Issue no: 838/24
• APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... CiDA Hosts International Conference on Promoting CSR in Georgia PAGE 3
Are Working Women Happy Women? View from the Greater Caucasus ISET PAGE 4
THE GOLD IN THE FLEECE
The revival of the shearing industry, with the help of Caritas Czech Republic and a Slovakian expert
Tourism Administration and IDS Borjomi Sign Memorandum BY ANA AKHALAIA
he Georgian mineral water company IDS Borjomi Georgia has signed a Memorandum of Partnership with the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) and presented the first international gastronomic portal gastroguide.borjomi.com/ge. General Director of IDS Borjomi Georgia, Zaza Kikvadze, and Head of GNTA, Giorgi Chogovadze signed the Memorandum according to which IDS Borjomi is ready to contribute to the development of the country’s tourism. Continued on page 2
FINCA Bank Georgia First SMART Certified Financial Institution in Georgia PAGE 7
Walsh, SDSU: Georgia Needs More Involvement from the Private Sector PAGE 9
Canadian and Korean Delegations Talk Investment Potential in Georgia PAGE 10 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
STOCKS BankofGeorgia(BGEOLN) GHG(GHGLN) TBCBank(TBCBLI)
COMMODITIES CrudeOil,Brent(US$/bbl) GoldSpot(US$/OZ)
APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
New Double-Decker Swiss Trains to Ensure Traveler Comfort this Summer BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
eorgia is becoming an ever-more favorable and friendly environment for travelers, both local and foreign, increasingly offering new comfort and choice. Georgian Railway is stepping up its own services, considering the high demand of Georgia’s Black Sea resorts in the summer, with the intention of putting into operation four new double-decker trains from the Switzerland Stadler Rail AG Company this July. “The four new trains are equipped with all modern equipment and ultramodern security systems, which fully meet European standards. What’s more, they will be the first trains in Georgia to fully meet the needs of people with disabilities, something that is really important for us,” said representatives of Georgian Railway. The new trains will operate from Tbilisi to various Black Sea resort cities, like Batumi, Kobuleti and Ureki. Moreover, the trains will not stop at
other stations along the way, so allowing faster travel and more comfort for passengers. Each new train will be able to service about 530 passengers at once and reach a maximum speed of 160 km/h. And while the trains will now be of European standard, Georgian Railway says it has no plans to raise the cost of tickets. At present, a ticket from Tbilisi to Batumi costs 19-26 GEL. Georgian Railway claims they were able to buy trains at relatively low rates. “The reason for this was that in the railway sector we are seeing a decline in demand, which has led to lower prices,” said Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Director General of Georgian Railway. “We are grateful to the Stadler Company for understanding our situation and adjusting their prices accordingly.” Stadler is a leader in its field. They will provide the KISS train model for Georgia, which is available in both the S-Bahn train and the long-distance train variants (Intercity and inter -regional transportation). Moreover, Georgian Railway noted, the staff working on the new trains will be trained in Europe in order to ensure the expected high standard of service.
EU Foreign Ministers Support Immediate Visa-Free Regime for Georgia and Ukraine BY TAMAR SVANIDZE
uropean foreign ministers from the Baltic States, Nordic countries and Visegrad Group members the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have called for immediately granting visa-free travel to Georgia and Ukraine. At a meeting in the Latvia’s Baltic Sea resort town Jurmala on Friday the ministers discussed multiple security issues and reiterated the importance of maintaining unity and solidarity amongst all EU members amid rapidly increasing tensions with Russia and the ongoing migrant crisis. The group also stressed that the EU’s Eastern Partnership
policy should top Brussels’ agenda for the time being. “The ministers confirmed their readiness to continue bolstering the implementation of the Association Agreements with Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova and emphasized that cooperation with other partner countries should develop in conformity with the differentiation principle,” the Latvian Foreign Ministry said in a prepared statement. The European Commission announced early last week that Ukraine had met its criteria for visa liberalization. Georgia expects its visa-free regime with the EU to come into force by June. In December 2015, the European Commission proposed that the Council of the European Union and the EU Parliament lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens within six months.
Tourism Administration and IDS Borjomi Sign Memorandum Continued from page 1 The main goal of a new Georgian gastronomic portal created by IDS Borjomi is to encourage tourism, and gastronomic tourism in particular, by highlighting and promoting Georgian cuisine. “Borjomi is a flagship brand of Georgia’s export sales,” Kikvadze said. “Development of tourism and especially regional tourism in Georgia will further help to promote and increase awareness of Georgian products, including Borjomi, in foreign countries. Tourists are attracted to the Georgian cuisine; Borjomi and the Georgian Feast are inseparable concepts. That's why we decided to push the issues of regional gastronomy and thus encourage regional tourism.” The website is trilingual - Georgian, English and Russian. The company will promote the website,
as well as Georgian cuisine, in local and strategic markets, such as Ukraine, the Baltic States, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Many new and exciting recipes, news, and information about gastronomic trends will be added to the website over time. Tourists are always interested to see the production process of the legendary mineral water Borjomi with their own eyes and the company IDS Borjomi Georgia is ready to set up special tours to the Borjomi bottling factory. Borjomi is a brand of naturally carbonated mineral water from springs in the Borjomi Gorge of central Georgia. Borjomi is exported to over 40 countries. IDS Borjomi Georgia is a part of IDS Borjomi International, the biggest producer of natural mineral water and a market leader in bottled natural mineral waters in the CIS and the Baltics.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
CiDA Hosts International Conference on Promoting CSR in Georgia the socially vulnerable. Zsolt Dudas, International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Chief Technical Adviser in Georgia, concentrated on labor rights. Dudas incorporated child labor themes, announcing that a survey being carried out by ILO in Georgia on Child Labor will be released shortly. Michael Cowgill, Vice President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, gave his input on investors’ expectations while seeking business opportunities in Georgia. Cowgill offered a pyramid model for business and CSR relations, naming profitability as the central topic for most businesses.
