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Issue no: 1068/139

• JULY 24 - 26, 2018

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue...

National Business Ratings Union Awards Tourism Administration Head Chogovadze NEWS PAGE 2

Italian Investments in Azerbaijan Reach $530 Mil BUSINESS PAGE 5

FOCUS ON FOLKLORE

Keeping the traditions alive

PAGE 8

Tbilisi Drivers to Protest High Petrol Prices

Pankisi Camping – a Business Model Built on Breaking Down Stereotypes

BY THEA MORRISON

BUSINESS PAGE 6

Element Construction Builds for Coca-Cola

O

n July 30, hundreds of drivers in Tbilisi plan to hold a protest rally against the high petrol prices. The protest will take place on Heroes Square with participants to stop their cars there for some time in protest, blocking the flow of traffic. The protesters have also started a petition, which demands a reduction of petrol prices by decreasing the fuel excise. “The Georgian government’s increased excise tax on fuel has to be abolished. Before the tax was increased, it amounted to 250 GEL per ton of fuel. From January 1, 2017, the tax was doubled and is now 500 GEL per ton of gasoline. With diesel, the price exceeded the doubling mark and went up to 400 GEL, which was 150 Lari per ton,” the petition reads. It also says that in the case of petrol, the excise tax per liter is 0.5 GEL up from the previous 0.25 GEL and for diesel, the excise per 1 liter is now 0.4 GEL instead of the previous 0.15 GEL. “We call on the Georgian Government and Parliament to reduce the excise price on fuel to the 2017 indicator because the doubled and tripled tax has negatively affected the population of Georgia,” the petition reads. A group of drivers have already held two pro-

BUSINESS PAGE 12

Russia Sends a Rare Signal to China in Tajikistan SOCIETY PAGE 15 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof20ͲJulͲ2018

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Photo source: globalvillagespace.com

test rallies in the capital, demanding a lower price on fuel. One such rally was held on July 22, the slogan of which was Let Us Change the Fuel Price. “We call on the government to regulate and monitor the fuel prices as they are artificially increased by big fuel importers, including

GoldSpot(US$/OZ)

SOCAR,” one of the drivers said. The opposition claims the government has a deal with big gas and oil companies, and notes that if the state does not take steps to solve the problem, society will take to permanent protests. Continued on page 2

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Syria, Breakaway Tbilisi Ranked 112th S. Ossetia Establish among 165 Smart Cities Diplomatic Ties BY THEA MORRISON

T Photo source: cominf.org

BY THEA MORRISON

F

oreign Minister of Syria, Walid Mohi Edine al Muallem, and the so called Foreign Minister of Georgia’s Russian-occupied region of South Ossetia, Dimitry Medoev, have signed an ‘agreement’ on establishing diplomatic relations. As Syrian state-led news agency Sana reports, during the meeting Walid Mohi Edine al Muallem and Medoev discussed the issues of deepening relations in all spheres and signed several agreements. The Syrian state media reports that the occupied Tskhinvali representative once again thanked Syria for the recognition of breakaway South Ossetia as an independent state. De facto Foreign Ministry of breakaway S. Ossetia also reported the ‘agreement’ signed with Syria, noting that the meeting of the sides was held in preparation for the official visit of de facto President Anatoly Bibilov to the Syrian Arab Republic. "During the conversation, the parties discussed a wide range of issues related to the development of bilateral relations, promising areas of cooperation, as well as the situation in the region,” de facto

South Ossetian media reports. As reported, Medoev said “South Ossetia fully supports the just struggle of the people of Syria against the forces of international terrorism, as well as the joint actions of the Russian Federation and the legitimate Syrian government in this direction.” Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated the so called agreement on establishing diplomatic relations between Syrian and occupied Tskhinvali representatives has no legal power. “The Assad regime itself is declared illegitimate by the international community. It should be noted that the international community strongly condemned the so-called recognition of occupied S. Ossetia by Syria. This action was also condemned by the Syrian opposition forces. After Syria’s recognition of breakaway Tskhinvali as an independent state, Georgia cut diplomatic relations with Syria,” the statement of the MFA reads. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Syria released an official statement saying they recognized Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries on May 29. Syria’s step was denounced by the whole international community except Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru.

he IESE Cities in Motion Index has ranked Tbilisi 112th out of 165 cities in 80 countries. The data are analyzed according to the following indicators: human capital, social cohesion (consensus among different groups living in the city); economy, mobility and transportation, environment, international outreach, technology, governance and urban planning. Tbilisi has the best result in the environment category - 39th place, and the worst in urban planning - 130th place. It is ranked 104th in economics, 12th in human capital section, and 108th in technology. As for mobility and transportation, the capital of Georgia is in the 103rd place, and in international outreach – 116th place. Tbilisi was ranked the 100th in terms of governance and the 125th in social cohesion.

Photo: eadaily.com

The 2018 edition of the CIMI includes 165 cities – 74 of them capitals – representing 80 countries, for consecutive years 2015-2017. Once again, New York (1) remains the world leader, followed by London (2) and Paris (3). The rest of the top 10 cities in the overall ranking are: Tokyo (4), Reykjavik (5), Singapore (6), Seoul (7), Toronto (8), Hong Kong (9) and Amsterdam (10). IESE Cities in Motion Strategies is a

research platform that was launched by the IESE Business School Center for Globalization and Strategy and the IESE Department of Strategy. The initiative connects a worldwide network of city experts and specialized private companies with local administrations all over the world, with the goal of developing valuable ideas and innovative tools that can generate smarter cities and promote change at the local level.

National Business Ratings Union Awards Tourism Administration Head Chogovadze BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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he awarding ceremony of the Swiss Rating Association and the National Business Ratings Union (NBRUNION) joint project was held in Hotel ‘Paragraph’, Shekvetili. Giorgi Chogovadze, Head of the National Tourism Administration, was awarded for playing a vital role in the tourism field. The National Business Ratings Union hosts an award ceremony every year. The purpose of the Union is to award and discover new companies and promote their development. Georgia joined the Union in 2015. Other member states include Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.

Source: Imedinews.ge

Tbilisi Drivers to Protest High Petrol Prices Continued from page 1 “I would like to address the oil importers and the state to do everything in their power to bring the fuel price back to something normal. If not, they will see

a reaction from Georgian society,” Zurab Melikishvili, member of the United National Movement, stated. Chairman of the Union of Oil Products Importers, Ivane Mtvralashvili, says it would be a fair decision to have the fuel

excise reduced to the early 2017 level, but he doubts this will happen. As he explains, the increase in fuel prices is due to increased prices on the global market. "This process has affected all countries

that depend on fuel import, including Turkey, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine and some states of the European Union,” he explained. Mtvralashvili says he understands why users are protesting, noting that fuel

prices in the country are at a “record high.” The Chairman of the Union of Oil Products Importers also noted that the increase in fuel prices had also led to the increase in the prices of other products.


