all. The company expressed their readiness to collaborate with the Georgian government more actively. OneWeb has already partnered up with private sector representatives in Georgia, Silknet, one of the largest telecom operators in the country, seeing the chairman of Silknet’s supervisory board, George Ramishvili, and OneWeb’s CEO, Adrian Steckel, sign a partnership agreement to cover Georgia and the Caucasus region. OneWeb’s distribution partnership with Silknet will provide local telecom operators with widespread high-speed broadband internet coverage in Georgia which will include remote and inaccessible areas. Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb, said he is pleased to be collaborating with Georgia. “In a world where businesses need to be constantly connected to the Cloud, but not everywhere has suitable geographies or can afford expensive fibre connectivity, OneWeb’s transformative communications network will make it possible to access high-speed internet anywhere on Earth. I am very pleased to be taking the first and important step to partner with Silknet. OneWeb will help to bridge the digital divide in Georgia and across the Caucasus region,” he said.

develop trade relations and strengthen Georgian-Slovenian business contacts. On the second day of the forum, the Prime Minister met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Discussions there focused on the strategic partnership between Georgia and Azerbaijan and transport and energy projects of regional importance jointly implemented by the two countries, as well as issues on the agenda of bilateral relations. The Prime Minister and Azerbaijani President agreed that intensive communication will continue between them in future.

PM EMPHASIZES GEORGIA'S EUROPEAN, EURO-ATLANTIC ASPIRATIONS IN DAVOS As part of his working visit to Davos, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia participated in a panel discussion along with the representatives of the European Commission, the main topic of which was the opportunities that Europe and the EU create for the Eastern Partnersip (EaP) countries. While delivering his speech, the Head of the Georgian government noted that Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic aspiration is a fact and the choice was

The Prime Minister of Georgia met with the Vice President of the Coca-Cola company, Michael Goltzman

The same day, the Georgian PM met with Italian business executive and the CEO and General Manager of Enel Group, Francesco Starace. The Head of Government provided Starace with detailed information on Georgia's favorable investment environment and the opportunities offered to investors, including in the energy sector. At the meeting, the sides emphasized the potential for the creation of new hydro, wind and solar power plants in Georgia and the need to develop additional generation sources in parallel with economic growth. As a result of the meeting, it was decided that global leader, multi-national energy company ENEL will send a group to Georgia to examine the energy sector investment opportunities in the country. The 2020 World Economic Forum was launched on January 21. Within the framework of the annual meeting, the world's leaders, business executives, and academics are discussing problems, achievements and future plans in the world of economy. The main topic of the 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) is climate change. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum, and around 600 public speakers are expected at the four-day event.

made by the population of the country. He highlighted the tangible results of the last five years in Georgia's relationship with the EU, including a deep and comprehensive free trade area free trade agreement with the EU, and visa-free travel. However, he added that there are challenges in the fields of security and economy. In his speech, the Prime Minister spoke about the importance of security in the Black Sea region and cooperation in this regard. Gakharia also noted that Georgia needs more cooperation with the European Union. He added that EU and NATO membership is the only guarantee for Georgia's security. He then highlighted the daily challenges Georgian citizens face regarding the occupation. “20% of our country is occupied by Russia. This is a daily challenge for our citizens. It is well known that the Georgian government took a commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully. We promised this to our friends. In this circumstance, deepening strategic partnerships with our friends – the United States and the European Union – is the only way to survive in a region full of these challenges,” he said.


The PM congratulated the young entrepreneurs on their success and emphasized the importance of entrepreneurial spirit and innovative ideas in the development of the country

PM Gakharia also met foreign state officials from Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia, Armenia and Azerbaijan during the first days of the 2020 World Economic Forum. During his meeting with President of Latvia, Egils Levits, the sides spoke of relations between the two countries and future opportunities for cooperation. The Georgian PM also met with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, where he discussed cooperation between their two countries in the process of European integration, as well as economic relations. Gakharia met Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec and thanked him for his support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, before going on to talk about their economic relations and expressing willingness to further

PM Gakharia held a meeting with the First Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Jürgen Rigterink