BY ZVIAD ADZINBAIA
he Civil Development Agency (CiDA) hosted a two-day international conference on Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Georgia on April 22-23 in the Hotel Tbilisi Marriott, bringing together over 100 Georgian and foreign delegates around the subject of CSR in a conference co-organized by Global Compact Network Georgia and the Human Rights Secretariat of the Georgian Government Administration. Invited foreign speakers included Corporate Sustainability and Business Ethics Experts from the Headquarters of Ericsson and TeliSonera Group, Chief of Local Networks at the United Nations Global Compact, New York office, and a Delegation from the Global Compact Network Poland. The themes of international standards in corporate sustainability, international and Georgian experience in the field, and future perspectives for the development of CSR in Georgia united dozens of speakers from different sectors to offer various approaches on the pressing topic. The conference also touched upon the topics of sustainable development, environmental issues, human rights and business environment with regard to CSR. The conference’s core mission was that of the United Nations Global Compact, which believes that it is possible to create a sustainable and inclusive
Zviad Devdariani, Executive Director of Civil Development Agency (CiDA), welcoming speech. Photo: Gela Bedianashvili
economy that delivers lasting benefits to people, communities and markets. David Jalaghania, a Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, as a panel speaker underlined Georgia’s obligations with the EU in terms of CSR, emphasizing the government’s role in the process as an architect of a proper basis for the system to function well. Applying the local Georgian examples to international CSR practice, Valeri Chekheria, a representative of the
Global Compact Network in Georgia, gave the example of the Rooms Hotel chain in Georgia. Chekheria, who also heads the same chain, spoke of how the business he is involved in contributes to CSR- Rooms in Georgia is wellknown for its hospitality and creativity, but it also works to help those in need. One example was the transferring of the expenses of annual Christmas giftsgiven to Rooms employees and partners- into a financial contribution to
When a business is viable enough and the government gives it opportunities to develop, it is possible to invest in philanthropy which serves to the public good
According to him, when a business is viable enough and the government gives it enough opportunities to develop, it is easier to invest in philanthropy which serves the public good. The audience’s attention was also directed to the topic of creating the proper conditions for physically disabled persons in Tbilisi and Georgia with Giorgi Akhmeteli, the head of ‘Accessible Environment for Everyone,’ a civil society organization that aims to protect the rights of the disabled, warning of the massive breaching of those rights in the country. The representative asked the government to oblige the private sector to fulfill their commitments in terms of giving equal opportunities to all members of society. Corporate Social Responsibility, in other words corporate conscience or responsible business, is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and national or international norms. Sometimes, a firm's implementation of CSR goes beyond compliance and engages in actions that appear to further some social good and beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law. The Conference was supported by the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) ACCESS project though the USAID funding. The United Nations Global Compact and the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia partnered the event.
APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
THE ISET ECONOMIST A BLOG ABOUT ECONOMICS AND THE SOUTH CAUCAUS
The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI, www.iset-pi.ge) is an independent think-tank associated with the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET). Our blog carries economic analysis of current events and policies in Georgia and the South Caucasus region ranging from agriculture, to economic growth, energy, labor markets and the nexus of economics, culture and religion. Thought-provoking and fun to read, our blog posts are written by international faculty teaching at ISET and recent graduates representing the new generation of Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian economists.
Are Working Women Happy Women? View from the Greater Caucasus BY NINO DOGHONADZE, NORBERTO PIGNATTI, KARINE TOROSYAN
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” Aristotle
WHY STUDY HAPPINESS? Already in ancient times philosophers debated the nature of happiness and the recipes for a happy and fulfilling life. Today this question is also hotly debated by scientists and politicians, who are particularly interested in what can be done to increase the happiness of their voters (and citizens, more generally). Happiness has become so important nowadays that four countries: Bhutan, Ecuador, UAE and Venezuela went so far as to employ ministers of happiness! Everywhere around the world, including the West, we now hear proposals to assess public policies not only by looking at the impact they have on standard economic indicators but also on how they affect other aspects of wellbeing. For example, a greater focus on happiness has been recently advo-
cated by UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron. "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money”, he argued, “and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing." This is the motivation behind happiness economics – a new, fast developing field in economics research striving to increase our understanding of what, really, increases individual wellbeing.