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

New Rumors Allege Lora Smith Was Drowned BY THEA MORRISON

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ollowing the recently released information in Georgian media that the US citizen Lora Smith was allegedly raped after the killer murdered her husband Ryan and their 4-year-old son Caleb, Kvirispalitra reports the woman was allegedly drowned by the killer and did not fall in the ravine in Khada Gorge as was previously stated. Kvirispalitra added that 19-year-old shepherd Malkhaz Kobauri, who was detained on murder charges, changed his testimony a second time and confessed he killed the husband and child, then raped Lora. The Kvirispalitra article reads that they have a source who claims that the forensic examination of the woman revealed she was raped and then drowned, with the cause of death asphyxia. In addition, Kvirispalitra reports that after the woman was drowned, Kobauri took photos of her using his mobile. The husband and wife were citizens of the US but had dual citizenship with

Georgia, received in 2012. They had lived in the town of Marneuli for seven years and were well respected members of the local and expat community. During the initial questioning, Malkhaz Kobauri said it was he who killed the Smiths, but later changed his testimony and declared at the trial that he was innocent. Kvirispalitra says he was questioned again on July 20 within the presence of his lawyer Davit Girgvliani and he pleaded guilty. On July 22, the lawyer took to Facebook to inform society that he will no longer be defending the suspect. “This case should be continued without my participation. I wish success to my colleague or colleagues who will continue to protect him [Kobauri], since all people have the right to be defended regardless of the crime they committed,” the statement of the lawyer reads. No official comments have been made as yet over the case and the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet confirmed any of the rumors spread this weekend. As reported, the complex examination will be concluded in a month and the results will be made public only afterwards.

Photo source: melodytravers.com

European Georgia Names MP Bakradze as Presidential Candidate poverty in the country. European Georgia member Gigi Ugulava says Bakradze stands a good chance of winning the presidential race. "Society is divided and unsure. This country needs a president who will unify the people and show them that there is hope,” he stated. European Georgia, which has 21 seats in Parliament, was set up after the split of the former ruling party the United National Movement, in early 2017. The UNM has united with the other 9 opposition parties, who named their joint presidential candidate, UNM’s political council member, Grigol Vashadze.

BY THEA MORRISON

G

eorgia’s parliamentary minority European Georgia presented their candidate for the presidential elections – MP David Bakradze. Bakradze’s candidacy was presented on July 21 at a party congress held in Georgia’s western city of Kutaisi. David Bakradze, the current leader of the parliamentary minority and former speaker of the Georgian parliament from 2008-2012, says his main aim is reducing

The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) has not yet announced their presidential candidate. According to unofficial information, GD might support independent MP Salome Zurabishvili in the presidential elections, scheduled for October 2018. At present, there are only 5 presidential candidates, including Bakradze and Vashadze. The other candidates are: Shalva Natelashvili from the Labor Party, Nino Burjanadze, the leader of the Russia-affiliated Democratic Movement-United Georgia, and Zurab Japaridze from the New Political Center – Girchi.

Roshka-Arkhoti Road Opens for Off-Road Vehicles BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

T

he Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia is working to rehabilitate the Roshka-Arkhoti road in the Dusheti Municipality, connecting the village of Roshka – famous for the Abudelauri Lakes – with the remote border village of Arkhoti. Within the framework of the project, a 28-kilometer road has been completely cut into the mountainside, and off-road vehicles can now travel along it. Giorgi Shengelia, Executive Director of the Municipal Development Fund, visited the project site. After observing the road construction, Shengelia held a working meeting with the construction company and discussed their progress. The road starts from the village Roshka in Dusheti municipality and cuts through the Arkhoti pass and the river, continues through the Asa Gorge, and ends in the village of Amgha. Previously, this section

Photo: Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure

was only accessible by foot, and within the framework of the project, the 28 km long, 6 m wide highway has been outlined,

and the addition of road-edge structures and bridges is planned. At a height of 3,000 meters above sea level, the area

experiences a long, brutal winter, which complicates the working process. "We are implementing a very impor-

tant project, where the road never went up and it will be a way to connect Roshka and Arkhoti. A few weeks ago, the infrastructure minister visited the road construction. Unfortunately, at that time the road was not satisfactory, there were some sections to clean and finish. We promised the population to be able to travel with off-road vehicles by [the holiday of] Atengenoba, and we have fulfilled this condition. At this stage, ten units are mobilized, I believe that a large part of the works will be implemented, but the current monitoring left the impression that more efforts are needed to meet the project deadline," said Shengelia. Due to the absence of the road, the border village of Arkhoti has been on the verge of complete abandonment for years – currently just four families live there year-round. In addition to its strategic importance, the project is critical for the economic development of the region. The hope is that the road will encourage and facilitate locals to return to the region and increase the tourism potential of Khevsureti.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Parliament Approves Accumulative Pension Draft BY THEA MORRISON

G

eorgian parliament has adopted the accumulative pension draft on its third and final reading. According to the Ministry of Economy, the law is part of the pension reform, the main goal of which is to improve the existing social system in Georgia. Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Ekaterine Mikabadze presented the draft law to MPs, noting that the accumulative pension system will allow citizens to have savings which will be proportional to their wages. “The reform also has an important economic effect: it will significantly increase savings in the economy and in doing so create alternative source of financing for the development of the capital market. Georgian business will have access to long-term financing in local currency to make investments, create jobs and support economic growth,” she added. The new programme, the launch of which is planned for the end of the year, will be mandatory for legally employed people under 40, meaning they will be enrolled automatically, and voluntary for people above 40 as well as for self-employed citizens. All employed citizens of Georgia 40 and under (around 500,000 people), will transfer 2% of their untaxed monthly salaries to the state pension fund, with another 2% to be paid by employers and 2% by the state.

Photo source: The Irish Times

This means that every month, 6% of employees' salaries will go to the pension fund. The pension program covers citizens of Georgia, foreign citizens permanently residing in Georgia, and those having no citizenship but who are employed or self-employed and receiving an income. Self-employed people will have a choice to pay into their pension or not. If a self-employed person decides to accumulate the pension, they will have to put 4% of their monthly incomes into the pension fund. After the money is accumulated in the pension budget, the money will be used by the State for investments within the country. When people reach pension age, 65 for males and 60 for females, they will have an opportunity to use the money, together with their state pension of (currently) 180 GEL.