On Putin's Plans for Maintaining His Leadership OP-ED BY DR VAKHTANG MAISAIA


he annual address by Vladimir Putin to the Federal Assembly of January 15, 2020 became a kind of precondition to launching the political operation “Successor”, prepared by him. Although this address is usually made in the second or third month of the year, the change of date to early January is already quite an interesting point to note. The pathos of his speech was conceived by his speechwriters and Kremlin spin doctors to include the so-called "Revolutionary Manifesto", which was preceded in early January by a very interesting meeting with the head of the Federal Control Chamber and former Minister of Finance, and one of the leaders of the "liberal" clan (the leadership of which includes: Dmitry Medvedev, Boris Fedorov, Anatoly Chubais, and Alexander Kudrin). During the meeting, which was widely covered by Kremlin-controlled media outlets (ОРТ, РТР, НТВ, РЕН-ТВ, etc.), some rather bold facts were stated to highlight the economic crisis in Russia, namely the scale of unprecedented corruption schemes in Russia (as a result of corruption in Russia over several years, the country lost 3 trillion RUB, not to mention that scandalous case of MIA Colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko, who misappropriated 10 billion RUB). This was preconditioned by a sociological survey conducted by Levada Center, in which, the President Putin's rating was the lowest - 38%, which is already a critical point, especially in light of Putin's political rebranding planned for 2024, which included launching a political “successor”. That is why, against the background of such a radical and unexpected federal address, Putin started prematurely, or rather, he had to take these steps when he was in the political force majeure situation created in late 2010, in the wake of the “Bolotnaya events”, when he had to return to power again in the status of the first person and not a “gray eminence”. Such a force-majeure situation has now been created so as to result in the dismissal of Dmitry Medvedev's government, the man himself having already resigned, and the nomination of a representative of the "liberal" clan - the head of the Federal Tax Service Mikhail Mishustin, who is a pure “technocrat” and Alexander Kudrin’s trusted person. In fact, he reinforced the “liberal”clan in the Kremlin hierarchy when he appointed Dmitry Medvedev as deputy chairman of the National Security Council and tasked him with coordinating the defense policy and by doing so gave the wall to another influential clan of the “Siloviki” (Patrushev, Sechin, Ivanov) and further strengthened his own “President's pool” (Rothenberg, Kovalchuks, Prigozhin, Zolotov). At the same time, he also reinforced the third influential clan, namely the “technocrats” (Volodin, Matvienko, Zhirinovsky, Vorobyov, Zorkin), when he issued the decree to drastically increase the powers of the legislative branch and the judiciary (especially the constitutional court) at the expense of the executive (especially presidential) powers (for example, the dismissal of judges by the State Duma, on the suggestion of the

country's president: if he lost popularity, Putin actually proposed the same model to the parliament that he implemented based on the dismissal of governors). At the same time, under Putin's initiative, the powers of regional leaders, governors, including in the format of the foreign and defense policy, will increase. In his address, the outlines of the 2024 scenario have already been highlighted. In particular, the important informal political institute created by Putin himself, the State Council, which brings together federal and regional leadership and led directly by Putin himself, will soon become a constitutional body that will allow Putin to assume the functions of the Russian “Elbasy”, that is, the status quo functions of the national leader. The status of “Elbasy” was used in the case of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who simultaneously became the Chairman of the National Security Council and the State Council and the holder of the status of national leader - Elbasy. In fact, the presidency of the State Council will allow Vladimir Putin to assume the same function in the Russian Federation after 2024, as well as to become the chairman of a federal body - the National Security Council, which also appears to have received a special constitutional status. Appointing Dmitry Medvedev its deputy chairman did not happen accidentally, and it is likely that the Putin-Medvedev tandem will continue to be in place after 2024 and will receive informal de facto and de jure governance status. Vladimir Putin's federal address increased the position of regional leaders, governors, and included them in the federal hierarchy, i.e., in the government "vertical", as a result of constitutional reforms, the new “technocrat” Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, would not be able to become the next President in 2024 and the bet will be placed on the members of Putin’s private pool, namely Victor Zolotov, who is currently director of the most powerful special service, the National Guard troops and Ramzan Kadyrov's immediate commander, and a permanent member of the Security Council. The henchman of Army General Viktor Zolotov, the army being the most powerful special service, comprising 420,000 military personnel and all types of troops, except the Special Forces and Internal Troops, is currently the governor of Tula Region and the "hero of Crimea", retired Lieutenant General, Alexander Demin. Yuri Gavrilov, a well-known lawmaker in Georgia, was a direct business partner of Demin. It is likely that by 2024 Putin will put Demin at the federal level as soon as the government of “technocrat” Mishustin is able to pull the country out of its crisis. In general, it is interesting to note what was highlighted by Vladimir Putin in his address to the Federal Assembly: o The President remains the head of law enforcement agencies and the direct head of the defense policy, but should agree with the Senate, the federal council, the resignation of law enforcement officials; o The State Duma proposes the Prime Minister's candidacy to the President and the President is prohibited from rejecting him/her or his/her deputies and ministerial candidates; o The constitutional rule is that the

minimum wage should not be less than the minimum living standard; o Increasing the powers of self-government bodies is about local self-government, not regional governance; o The presidential candidate should not have dual citizenship and must have lived in the country for a minimum of 25 years; o This will also apply to all types of political and state officials (MPs, ministers, etc.); o The economic development of the country would shift to the principles of digital economy; o Increasing the authority of the state to protect the rights of its citizens out-

side the country, as well as protecting the economy from foreign intervention; o Strengthening the country's defense capability, promoting the creation of new military technologies and strengthening global hegemonic positions; o Increasing family and maternal social status and special financial incentives (providing appropriate financial incentives to promote childbirth). Generally, based on the foregoing, it is interesting what Vladimir Putin wanted to say and what political messages he voiced that will be of interest in the near future. In this regard, it is worth noting the following messages: o Putin maintains a balance of power

in the government “vertical” and, by using the principle of equilibrium, he strengthens the relevant clan over time under certain conditions; o Putin does not intend to leave politics, even after 2024, or to give up power (his thesis: “Only the weak give up power”); o Putin has already launched operation “Successor”; o Putin is not going to violate the constitution and is going to resign as President in 2024, but will move to another, more powerful position: national leader (likely for a long time); o Putin will strengthen the country's military expansionist policy.




JANUARY 24 - 27, 2020



n the past few years several major regulations were implemented both by the government and the National Bank of Georgia. Including but not limited to, a bill passed in January 2017 outlawing the issuing of loans below (the equivalent of) 100 thousand GEL in foreign currencies to individuals (the first phase of Larization), stricter collateral requirements in May 2018 (first phase of lending regulations), borrower’s income analysis requirement (second phase of lending regulations) and increase in the minimum threshold of lending in foreign currencies to 200 thousand GEL, this time including both individuals and legal entities. The latter has been recently criticized and seen as an obstacle by the private sector. Thus, authorities have been considering loosening some of the abovementioned requirements. Until the suggested easing takes effect, it is important to determine the implications that the regulations might have had on private sector borrowing patterns. In this newsletter, possible implications of imposed lending

constraints on the private sector are presented. The steady growth of loans issued in foreign currency (i.e. increasing dollarization) has been an acute issue in the past few years. In spite of a lari-denominated debt growing significantly faster as a result of the first phase of larization, the granting of dollar- and euro- denominated foreign loans have accelerated since the third quarter of 2017, especially in the last quarter of 2018. (See graph 1, where currency exchange effect is excluded) The main driver of the above mentioned loans, issued in nondomestic currencies are legal entities as they hold approximately 86.5% of debt denominated in foreign currencies. As depicted in the second graph, contrary to the expectations that the limit of 200 000 GEL issued in foreign currencies was going to hinder private sector borrowing, the percentage of loans issued in foreign currencies (both USD and EUR) by legal entities (with fixed USD/GEL value) has been relatively stable since 2019. Possible explanation could be the volume of issued loans: only 12.6% of large corporate loans were under 100 000 USD (297.5 thousand Lari), while for SMEs, it was 29% (see graph 3). Far more interesting is the fact that since the implementation of the aforementioned regulations in January 2019, the flow of loans in US dollars issued to private sector has abruptly dropped

without affecting the rate of loans in foreign currencies. Instead of borrowing more in lari, companies resorted to the euro as an alternative. Since 2017, both SMEs and large corporations have increased borrowing in euros fivefold. Interestingly, on average, interest rates on loans in euros have been 2% lower compared to those in USD. Simultaneously, since February 2018 the euro has depreciated by 12% against the US dollar (but still managed to appreciate 7.6% against the lari). The relatively low real

interest rate of the euro makes it especially lucrative for Georgian businesses, who are trapped between the high interest rate of the lari and the constantly appreciating US dollar. The advent of the euro as a transitional currency (see graph 4) explains why companies have not decreased borrowing in foreign currencies since January 2019 (see graph 2). The same graph also indicates why borrowing in foreign currencies decreased before the limitations were set in place. The expectation of further depreciation

could have discouraged companies from taking risky (USD- and EUR- denominated) loans. In conclusion, the private sector seems to have easily avoided the 200 000 GEL threshold and in times of high depreciation resorted to the euro as an alternative. If the high dollarization in the private sector is a matter of concern it should be addressed with an effective response from the authorities. If it is not, the implementation of such regulations is made redundant.