Italian Investments in Azerbaijan Reach $530 Mil

Photo: Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan

BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

T

he total amount that Italian companies have invested in Azerbaijan amounts to approximately $530 million, said the Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan, Shahin Mustafayev, during a July 19 meeting with Italy’s Deputy Minister of Economic Development Michele Geraci in Baku. Mustafayev also noted that Azerbaijani investors have an estimated $135 million in Italy. Italy was Azerbaijan’s number one trading partner in the first half of 2018, with a trade volume of $1.651 billion from January to May of this year. "Azerbaijan is interested in the actualization of the existing potential and development of economic relations between the countries. Italian technologies are used in a number of enterprises operating in Azerbaijan. We can also import technologies for such areas as agriculture and industry. In addition, Italian companies can take part in investment projects in Azerbaijan, invest in industrial parks and quarters, agricultural parks and logistics centers and take advantage of the opportunities of such projects as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the Baku international sea trade port, as well as the free economic zone to be established in the village of Alat,” said Mustafayev. During the meeting, the Azerbaijani side highlighted the strong political relationship between Azerbaijan and Italy and their history of successful economic cooperation. Mustafayev underlined the importance of continued mutual visits in the maintenance and further development of good relations. The participation of the respective countries’ heads of state in the Azerbaijani-Italian Business Forum, within the framework of the visit of Italian President

Sergio Mattarella to Azerbaijan, reflects the great importance of bilateral relations. Mattarella visited Georgia last week with his delegation, attending a similar Georgian-Italian Business forum in Tbilisi. Mustafayev pointed out that Azerbaijani relations are developing successfully in a number of sectors of the economy, drawing attention to a polypropylene plant built on the SOCAR Polymer project in cooperation with Italy's Maire Tecnimont in the Sumqayit Chemical Industrial Park as a vivid example of economic cooperation. Mustafayev also noted the potential for expanding economic relations between the two countries, including energy, agriculture, industry, trade, investment, transport, and ecology. “Azerbaijan is interested in realizing this potential and developing economic relations between our countries. Italian technology is used in a number of enterprises operating in our country. Nevertheless, modern equipment can be imported from Italy for use in agriculture and industry,” said Mustafayev. The Minister of Economy invited Italian companies to participate in joint investment projects in Azerbaijan, including industrial parks, agro-parks, and logistics centers. Speaking about Azerbaijan's broad transport infrastructure and transit potential, Mustafayev stressed that Italian companies can benefit from the potential of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the Baku International Sea Trade Port, as well as the Special Economic Zone that will be created in Alat. Geraci confirmed that Azerbaijan is an important country for Italy, noting successful cooperation between the two countries in various fields of the economy. He echoed the desire to continue to deepen and expand the ties between Italy and Azerbaijan. During the meeting, the sides agreed to develop proposals for cooperation in specific areas of the economy.

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6

BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Pankisi Camping – a Business Model Built on Breaking Down Stereotypes WHO STARTED THE ORGANIZATION AND WHY DID YOU WANT TO START IT?

a physical way. In a nutshell, they do whatever they can.

Begi Borchashvili and I are friends. We decided to make a campsite last year, when I was in the Pankisi Gorge for the first time. I discovered this amazing place and saw there was nothing to accommodate tourists. I told Begi – let's make something to help develop tourism in the gorge. He said - why not. We didn't have much money for big plans, so we decided to make a campsite.

WHAT HAVE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES BEEN IN STARTING AND RUNNING YOUR ORGANIZATION?

WHO IS YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE? We set this up for hikers, travellers and tourists. But for us the main thing is for Georgians to understand that the Pankisi Gorge is not a scary place and to break the stereotype.

WHAT SERVICES DO YOU OFFER? Our services are: Tours in Pankisi Gorge mountains, Renting hiking equipment, Renting horses, Horseback riding lessons, Renting mountain bikes, Nature photography tours and Culinary tours with a focus on local dishes.

Photo: Pankisi Camping, Facebook

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT PANKISI? The main aim of our team is to tell people about Pankisi, for them to understand it’s not a place to be afraid of. I want everyone to know more about Pankisi, to love it the way I do. Pankisi is a great place, and I want everyone to know its traditions, culture, delicious cuisine and of course, wonderful nature. I want them to be more interested in Pankisi and to really discover it.

WHAT HAS THE LOCAL REACTION BEEN LIKE?

BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

W

e spoke with the founders of the company Pankisi Camping to hear about opening a business in Pankisi as outsiders and, in the case of one of the co-founders, as a woman. The Pankisi Gorge is a region of Georgia north of Telavi, nested between steep mountain ranges. It is populated mainly by the Kist people, ethnic Chechens who have lived in that part of Georgia since the mid-1800s. The Kists practice Islam and largely speak Chechen in the home, but the language of instruction in schools

is Georgian. The area is known for its beauty around Georgia, but in recent years it has also become connected with terrorism, accused and confirmed. During the hottest years of the war in Syria, several fighters joined the so-called Islamic State from the Pankisi Gorge, and there have been several anti-terrorism sting operations conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Pankisi’s villages. Many residents of Pankisi say their people are persecuted and unfairly accused of radicalism, over-generalizations of the actions of a few extremists. Now, there is a new business in the gorge: Pankisi Camping. Two young Georgians, ethnic Georgian Mano Kavtaradze (27) and ethnic Kist Begi Borchashvili (22), have established one of

the first female-led businesses in the region. Caucasus Business Week calls Kavtaradze “The First Georgian Girl to Start [a] Business in Pankisi.” GEORGIA TODAY spoke with Kavtaradze about her young company.

The locals have been great. They helped us, they stood by me from the first day, and they are doing their best to do everything in the right way: they are very sweet and helpful. They give us everything they are able to, for example, we have free electricity, some of them give us some livestock things, which we really need right now, some of them help us in

Our biggest challenge is breaking down those misconceptions still in people’s minds. Some of them are still afraid of Pankisi, afraid to visit, so our biggest mission is to make Pankisi lovable for everyone, I want everyone to come here, and not be afraid to stay a while. Unfortunately, there are some old gender stereotypes and norms in Pankisi. Parents, of course, treat girls more strictly – for example, girls aren't allowed to go out for long, they can't stay at camps at night and so on... Boys have more freedom in this case. But, of course, if our families know each other, then the girls come here as well, to Pankisi Camping, and stay.

WHAT IS YOUR LONGTERM VISION FOR PANKISI CAMPING? Our long-term vision is to make the campsite place more comfortable, manage other entertaining places here, to have different kinds of amusements and some places to relax in. We want to look after the surrounding nature and area, and of course, our biggest aim is to have great conditions for holiday-makers, or those who come here to stay and have a good time. When guests come from Tbilisi, or elsewhere, we want to be able to offer a variety of services. We want to have everything in one place: wildlife, entertainment, rest spots and so on... The peak of our success will be one thing: we want to be just like European camping places, especially- French ones, as they are very organized there, in France. For example, in France, you can't camp just anywhere like you can in Georgia. There, everything is pre-planned, and well-organized. Of course, we want to go to France and see with our own eyes how this system works, and if we ever get enough funding to visit European campsites, we will make it even better. Interview edited for length and clarity

WHAT EXACTLY IS PANKISI CAMPING? Pankisi Camping is the first campsite in the Pankisi Gorge. This area is located near the Khadori waterfall. We made a place in which hikers, locals, travellers, tourists and everyone who loves nature can relax, enjoy the fresh air, ride horses, rent mountain bikes, hike in the mountains, swim in the Alazani River, taste local dishes, and understand the Kist way of life in Georgia.

SUBSCRIBE! 1 YEAR SUBSCRIPTION - 60 GEL (6 ISSUES) Money Back Guarantee!  any@where.ge

 +995 32 229 59 19 10 Galaktion Street

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge


8

BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Giorgi Donadze: "Folklore is a Living Organism & Caring for it is a Constant Process" BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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he creative activities of the Folklore State Center of Georgia are multifaceted: Georgian folk music, ecclesiastical chanting, oral speech, choreography, fine arts and folk arts, festival organization and more. One of the main directions of the center is choir, serving to preserve and popularize unique Georgian songs. Currently, there are 21 functioning schools in Georgia, with up to 800 pupils studying Georgian songs and traditional chants for free: “For us, choir schools were and are a priority. The first school opened in Khobi in 2015 and other regions followed. By the end of 2018, we expect to have 24 schools,” says Giorgi Donadze, Director of the Center. One imperative detail is that this year the International Black Sea Folklore International Festival will not be held, which is partly linked to the scarcity of finances. The Director of the Center, Giorgi Donadze, talks about the challenges, activities and priorities, important projects and future plans of the Center. The Black Sea Folklore International Festival was founded in 2016 due to a love of folklore. Georgia is a country of rich folklore traditions. The aim was to introduce the Georgian stage to the folklore traditions of various countries. Georgia has hosted the festival twice. “From year to year, the number of par-

ticipants has increased as has the scale of the event. Adjara and Guria were actively involved in the festival last year. The final part of the concert ended with a grandiose gala concert in the Black Sea Arena. In the last two years, singing and dancing ensembles from countries such as Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Turkey, Poland, Armenia, Azerbaijan and others came to Georgia. In short, the International Festival justified its name and united the folklore of different countries. Increased awareness and new challenges emerged. "We want this festival to be more varied and interesting in the future, Donadze says. "We are aware that organizing such a large-scale event is a big responsibility, which is why we decided to host it once every two years. We will use this year for preparatory works. The third Black Sea Folklore International Festival will be held in the summer of 2019. We think the diverse and interesting program, as well as the affordable prices of tickets, will further strengthen viewers’ interest. I would like to emphasize once again that the reason for the festival's not happening this year is not lack of finances."

ONE OF THE PRIORITIES OF THE FOLKLORE CENTER IS THE FOLKLORE NATIONAL FESTIVAL, WHICH IS HELD EVERY 4 YEARS. HOW ARE YOU PREPARING? Organizing festivals is a great tradition in the Folklore Center. The National Festival gives stimulus to regions. Moreover, it is essential in order to maintain and popularize folklore. Unique samples

were recorded and archived during the previous festival. The National Festival is not an entertaining concert, which we attend just to applause: its direct aim is to uphold folklore traditions for future generations. With the aim of raising motivation, we will be rewarding the best of the festivals. In 2015-2016, we provided quite a number of solid cash prizes. At the Festival of 2019 - 2020, I am sure colossal material will be added to the archive of the Folklore Center.

ONE OF THE MOST DISTINGUISHED PROJECTS OF THE CENTER IS THE OZURGETI FOLKLORE CENTER, WHICH IS SET TO OPEN IN SEPTEMBER I think the representatives of the Folklore State Center will revive Guria in western Georgia. Ozurgeti is the main communications center for western schools of Georgia. Exhibitions and concerts will be moved from Tbilisi. The Ozurgeti center is 1300 square meters and boasts a recording studio equipped with modern technology, exhibition and concert halls, a choir school and an administration department. The building is truly unique. The main concerts of the Black Sea Folklore International Festival will be held in Ozurgeti Folklore Center in 2019. I would also like to host scientific conferences here and invite foreign specialists to share their knowledge and experience.

AND THE FOLKLORE STATE CENTER OF GEORGIA WILL

SOON HAVE ITS OWN CONCERT HALL IN TBILISI This will be a hall with a recording studio. Renovations will be completed by the end of the year. It’s a unique stage, a copy of the Opera created on Vakhtang Chabukiani’s initiative. With the financing of the Ministry of Culture, the Folklore State Center will have a special hall, with modern equipment, sound isolation and a recording studio. The annual evening of Vakhushti Kotetishvili folk poetry will be held in 2018. Eter Tataraidze is working on this and tries to organize a different evening every year, which is not easy. And unique samples of oral fiction were printed with the help of the charity fund "Georgian Galoba."

THE CENTER CONDUCTED A THREE-STAGE COMPLEX EXPEDITION IN FOUR AREAS OF FOLKLORE IN THE MOUNTAINOUS ADJARA, SHUAKHEVI MUNICIPALITY. DOES THE CENTER PLAN SIMILAR EXPEDITIONS TO OTHER REGIONS? The expedition was conducted in three different stages in four different fields. The complex expedition was carried out in high mountainous Adjara for the first time. The first stage was dedicated to music and choreography, and the next stages were dedicated to fine and applied arts and oral arts. Complex expeditions require a lot of time and resources, this was a first attempt and I think it was successful. With the funding of

the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Adjara, we created a very interesting publication in which the results of the expedition are outlined. In the future, we plan to conduct complex expeditions in Keda, Khulo and later in Svaneti. We want to visit all the regions; there are research materials everywhere. The main thing is the interest and support of municipalities.

THIS YEAR, A REFERENCE BOOK OF FOLKLORE ENSEMBLES WILL BE CREATED TO INFORM VISITORS. TELL US ABOUT IT I think the existence of this reference book will be a significant step forward. The National Tourism Administration of Georgia is involved in the project. With their help, the reference book will be distributed in every hotel and will be available for tourists. This will facilitate the dissemination of information about ensembles and their activities outside of Georgia.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PROJECTS AND PLANS Folklore is a living organism and caring for it is a constant process. Some projects, for instance choir schools, cannot be completed as the number of schools increases. The same can be said about expeditions, since the end of one is often the beginning of a new expedition. In the future, we will aim to organize more festivals. An essential part is dedicated to the Black Sea Folklore International Festival in 2019, which, as I mentioned, has been initiated already and is being prepared for.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Is the Turkish Economy in Trouble?

BY ANTOINE DEWAEST

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his July, Turkey has been facing 15.4% inflation, a very high rate for an economy in trouble. For months, the country has been going through multiple crises. While everyone points to the political issue, related to the coup attempt in July 2016 and its consequences for the Turkish democracy, the local economy must be looked at carefully: as it has been going downhill for a while now. First, the monetary crisis. The Turkish Lira is falling, having lost its value against Euro and Dollar. As a result, inflation has been reaching on average 10% in 2018. The Lira has lost more than a fifth of its value against the Euro and Dollar in less than seven months, and the deficit is growing by the day. Prices are up and the crisis seems all the more dangerous as it affects the prices of daily essentials like potatoes, tomatoes, and gas. So, why is the Turkish Lira collapsing? First, the Central Bank lacks freedom, which leads to a freeze in economic mechanisms. President Erdogan strengthened his control over the monetary policy. “Not only the Central Bank but all institutions and individuals are under the sway of Erdogan. We don't have freedom, nor can we make the simplest decisions without his permission," said economist Atilla Yesilada. "If the central bank was not controlled by Erdogan it would have reacted at least two years ago, when inflation started rising, by raising interest rates."