Supporting Georgia’s Recycling Sector – Kriala Ltd. Receives over 100k Grant from USAID / CENN Waste Management Program various competing companies on the local market, at the expense of reducing cost, improving product quality and increasing product range. After installing these machines, Kriala plans to increase productivity and the quality and range of products, something which will help the company to absorb a significant part of the Georgian market.

WHAT ARE YOUR COMPANY'S FUTURE PLANS WITHIN THE WMTR PROGRAM? WHAT ACTIVITIES DO YOU PLAN TO PROMOTE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION IN THE COUNTRY? The plan is to maximize engagement in any type of activity. We are thinking of raising awareness of the paper waste issue and popularize it in society, to inform the public that one can get books in exchange for paper waste, or plant a tree, get hygienic paper, and so on, to keep the population interested and motivated not to dump paper waste.



he recycling sector in Georgia is relatively young, yet is on its path to expansion. Some strands of the sector are more advanced than others, for example paper recycling is comparatively advanced and on average up to 10,000 tons of paper is recycled per year. The sector undoubtedly requires additional support in either provision of recyclables or updating the technology to meet the demand and increase the capacity. The USAID-funded waste management program (WMTR), implemented by CENN, has given out over $500,000 in grants specifically for recycling companies to update their technologies or support other business operations. The grants were given out to five companies who collect separated waste and recycle paper, glass, tires, and plastic. One of the recipients of the grant was paper waste recycling company Kriala Ltd. The company purchased modern technology to increase the performance and improve its capacity. The equipment purchased within the grant included a paper mass spreading box and belt conveyer. The paper mass spreading box will ensure the even distribution of paper mulch on the surface and the formation of uniform thickness paper, while the belt conveyer will ensure the formation of all types of fibers and will minimize the company’s losses.

Kriala Ltd, one of the largest paper recycling companies in the country, produces toilet paper. The company was established in 2013 and sells its products throughout the country, through small and medium-sized retailers, as well as large supermarket chains. Although the company’s scale of sales is already quite large, it is expected that after receiving the equipment from the WMTR program, its performance, productivity and sales will significantly increase through improved product quality, contributing to attracting specific consumers. Another concern prior to the purchase of said equipment was high losses, at around 10%, which decreased company profit by 2%, hindering the effective utilization of raw materials and reducing the quantity of final products. Along with production and economic goals, the sub-grant pursues the following environmental objectives: reducing landfill waste, reducing the amount of waste paper in the environment, and conserving forest resources by recycling paper. After achieving these goals, the company will be able to produce competitive products, reach new consumers and increase its output and sales. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Mr. David Begiashvili, Director of Kriala Ltd, to find out more about the company’s current operations and future plans

TELL US ABOUT THE KRIALA BRAND. Kriala has been operating in the Georgian market since 2013 as a hygienic paper producer. We have two main directions: production and manufacturing of products from primary raw materials, and processing of paper waste and subsequent production.

WHAT DISTINGUISHES KRIALA FROM OTHER SIMILAR PROFILE COMPANIES? What distinguishes our company is that we are the only brand in this field that produces hygienic paper from both raw material and from material obtained through the processing of paper waste.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS DIRECTION IN TERMS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION? We process 300 tons of paper waste per month and have the potential to double that. It is important because people have to realize that paper waste is not rubbish but raw material that will be processed in the same country. You can save up to 15 trees by delivering 1 ton of paper waste.


nies working in the waste processing sector, that’s why we decided to participate in it. It contributes to the development of existing production lines and bringing them to European standards through systematization of equipment and production optimization. In addition, the WMTR program is providing a variety of technical support to numerous recycling companies, including ours.

WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF BUYING THE [ABOVEMENTIONED] NEW EQUIPMENT AND HOW WILL IT POSITIVELY IMPACT KRIALA'S FUTURE PERFORMANCE? After implementation of the mentioned investment, the company plans to increase productivity by about 550-600 tons of hygienic paper per month, as well as to increase product range, which is virtually impossible without modernization. After improving paper production, the plant will be able to produce hygienic paper from preliminary raw cellulose materials (toilet paper, napkins, paper towels), improve the quality of hygienic paper produced from raw and recycled materials (mixed materials)- toilet paper, napkins and paper towels). Production of high quality hygienic paper made from cellulose raw materials will enable the company to replace imported raw materials with its own production and to sell paper rolls to

Transparency International: Georgia Ranks Among the Top in the Region BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


eorgia has been apportioned a score of 56 by the Transparency International Secretariat, adhering to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), and shares 44th place with Costa Rica, the Czech

Republic, and Latvia in the 2019 edition which was published and ranks 180 nations. In the classification, 100 points signify the lowest level of observed corruption while 0 is the highest level. Georgia’s CPI result has declined by two points compared with last year. Rendering to the survey’s approach, a two-point alteration is thought statistically inconsequential.

Georgia still positions itself top in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. Nevertheless, the absence of improvement in terms of Georgia’s rating in recent years draws attention to the inactivity of anti-corruption modifications in the republic. Armenia and Azerbaijan are the two states in the region whose scores amplified notably in 2019, by seven and five points correspondingly from 2018.

The WMTR program is implemented by CENN with the support of USAID in three regions – Kakheti, Shida Kartli and Adjara – and in Tbilisi. 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 will minimize adverse impacts from waste on human health and natural resources. To support the development of the recycling sector in Georgia, along with other activities, the program is working in the following two directions: development of Waste Management Association and disbursement of grants to recycling companies. The Waste Management Association of Georgia was established to unite separated waste collection and recycling companies. The association has two main objectives: creating a businessfriendly environment for the development of waste recycling and aggregating companies in Georgia through advocating and lobbying key issues for sector development with different interested parties, including decision makers; and developing the capacity of recycling and aggregating companies according to the best international practices.




JANUARY 24 - 27, 2020

Georgian Stray Dog Awarded a Home, a Star & a Special Place in People’s Hearts



t has four names, four legs, a kind heart, and the streets as a home. This might sound like a weird, unsuccessful riddle but it’s the simple reality of a Georgian dog that has recently become the country’s favorite, receiving a star to his name and a feature in American media. So, who is this dog? Beka Tsinadze, a Facebook user from Batumi, published a video on his page

on January 20 showing a dog helping kids to cross the street. The dog is seen barking at drivers who won’t stop at the zebra crossing, demanding them to hit the brakes and let the children get to the other side. The dog, looking to have been trained in Hollywood, in a scene which could have come from a Disney movie, quickly got the public’s attention, making it to people’s hearts. His video reaching a million viewers and also caught the attention of the American media: USA Today, ABC News, and CBS News have spread the word about the Georgian canine “hero”.

Some call him Bimi, some Kursha, some Kupata, and some Tetra. Others have come up with other names. He is a stray dog of approximately four years old who lives on Memed Abashidze Street in Batumi. “He loves kids so much. If he sees them wanting to cross [the road], he will immediately go to their aid, and may even wait for them in the park,” Nona Zakareishvili told Radio Tavisupleba. Zakareishvili has been feeding him for four years now, and he always sleeps at her door. The butcher shops in Batumi also feed the dog. Since he is so well-fed by the inhabitats of the street, one of the butchers has named him Kupata, after the Georgian meat dish Kupati. The Adjara Tourism Department was quick to honor the celebrity of the city of Batumi. On January 22, the Department bought him a home: his new shelter from the cold winter days has a star on it that reads his name and “People’s Choice”. “The popular Kupata now has his own home. He was only aiming to help kids safely cross the streets, but it amounted to so much more. The employees of the Department bought him a home with the words: People’s Choice. That is something he certainly well deserves,” reads the Facebook post of the Department of

Photo by Eleniko Rukhadze

Tourism and Resorts of Adjara. Kupata’s story serves as a real-life manifestation of the quote from Acad-

Annual New Year’s party is a well-established tradition at Beeline. The employees treat the event with great responsibility and dedication. This year, the theme "A Mystery Night" rendered the party an even more impressive and spectacular touch. Employees joined each other to celebrate the beginning of 2020, surprised each other with amazing costumes and congratulated the best employees of the year.

emy Awards nominated animated film Klaus: “a true selfless act always sparks another”.