And that is the problem. The Central Bank, supposed to lead the monetary policy, can do nothing. However, generally speaking, economists consider that interest rates are a key tool to stabilize a currency. But President Erdogan ignores these recommendations and keeps base interest rates steady, no matter how the economy is doing. The fall of the currency has also been reinforced by geopolitical uncertainty at the Turkish borders, in particular the Russian military actions in Syria and its political instability. As a result, economists agree to say that there is an economic negative outlook in Turkey. Investors worry about the independence of the Central Bank, and the credit quality of Turkish Banks has collapsed. The country is weakly rated by international agencies and the credit rating expectations are down. The three major credit rating agencies (Standard and Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s) reported that the Turkish grade for sovereign bonds is now a BB one, essentially “junk bonds”. It means that money investors will be more likely to buy reliable sovereign bonds than Turkish ones. But for President Erdogan, Turkey will soon become "one of the ten largest economic powers in the world," as he promised after the swearingin for his current term. Does he rely on his sonin-law to rescue the Turkish economy? Appointed as Minister of Finance and Treasury, Albayrak is considered a relatively inexperienced politician who has simply been given a key position by his father-in-law. Will an inexperienced pilot be able to fly the plane? The answer remains to be seen. There is no doubt that an economic crisis would be a deadly blow to Erdogan’s power.

Entrepreneurial Market in Bakuriani

Image Source: Enterprise Georgia

BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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he first Entrepreneurial Market was held in Bakuriani on July 21, with the aim of popularizing the products of Georgian entrepreneurs. The project will be held throughout Georgia from July 21 to November 8, within the framework of ‘Check in Georgia’ project ‘Pudzeoba’, a regionalfolklore festival.

The event took place in Bakuriani Central Park and saw entrepreneurs presenting a vast choice of unique products for locals as well as tourists. These included products manufactured in Georgia, such as textiles, accessories, confectionary, food, alcoholic beverages, tea, home décor and more. Food trucks and a specific space for children were also present. Guests were given the opportunity to taste a variety of food, buy local products and establish important relationships with local producers for future cooperation.

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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Russia to Tighten Quality Control on Georgian Wine Import BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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n a statement released by ‘Rospotrebnadzor’, Russia will soon begin to control the quality of imported Georgian wine. According to the statement, the quality of Georgian alcoholic beverages exported to Russia in the first half of 2018 does not comply with the technical regulations and the law on user rights. Due to these violations, 16 thousand liters of Georgian alcohol were banned from entering the Russian market. The National Wine Agency of Georgia responded to the Rospotrebnadzor statement: “One of the main objectives of the National Wine Agency's activities is the promotion and control of high quality Georgian wine." In 2017, according to amendments to the Law of Georgia on Vine and Wine, from January 1 of the current year, compulsory degustation of all categories of exported wine came into force. Before 1 January 2017, mandatory tasting was only subject to locally produced descriptive wines. The initiative came from the private sector and the goal was to enhance the quality of wine. The National Wine Agency's Tasting Commission stopped 93 out of 4,813 samples within the first 6 months of the current year for verification of all categories of wine intended for export. In

2017, the number was estimated to be 299 out of 3,440 samples. Legislative amendments also prohibited export of wine from Georgia to avoid Georgian wine falsification outside the country. In addition, as a result of state and inspection controls carried out by the wine-producing companies, 15 samples out of 123 samples in the first 6 months did not correspond to the physicalchemical characteristics issued by the accredited laboratory, on the basis of which the exports of specific wines were refused. In 2017, 27 samples out of 469 were rejected for export. Today, among more than 50 countries, Russia still remains the largest export market for Georgian wine. According to the data of the first six months of the current year, 24 million bottles of wine have been exported, compared to the same period last year, a 24% hike. The National Wine Agency believes that quality care is a continuous process and is ready to continue working in this direction with the private sector and relevant state structures to ensure that the absolute majority of tens of millions of bottles meet the relevant standards and requirements". The value of Georgian exports to Russia amounted to $396,672, making Russia the first largest destination for Georgian exports, according to recent statistics. Russia remains one of the key markets for Georgian wine export, with 24,022,113 bottles exported in the first half of 2018.

Photo: Georgianwine.gov.ge, Source: Imedinews.ge

Export from Georgia to EU Exceeds Export to Russia by $164m Exports amounted to $367.8 million (21.5% higher), while imports were nearly $1.277 billion (26.3% higher). The share of the EU countries in the external trade turnover of Georgia amounted to 27.5%, 23.1% in exports and 29.1% in imports while 32.5% of the trade deficit came to the EU countries (30.3% in January-June 2017). In the first half 2018, the external trade turnover of Georgia with the CIS countries totaled $2 037.3 million, higher by 33.9% compared to the January-June 2017. Exports stood at $720.1 million, 50.7% higher, while imports equaled $1 317.1 million (26.2% higher). The share of the CIS countries in the external trade turnover of Georgia constituted 34%: 45.2% in exports and 30% in imports. In the given period, CIS countries accounted for 21.3% of the overall trade deficit. In January-June 2018, the share of the top ten trading partners in the total external trade turnover of Georgia amounted to 66.8%. The top trading partners were Turkey ($858.1 million), Russia ($650.1 million) and China ($510.0 million).

BY THEA MORRISON

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he preliminary data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) reads that in January-June 2018, the export from Georgia to the European Union at $368 million exceeded export to Russia ($204.422 million). In January-June 2018, the external merchandise trade of Georgia amounted to approximately $5.96 billion, 24.3% higher year-on-year. The exports equaled $1.59 billion (28.5% higher), while the imports stood at nearly $4.39 billion (22.9% higher). The negative trade balance was $2.8 billion and its share in external trade turnover constituted 46.8%. Export excluding re-export amounted to about $1.15 billion, 16.3% higher compared to 2017. Geostat says in January-June 2018, the external trade turnover of Georgia with the EU countries amounted to $1.64 billion, 25.2% higher compared to the corresponding indicator of the previous year.

Over GEL 34 Million in the Budget from Fines & Penalties BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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Source: BPN.ge

n the first 6 months of 2018, GEL 34,817,800 was put into the budget from fines and penalties, according to information spread by BPN. This amount exceeds the 6-month budget plan by GEL 8 million, a surpass of 131.9%.

In January-June 2018, the state budget revenues equaled GEL 5,646,659, totaling 102.8% of the 6 months forecast estimates. According to the financial documents, a total of GEL 5 019,831 was added to the income, an amount more than GEL 250 million. Moreover, according to the State Treasury, profit tax amounted to GEL 397,406, value added tax (VAT) equaled GEL 2,152,067 and excise tax was GEL 654,153.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Element Construction Builds for Coca-Cola BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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new production unit of Coca-Cola is soon to be opened in Georgia. Element Construction, with 10 years’ experience in the field, initiated the project. The construction company has already implemented numerous interesting projects, but the upcoming production unit will be the largest-scale one, not only for the company, but also for Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY talked to Giorgi Kozauri, General Director of Element Construction, about the project and future plans of the company.

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THIS PROJECT AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT BOTH FOR ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION AND THE COUNTRY? This project is vital because it is a new stage for the company’s development, as opposed to the projects implemented by Element Construction so far. I’m confident that the successful implementation of this project will lead to many new and interesting opportunities. The industrial unit will be moved from one of the central neighborhoods of Tbilisi to the outskirts, significantly unloading the Tsereteli Avenue and positively reflecting the ecological development of the city. New jobs will be created for residents of the surrounding area, during the construction process and in the following stages.

TELL US MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT The first stage of the project consists of 18,200 square meters of industrial and

warehouse space, an administrative unit, laboratory and other technical space areas. The second phase includes the building of a 15,000 m2 terrace, including drainage and parking, plus a new 2,000 m2 office. Georgian specialists worked on the architectural and technical part of the project. Mobilization works are currently completed and construction processes are underway. The deadline of the project in accordance with the contract is March 1, 2019.

THE CONSTRUCTION MARKET IS BECOMING MORE DIVERSE. HOW IS ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION DISTINGUISHED FROM ITS COMPETITORS? In the last several years, I have witnessed a lot of construction companies reaching a high level of development, but being unable to keep up; unable to survive the challenges of modern times. The difference between these companies and Element Construction is that we are on a solid basis, therefore our team vision is a result of development, reflected in our 10 years’ experience. Our approach can be seen in the processes and system improvements within the company, high quality communication with customers and optimization of projects. Consequently, most of our customers are those who have already worked with Element and have come back to us. We have other categories - customers who come in as a recommendation, and this leads to the company's performance and uniqueness.

WHAT PATH DID YOU TAKE FOR SUCCESS? In 2007, the company started to operate on industrial floors. In 2010, the company took its first construction project and in 2014-2015, we took part in such projects

as Biltmore Hotel in Tbilisi, Retail Center Merani, Kintrishi Hydro Power Plant and others. After successful completion of these projects, we decided to re-brand the company and develop the direction of construction in 2016. We witnessed a huge increase in the last two years; the current projects cost about GEL 30 million, a value three times higher than the previous years. Despite this, I would say that it is too early to talk about big success, as there are more interesting and important projects ahead for the company’s development, which must be successfully completed!

WHAT TYPE OF SERVICES DO YOU OFFER CUSTOMERS? ‘Element’ services are quite diverse. We offer clients design, construction, renovation, industrial construction and industrial floors. Of course, we aim for precision in every element.

WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE OF ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION? Besides the fact that we are continuously trying to implement projects in quality, i.e. within the planned budget and time, we constantly strive to provide high quality communications with the customers and the involved engineers and technical personnel. This allows customers to actively be informed about ongoing issues and, in turn, is eventually reflected in their satisfaction.

WHO IS YOUR TARGET MARKET? We mostly operate on the construction of civil and industrial buildings, therefore, at this stage, we do not focus on infrastructural projects and we are less likely to take part in state tenders. Most of our projects are private orders: individual houses, multi-complex houses,

factories, and hydro power plants.

DOES ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION INCORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN THIS REGARD? Yes, we started working in this direction this year, mostly in terms of education. We signed a Memorandum with the Georgian Technical University to employ students as interns in our company for further employment. This implies both practical and theoretical experience. I think this is a bilateral benefit for both the company and society. We are planning more interesting initiatives for the future.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR TODAY AND HOW DOES ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION OVERCOME THEM? The first thing I would list is unhealthy competition. There are several thousand registered construction companies in the country. Some companies, with no relevant experience, participate in private tenders. Their approach towards safety standards and quality is lacking, which is why they offer services at lower prices. Inexperienced customers base their decisions solely on prices, which negatively affects the construction market and its development. As a result, many private or state buildings are suspended and projects initiated due to low-cost cannot be completed. We therefore refuse many projects, because we never compromise quality at the expense of cost.

‘PRECISION IN ALL ELEMENT’ – WHAT IS THE MEANING BEHIND YOUR SLOGAN? This is exactly the approach the man-

agement and personally I have to protect: the accuracy in each detail and element. As a result, we pay the same attention to every detail in our employees, because any job, just like construction, consists of many elements. The construction process is a chain: if one element is left out, a part of the chain cannot be completed. Therefore, we try to keep all elements protected and preserved.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FUTURE PLANS Along with the development of our company’s system, our long-term plan is to obtain an ISO certificate, which will document the functioning of the system. In addition, we have two expat employees in our team, one from Iran and one from the US. We believe that in terms of global competition, bringing foreign engineers, technical personnel and experience to the Georgian construction market will benefit both our company development and the qualifications of local staff. In general, given that there is a lack of qualified staff in the country, it is vital to share new technologies, knowledge and approaches within the company. Of course, it is necessary and imperative for the company’s management to be open. We are going to actively work in this direction. The above-mentioned experience will help us in our long-term plan to expand on a regional scale.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 24 - 26, 2018

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Partnership Fund Delegation Visits China to Discuss Investment Potential

BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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he delegation of the Partnership Fund took a business trip to the People’s Republic of China. The delegation, under the guidance of David Saganelidze, Executive Director of the Fund, was invited by the Chairman of the Technology Market Development Association of the Republic of China Reforms and Development Committee. The Partnership Fund delegation held business meetings in the town of Shenzhen, Guangzhou Province. Within the framework of the official visit, the delegation of the Foundation met with the Chairman of the International Association for Economic Relations and Trade Development in Shenzhen. The Association incorporates big business companies of the Guangzhou Province of the People's Republic of China and hosts worldwide international-level forums and conferences. It also consults Chinese companies in various directions. The International Association for Economic Relations and Trade has expressed interest in presenting specific investment proposals in technologies. Moreover, it plans to petition large businesses operating on the Chinese market to participate in investment projects in Georgia. The memorandum of mutual agreement was signed between the Chairman of the Technological Market Development Association and the Executive Director of the Partnership Fund, which will further cooperation and trade economic relations

among the parties. On the Partnership Fund’s initiative, the Representative Delegation of the Technological Market Development Association proposes to study Georgia's investment environment and plans to visit Georgia in the autumn to present specific projects. Within the framework of the visit, a meeting was held with ‘Shenzhen Appotronics Technology,’ the biggest Chinese company in Shenzhen. The company exports its own products to the US and Europe. The sides discussed prospects for future cooperation. The Fund’s delegation introduced Georgia’s investment potential and emphasized the free trade relations of the country with the world's leading markets. After the meeting, Chinese companies asked about the process of production in Georgia. During the visit, business meetings were also held in the representative office of the Partnership Fund in Guangzhou. The meeting was attended by the supervisors of the ‘One Belt One Road’ project. The parties discussed ways to implement joint projects. The Chinese side expressed serious interest in Georgia's investment opportunities. It also emphasized the importance of Georgia in order to deepen economic and trade relations in the One Belt One Road project. The official visit of the Partnership Fund’s official delegation included Giorgi Daneloa, Head of Investment Department, Levan Kvernadze, Head of Research and Analytics Department of the subsidiary ‘Field Development Company’ and Tsisia Panchvidze, Fund Representative.