Powerless Again: Etseri, Svaneti



o you KNOW what it’s like, dear reader, when the electricity goes off? Several times a month if you’re lucky, up to several times a day if not? You’re trying to run a guest house. It’s winter, and you’re not in Mestia or Ushguli, so the guest list is intermittent but not zero. You’re in Upper Svaneti so the power has been free longer than your 20 years in Georgia, but when you really pay is when it goes off. As it has done three times this evening well after dark. I started writing this on my laptop’s battery power, then it came on again. However, the 3rd off-and-on brings little joy anymore, as you remain expectant that it’ll go off yet again before the night is out. You have three fridge/freezer combos and two separate freezers, as well as a host of electric heaters and five bathroom water boilers, as well as a smart TV of modest proportions. That’s a lot of electrical or electronic toys to get spoiled by the cheerful coming and going of The Power without warning.

You unplug most of the above while you’re waiting for things to stabilize, so as to minimize said damage. If the heaters are off long enough, you’ll be forced to start the monster Svan wood stove for some warmth, as nights are currently going down to -12 C or so. You’ve also stocked up on rechargeable lamps instead of candles for the inevitable outages and you also know how to use the flashlight function on your phone, a vital thing. These particular blackouts aren’t even connected with heavy snowfall as it’s been such a mild winter! You also look outside each time to see if the whole hamlet or village are in the dark, just in case it’s just your own house, which it has never yet been, but one never knows. The thought comes to call one of several local electrical guys, to find out what the problem is, as it’s NEVER advertised beforehand. The main guy is someone you’re not sure you can trust to give you a straight answer: expect merely soothing words that it’ll come back on soon, don’t worry. You want the TRUTH! You don’t call, but wait it out. You know that your free power comes through an aging system, which will be renovated as cheaply as possible if at all, because where would the money come

from for real improvements if not from your paying a power bill? Your house doesn’t even have a connected meter, just the one which came with the house and hasn’t been connected for more than a decade or two. You also wonder about sounding like a whiner putting all this into a national newspaper, when in other parts of the world, people have so much less. Ah, but Georgia and Svaneti were once very well off, at least in Soviet terms; the best! And that’s all long gone, only slowly, glacially slowly, coming back; long are the memories of the relative prosperity and the traumatic fall into chaos in all spheres of life. So which is worse: never to have had at all, or to have had and lost, or now, to have occasionally and not at other times? The last one is perhaps hardest to live with and get used to, as it’s random-seeming and plays on your hopes and nerves. You have contemplated and discussed with your spouse the wisdom of getting both a house-scale voltage stabilizer and an equally impressive fossil fuel-powered generator, instead of the little 5 kW one you have for the fridge-freezers. Expensive, and you’ve also looked into wind and solar and battery walls, all the off grid possibilities dreamed up and even used by those expecting the apocalypse and preparing for it. Once again, tonight, you wish you had bitten the bullet, but you haven’t yet, so you just grit your teeth and COPE somehow. Tomorrow will bring both daylight and a faint hope of improvement. Welcome to my recurring nightmare. OK, rant over. Wake up, get back to reality. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

Tbilisi City Hall to Fund Children with Autism BY ELENE DZEBISASHVILI


bilisi City Hall is strengthening its support for autism sufferers by funding 230 children awaiting financial support, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said at a government meeting today. “Last year, funding was provided for 1000 children, this year it will be allocated to 1230. These children have been looking forward to joining the ABA treatment program; we’ve decided to address the issue and provide assistance to meet the kids’ special needs. Within the framework of the program, GEL 400 will be allocated to each beneficiary on a monthly basis. This is the amount needed for rehabilitation”, Kaladze stated.

The ABA program is a widely acknowledged treatment method for autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disorders that has been considered effective since the 1960s. ABA therapy programs can help kids gain different skills, like improved attention, social skills and learning a new language. Beneficiaries of the ABA program will

be divided into different age groups and each month will benefit from 20 sessions of the complex therapy free of charge. “The sessions will include the services of a multidisciplinary team including psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, behavioral therapists, speech therapists, special educators and other specialists,” Kaladze added.