EU Assists Georgia In Improving Airline Passenger Data System

Photo: European Union, Source: EU Neighbors

BY ANTOINE DEWAEST

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n July 16-17, an inter-agency working group met in Kakheti to discuss ways to enhance automated processing and analysis of passenger data provided by airlines in Georgia. During the two-day workshop, representatives of the Revenues Service, the State Security Agency of Georgia and its Operational Technical Agency, and departments of the country’s Ministry of Inter-

nal Affairs dealt with the challenges currently faced by the Georgian government in the implementation of an efficient API/PNR system. The Advance Passenger Information (API) combined with the Passenger Name Record (PNR) is an electronic communication system that collects biographic data from passenger’s passports. It enhances the way to control and check identity in the context of immigration and terrorism. The participants agreed on a blueprint and made other agreements in order to facilitate efficient cooperation with airlines which propose routes to Georgia.

Georgian fusion restaurant "Meama" with an authentic taste tradition! Adress: 8 Dzmebi Zdanevichebi str. Tbilisi Mob: 558 31 11 33


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 24 - 26, 2018

RoadsUp Exploring Beautiful Georgia a visit for more than just a few days. After two days in Armenia, we decided to go back to Georgia and visit Tbilisi. The road on this side of the country was much better, so we reached the city quickly. Through Couchsurfing, a German guy living in Tbilisi invited us to stay at his place. He showed us the city and a nice pub as well as a traditional local food restaurant where we tried a Georgian bean dish called Lobio that tasted delicious. We only stayed two nights in Tbilisi and would have stayed more if we hadn’t had other plans. The two days in Tbilisi went by so fast in the relaxing and peaceful atmosphere of the city. As we went towards Azerbaijan and stopped to buy some bread, a family invited us to have dinner with them. Although we couldn`t understand each other as we don`t speak any Georgian or Russian, we really enjoyed the company and the good Georgian food. Georgia really surprised us with its friendly people. We`ll definitely come back some day.

BLOG BY THE ROADSUP TEAM

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he world has many beautiful places and we want to see some of them. We, Claudia and Peter a couple from Austria, decided to take a motorcycle trip from Austria to India and see as many different countries and cultures as possible on the way. For us, Georgia was one of the countries that really surprised us. We didn`t really know much about it, so we had no expectations or prejudices when we entered from Turkey in Sarpi. Coming from Turkey late afternoon, the first thing we saw were glittering casinos instead of Mosques. Everything was written in kartuli anbani, the Georgian alphabet. We were glad that there were also Latin words beside it. On the border, we met Raif, a nice and helpful guy driving a Yamaha Teneré on his way to Tajikistan. He helped us with translation while buying insurance for the bikes. After saying goodbye, we went on to Batumi, a beautiful city on the Black Sea. As we drove along the coast the view was amazing. The city was bathed in the warm afternoon light and the sea was glittering from orange to pink in the colors of the sunset. We decided to take a break and enjoy the breathtaking scenery as well as take a few pictures. The owner of a nice restaurant on the seaside allowed us to use his terrace to take some pictures. We went on north out of Batumi to find an idyllic camping site called Robi, directly on the sea, where we pitched our tent in the last light of the day for the amazing price of 10 GEL per night for both of us. We spent the next day swimming, relaxing in the shadows and using the Wi-Fi. The other guests were a family from Belarus and some Russian people, as well as two cute dogs that didn`t really belong to anyone but felt at home on the campsite. They were looking for human

closeness and nearly attacked Peter until he started stroking them. Good that we are vaccinated against every possible disease. After the second night, we left in search of the Katskhi Pillar, a natural limestone monolith located in the western Georgian region of Imereti. We drove through nice curvy mountainous roads and stopped at a small shop for a break. The owner, a helpful lady, didn`t speak any English but wanted to boil us some water immediately as we bought some frozen dumplings filled with meat called Khinkali. As we wanted to boil them with our camping stove, we politely declined. We discovered the Katskhi Pillar at sunset and went uphill with the motorcycle. Unfortunately, it`s not possible to enter the ruins of the church on top, but we did get some nice pictures of it. The sight of the illuminated church on top is even more amazing at night. We pitched our tent nearby and enjoyed

the awesome view. As we lay in the tent, we heard a party going on in the distance and realized that people around the world aren`t that different. The next day, we tried out our stove for the first time to cook the Khinkali we’d bought and liked it very much. Happy from the good food, we went on to Ninotsminda, because we wanted to go to Armenia. We went through mountainious regions as it suddenly started raining and hailing so hard that we had to stop and look for a dry place. We were grateful a farmer let us stay in his garage for some time. After about half an hour, the rain stopped, and we continued southwards. The street got worse every kilometer we went. Cows, horses and sheep were standing in the middle of the road and we had to do some animal slalom to prevent a collision. The last kilometer before the Armenian border was unpaved and we were happy when we got to the border.

The Armenian border was one of the toughest borders we’d had to pass. Every bag was opened and unpacked. But that is a different story to tell. Maybe we should just stay in Georgia, as it is worth

For further information on the RoadsUp trip, visit our website www.RoadsUp.com or follow us on one of the social networks: www. facebook.com/roadsupcom, www.instagram. com/roads_up, Youtube: RoadsUp

A Broken Oath

Lika, dead at 24, faced difficulties as a transgender woman with AIDS

OP-ED BY SHAWN WAYNE

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ver the past year, the world has had its eye on the South Caucusus, especially Georgia, with the economic growth it has experienced and potential future NATO membership, it is difficult to not look away. With the world watching, clashes between liberals and conservatives in Georgia have been drawing international attention the past year, exposing a cultural division between two rival groups in Georgian society. One considers itself liberal and progressive; the other is considered conservative, religious, nationalist and often classified as homophobic, usually represented by the older generation.

Disputes between conservative Georgians and those who support diversity have continued since Georgia broke away from the Soviet Union, where religious and sexual diversity were completely tabooed. This heritage still influences the values and behaviour in the country with the older generation still in a sense used to the “old” ways. In the 2014 World Value Survey, Georgia was ranked one of the most homophobic countries in the world – with some 86.6% of those surveyed unhappy with the idea of having a gay or lesbian neighbor. A very recent case, a transgender woman who died on July 19 from complications of AIDS, is an example of this hate towards others being fostered in a very negative way. Gay rights activists in Tbilisi have taken up the case saying the way she was treated by the country’s healthcare sys-