JANUARY 24 - 27, 2020


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 January 25, 26 ROMEO AND JULIET Sergei Prokofiev Ballet in two acts Based on the tragedy by William Shakespeare Libretto, choreographic version and staging by Mikhail Lavrovsky Staging Conductor: Alevtina Ioffe Director of the performance: Leonid Lavrovsky-Garcia Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater Orchestra Conductor: Alevtina Ioffe Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-120 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. January 24 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL January 25 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL January 26 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL January 30 REZO

Animated documentary film Directed by Leo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. January 24 PARADISO Directed by Irakli Khoshtaria Author: Ketevan Chachanidze Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL January 25, 28 DIVINE COMEDY Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer/Arranger: Sandro Nikoladze Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL January 29 A LO CUBANO NIGHT'S Every Wednesday Cuban dancer’s masterclass Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL January 26 TAMADA IN MANHATTAN Georgian-American Premiere Washington Theater Company E and Movement Theater co-stage a performance in the format of a Broadway musical Directed by Paul Gordon Author: Paul Gordon, Ioseb Bakuradze, Choreographer: Robbie Priore, Abby Leithart, Vanessa Owen, Gavin Strewart, Lasha Robakidze Genre: Musical Language: Non-verbal Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 25 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge

Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS Until February 1 Exhibition NEANDERTHALS IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS – TSUTSKVATI CAVE, OLD AND NEW DISCOVERIES The exhibition displays the latest findings of archeological and paleontological excavations discovered by Georgian National Museum's Tsutskvati Cave Archaeological Expedition. Until February 1 EXHIBITION "CHINESE ART IN GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM" dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and a book by Irina Koshoridze, Marina Dgebuadze, Natia Demurishvili, Nino Simonishvili IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 Until February 4 THE HARMONY OF SEASHELLS Artworks by Arch-Priest Dimitri Sukhitashvili MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events.

MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave and jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, free yourself in the Infinity Room, resist the laws of gravity and size, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms and discover optical illusions. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY Until February 29 Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy in Georgia present the exhibition ROMA AETERNA. MASTERPIECES OF ROMAN SCULPTURE FROM THE DINO AND ERNESTA SANTARELLI FOUNDATION National Gallery features 33 sculptures depicting the stages of artistic or stylistic evolution from the Roman Republic to Neoclassical era. Until February 20 VALERIAN SIDAMON-ERISTAVI ANNIVERSARY-RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION Eristavi’s works include theater and cinema painting, and iconography; he created copies of medieval frescos; decorated museum expositions and parades; created illustrations for various manuals, and worked on newspaper caricatures and furniture sketches. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 1 Vaja Pshavela Ave.

Untill January 31 MOUNTAIN PEAKS OF GEORGIA PHOTO EXHIBITION SPHERO City Mall Saburtalo, Veranda, II Floor SPHERE A domed cognitive-entertainment space where you can become part of an impressive 360-degree panorama image. For all ages. TBILISI DIGITAL SPACE Tbilisi Mall The first museum of digital art in Tbilisi. See Vazha-Pshavela's "Dried beech", a world of torches, and a digital space decorated with various graphic and visuals effects. In the main hall, through video projections and mirrors, you will discover that there is no boundary between Man and nature. Ticket: 10-30 GEL MUSIC

MONOHALL 2 D. Bakradze Str. January 24 TIVI SESSION #01: CHRISTIAN LÖFFLER / PARRA FOR CUVA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 40-80 GEL FORMER BUDDHA BAR AREA Noe Jordania Bank January 24 SAN PROPER Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 40 GEL DJ.KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE January 24 THE CONCERT OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC, DEDICATED TO CREATIONS OF GERMAN COMPOSER– JOHANNES BRAHMS Concert for piano and orchestra No.1 Performed by Georgian pianist– Tamar Licheli Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra Conductor- Mirian Khukhunaishvili Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL January 29 CONCERT OF PIANO MUSIC Soloist: Vakhtang Abramishvili- Piano Works by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Liszt and Chopin Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. January 28 JAM SESSION Impro music Every Tuesday Musical director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 21:00 Price: 10 GEL




Triumphant Return to Sheraton for 11th Tbilisi Burns Supper & Ball BY RICKY ROSS


ong a deeply engraved highlight on the social calendar of Georgia’s capital city, the Tbilisi Gala Benefit Burns Supper and Ball returns to the Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace for its 11th edition on February 1. Three charitable causes: Temi Community (caring for a wide range of vulnerable people), Catharsis (helping the homeless elderly by providing hot meals) and Dog Organization Georgia (providing shelter for stray animals along with sterilization, vaccination and adoption programs), will share the customarily substantial proceeds from an evening of abundant Scottish culture and cuisine. Worldwide, from Auckland to Auchtermuchty, Burns Suppers take place on or around January 25, the date on which Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns was born in 1759. Tbilisi’s chapter of this global tradition was spawned in 2010 by Fiona Coxshall, whose unmatched dedication helped to deliver eight outstanding events. Despite her relocating in 2017, the Burns torch has since remained lit in Tbilisi thanks to a multinational committee including a Spaniard, a Hun-

garian, a Georgian and a token Scot. A thoroughly enjoyable and occasionally uproarious night of sublime food and drink, as well as high-octane country dancing will be revelled in by hundreds of guests to celebrate the life and works of Burns whose poems and songs have entertained millions for centuries. The evening is finely knitted together by a selection of traditional toasts, among them the Address to a Haggis, involving the reading of a poem that Burns wrote in tribute to his beloved Scottish delicacy. Burns’s native Ayrshire may be a few thousand miles from the South Caucasus, but the event always maintains an authentic feel. This will be the first time since 2014 that the Burns Supper is held at the beautifully-renovated Sheraton where head chef Thijs van Rhoon has concocted a mouth-watering gourmet four-course meal to be washed down with ample measures of Georgian wine and Scottish single malt whisky. Once fed and watered, guests are beckoned to the dance floor by Nicol McLaren and the Glencraig Band for some Scottish country dancing. Nicol’s band, which also includes Isobelle Hodgson on piano and Maggie Adamson on the fiddle, fly in all the way from Scotland every year especially for the event.

In between the Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant and other memorably-named Scottish dances, there will be a live auction (including: paintings by Maka Gotsiridze and Levan Mosiashvili, an antique carpet, jewellery, ceramics, etc.) and a grand-prize raffle (including generous prizes donated by: Radisson

Hotels, Chuda Cosmetics, American Medical Center, Taste Georgia, Sheraton Metechi Palace, Marriott, Adjara Group, the Turkish Embassy, Paragraph Resort, and Tbilisi Hills). For those still able to dance, some more modern beats then reverberate into “the wee hours” of the morning.

The main sponsors of the 11th Annual Tbilisi Gala and Benefit Burns Supper and Ball are: ACT, Gepra, Teliani Valley, PMCG, GD Alco, the Turkish Embassy, Deloitte, and BLC Law Office. *A LIMITED NUMBER OF TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE. Email: burnstbilisi@gmail.com

NY Times on Georgian Restaurant Chama Mama in Chelsea BY ELENE DZEBISASHVILI


he NY Times has once again highlighted Georgian cuisine and this time the focus is Chama Mama, which opened in March 2019 in a lofty space in Chelsea, New York City. Chama Mama is said to bring humble Georgian culinary magic to America, with a focus on all things organic. Tamara Chubinidze, who runs Chama Mama, feels proud to bring Georgian cuisine and with it, a dose of Georgian culture, to Chelsea. Adhering to the view that the best of pleasures in life are the simplest, Chama Mama’s chef, Nino Chiokadze, prepares Georgia’s favorite feel-good food with rustic simplicity. Here is what Emon Hassan, writing for The New York Times, has to say about his experience of authentic Georgian dishes at Chama Mama: “Ekala is a prickly climber akin to North American greenbrier, often dismissed as a troublemaking weed. At Chama Mama, ekala appears without fanfare. It simply takes its rightful place at the table, roughly chopped with a paste of walnuts



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and garlic: earthy and delicate.” The author goes on to praise the walnut-paste-stuffed vegetables and lamb stew called Chakapuli, a "favorite dish of Stalin." The "Salt-cured Jonjoli (bladdernut flowers)," he says "has an interesting bitterish, yet paradoxically delicate taste". Talking about Georgian creamy chickendish Shkmeruli, the author compliments the chef’s artistry: “For shkmeruli, a Cornish game hen is fried until the skin crisps, then traditionally submerged in milk heavy with garlic. Because American milk has less body, Ms. Chiokadze uses cream to give the dish the necessary lushness.” No lesson in the complex art of Georgian cuisine is complete without Adjaruli Khachapuri, a molten cheese bread described in the article as Georgia’s “most brazenly rich offering”. Georgians consider that ‘every guest is God-sent’ (Georgian proverb). Love and respect for guests are passed from one generation to another. Chama Mama invites its guests to the table in an effort to spread the charm of Georgian cuisine. Read the full article at nytimes.com/2020/01/16/dining/ chama-mama-review-georgian.html


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1221  

January 24 - 27, 2020

Issue #1221  

January 24 - 27, 2020