tem illustrates just how large the gap is between Georgia’s antidiscrimination laws and the actual realities faced by transgender patients in hospitals. A lawyer from the Tbilisi-based rights group Identoba, Nino Bolkvadze, stated that taboos against homosexuality cause many difficulties for lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country. However, in the most recent incident, Bolkvadze stated that the 24-year-old who died of tuberculosis at the Batumi Center for AIDS and Tuberculosis, who has been identified only as Lika, faced even greater difficulties as a transgender woman with AIDS. Bolkvadze argued that as a transgender patient, Lika required special treatment to ensure her “honor and dignity” as required by Georgia’s law on patient rights, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Georgia’s health system has a strategic plan on AIDS; however, there is no consideration in that plan for the special needs of transgender people. Transgender people are often alienated from their families at a very young age, this happens all around the world, and even more so in Georgia. "When this happens, they might not have access to the education and healthcare systems and their economic situation becomes very difficult. They often have to become sex workers to survive, which makes them vulnerable to HIV infection, among transgender people, the HIV infection rate in Georgia is 25%, which already means HIV is an epidemic for this group, If all this is not considered as part of the government's AIDS strategy, then HIV will always be prevalent

among transgender people in Georgia and the death rate will be high," Bolkvadze explained. Gocha Gabodze, a LGBT rights activist, stated that transgender people sometimes have to pay money for healthcare services that would be provided free to others. "Not everybody knows their rights and what they are entitled to receive from healthcare institutions," Gabodze said. It is the responsibility of every hospital/clinic employee, be they doctor, surgeon, nurse or general staff, to provide the care needed for a patient, yet a human being died because she was denied the proper care any other person would have received in her situation. Physicians swear an oath when they finish their medical studies, namely the Hippocratic Oath, in which it states a physician may not play God: “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play God.” Lika was admitted to Batumi's AIDS and tuberculosis clinic earlier this year when she became too weak from her illnesses to even stand on her own. Lika told the Batumi-based Batumelebi newspaper in an interview on July 4 that doctors were refusing to treat her as a transgender woman, insisting that their patients be treated either as males or females.

Not everybody knows their rights and what they are entitled to receive from healthcare institutions These physicians broke their oath. When Lika was a 6-year-old boy, she was sexually abused by two other boys. She became an active homosexual as a young teenager. At the age of 14, when Lika’s family discovered her sexual orientation, they sent her away to live with relatives in Tbilisi. Those relatives also kicked her out of their home when they discovered her homosexuality. She lived in a Christian Orthodox monastery for about 18 months as an adolescent teenager. It was after she reached adulthood and left the monastery that she became a transgender woman. "For the last few years, I survived by earning money as a sex worker," Lika said. Unfortunately there is no direct punishment for breaking the Hippocratic Oath, although an arguable equivalent is medical malpractice, which carries a wide range of punishments, from legal action to civil penalties.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 24 - 26, 2018

Russia Sends a Rare Signal to China in Tajikistan

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Booking.com Ratings: Tbilisi Ranks 5th Place, Georgia Ranks 18th Place BY ANNA ZHVANIA

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ccording to BM.ge, Georgian hotels in Tbilisi have achieved fifth place in terms of service quality on Booking.com ratings. Shalva Alaverdashvili, Head of Restaurants Association, told BM.ge that Tbilisi ranks number 5, while Georgia ranks 18th place in terms of service level among European cities on Booking.com ratings. He highlighted how Georgian hotels have been on a continuous path of development. Due to the rise of competition on the market, personnel and service quality is of high importance, and attaining such results is a step-forward for the hospitality industry towards further growth. “Georgian hotels have demonstrated eminent outcomes according to last year’s Booking.com results, the achievement of our country’s hotel management,” Alaverdashvili noted.

Source: BM.ge

Afghan Mountains Along the Panj River. Source: farm4.staticflickr.com

BY EMIL AVDALIANI

O

n July 17, the Russian defense ministry announced that approximately 10,000 Tajik troops, alongside soldiers from the Russian 201st military base (located in Tajikistan), would participate in a four-day exercise which began that day. Russian-Tajik exercises are not unusual, usually held near the Tajik-Afghan border or in central parts of Tajikistan. The July 17 exercises, however, were surprisingly held in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO). GBAO has historically been a “mutinous” region, which played a pivotal role in Tajikistan’s civil war of the early 1990s. Russia’s decision to hold exercises in this region is interesting in the light of recent reports of China increasing its activities in GBAO, with the country having reportedly built military facilities on the TajikAfghan border. Chinese security-related moves in Tajikistan form what is generally seen as a part of the Russo-Chinese competition for economic and political influence in Central Asia. Despite intensive cooperation with Russia and China in several important spheres, Tajikistan, very much like Uzbekistan, tries not to side with China, and abstains from joining the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Chinese interests in Tajikistan stem from the latter’s geographic position. The country borders on unstable Afghanistan and shares a common frontier with Uzbekistan, the centerpiece of Beijing’s Central Asian strategy. In light of the perennial threat of instability potentially spilling over from Afghanistan to the Central Asian region, Beijing’s policy has been to support Tajikistan in upholding Tajikistan’s military and security forces. Another reason for Chinese interests in and around Tajikistan has been the separatist movement in Xinjiang, western China. Indeed, Beijing has reasons to be concerned, as Xinjiang remains a problem as Central Asian fighters are returning home from the Middle East. There were already signs of deeper problems. For example, in August 2016, a Uighur national ran a car into the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, before it exploded, leaving several people injured. Trade between the five Central Asian states and China grew to $30 billion in 2016, compared with

$18.6 billion between the region and Russia. From this perspective, with the decision to hold the recent exercises in GBAO, Russia might have sent a subtle signal to China about the latter’s growing interests in Tajikistan. On the surface though, Russia has been quite positive about China’s ambitious, multi-billion “One Belt, One Road” project. Although, quite naturally, China’s growing economic influence would put Russia under pressure, Russian politicians have generally avoided to comment negatively on the Chinese influence in Central Asia. Moscow’s strained relations with Europe in recent years have encouraged the Kremlin look eastward for investments, additional markets for its gas and oil and general political support in the international arena. Moscow would prefer to avoid undermining its close contacts with Beijing, but nevertheless will also make some moves whereby its dominant military position in Central Asia is further strengthened. Russia has a military base in Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, there have been some reports that Moscow plans to open a second military base.

A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE From a more global perspective, the Russians see that the current US-China trade disagreements in fact represent a first grave sign of coming disagreements between these two economic powerhouses. Chinese and American geopolitical imperatives clash, and trade is one of them. In the long term, this competition might evolve into a battle for Eurasia. Russia’s position will be crucial, and the Russians understand this. They also understand that Russia might be at the center of a geopolitical bargaining in which Beijing and Washington both try to entice Moscow. In this grand strategic view, it is still early to mark Russia as a second-rank power. Russia is definitely weaker than the US and China, but Russia could nevertheless achieve many concessions if Washington and Beijing clash (not necessarily directly militarily). It is also true that Europe is scoring some significant points in parts of Eurasia where Russia has been dominant for centuries. Nevertheless, the US and China could give up on some of their interests in favor of Moscow in order to get Russia on their side. World geopolitics is currently evolving around the current US-China competition over Eurasia, and Russia can gain much in the post-Soviet space if it sides with one of them.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1068 Business  

July 24 - 26, 2018

Issue #1068 Business  

July 24 - 26, 2018

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