DOES WORK FOR PAY MAKE THE SOUTH CAUCASUS WOMEN ANY HAPPIER? We decided to contribute to the happiness literature by providing evidence about happiness and life satisfaction of working women and housewives in the South Caucasus. There are several immediate economic benefits to a society related to greater female participation in the labor market. Not being confined to the traditional role of housewives, women greatly contribute to a country’s development by providing a helping hand with productive activities, be it in services (including IT), agriculture and manufacturing. Additionally, by acquiring professional skills and experience women become less dependent on their spouses and/or society. Finally, having more than one bread winner in a household reduces its vulnerability to negative shocks, thereby reducing the risk of poverty.
These all appear to be very good arguments for policymakers to encourage women to acquire professional skills and enter the labor market. But what if we add women’s happiness to the equation? The first question to ask is how women really feel about entering the labor market. Importantly, work for pay can both enhance and reduce individual happiness of working women. For example, working women may feel quite happy when pursuing own interests and personal fulfillment. Most often, however, paid work does not result from a free (unconstrained) choice, but rather responds to a need. In this case, there are two opposing forces at play. On the one hand, women may be forced to work and earn income in order to satisfy their needs and those of their families. Being able to earn additional income is certainly a good thing, promoting any person’s feeling of happiness. On the other hand, however, paid work outside the household may come on top of whatever activities women have to perform at home (even in the less traditional western societies house chores are mostly performed by women). A woman who ends up working “the second shift”, as Arlie Hochschild put it in 1989, might find it hard to enjoy her job and the extra income that comes with. The increased burden on working women is likely to be especially heavy in traditional societies, in which stereotypical gender roles are still very strongly rooted. The three countries in the South Caucasus are a clear case in point. In both Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, traditional values maintain their sway on households and societies as a whole, leading to a very unequal division of housework and care responsibilities among the genders. With this in mind it is not at all obvious that entering the labor market should always lead to an increase in women’s happiness.
TAKING THE QUESTION TO THE DATA To shed some empirical light on this question we conducted a comparative analysis of happiness and life satisfaction of employed women and housewives in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, using the CRRC Caucasus Barometer data for 2010-2013. In each country we matched working women with comparable housewives (i.e. women with very similar demographic characteristics, like age, number or children, education level, etc.), and tried to understand: 1) which of the two groups seemed happier / more satisfied with life and 2) what seemed to drive the difference in happiness between the two groups. Our findings indicate that there are some curious differences in the way women feel given their employment status. In particular, we find a significantly lower level of happiness among employed women in Armenia (the gap is equivalent to 8% of
the average level of happiness), a milder but still negative effect of employment on the happiness of working women in Azerbaijan (equivalent to 3% of the average level of happiness of women in this country), and a large positive effect of employment on life satisfaction of women in Georgia (equivalent to 15% of the average level of life satisfaction for Georgian women). So, working women appear to be less happy than housewives in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and more satisfied with their lives than Georgian housewives. Further analysis suggests that the differences in the average levels of happiness and life satisfaction across the two groups are mostly driven by extreme cases (women who attain the top or bottom levels of happiness and life satisfaction). For example, Armenian working women are 16% less likely to be very happy compared to Armenian housewives. In other words, work is preventing many Armenian women from attaining the highest level of happiness. On the contrary, we find that working Georgian women are 9% less likely to report extreme dissatisfaction with life compared to Georgian housewives. In Azerbaijan, working women are 3% less likely to be very happy, and are 2% more likely to be very unhappy compared to Azeri housewives.
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT GEORGIA IS DOING BETTER? What are the reasons for the differential impact of employment on working women’s happiness and life satisfaction in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia? Is it due to ethnical and cultural differences? Quality of formal institutions, such a preschool education? Types of jobs available to women in the three countries or any other economic incentives? Understanding what is driving such differences is quite important, especially if the different outcomes are not God-given but rather are driven by institutions, which could be altered through public policies. This is why, in the second part of our research, we tried to disentangle the “country effect” (that is the impact of formal institutions in a country) from the “ethnicity effect” (that is the impact of ethnic norms). To answer this question, we conducted a separate analysis of women of Armenian and Azeri ethnicity living in Georgia. We find no negative effect from being employed among these ethnic groups, suggesting that the negative impact of employment on women’s happiness in Armenia and Azerbaijan might be due to country-specific effects rather than cultural or ethnic factors. What could be these country-specific institutional factors that make Georgia’s working women (regardless of their ethnicity) happier than their peers in Armenia and Azerbaijan? The most likely candidates are the significantly higher pre-school enrollment rate, and higher incidence of part-time work in Georgia. These factors might help minimize the stress of combining household duties with paid work, thus contributing to the feeling of happiness on the part of working women. These, however, are merely educated guesses at the moment. Additional research would be required to determine the true nature of the relationship between public policies, institutions, female labor force participation, and women’s happiness. Armed with this knowledge, countries in the South Caucasus (and not only) would be able to heed to David Cameron’s advice and maximize not only Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but also people’s gross wellbeing (GWB).
Fertility rate, average births per woman (2010)
Gross enrollment ratio in pre-primary education, % (2010)
Share of women in part-time work, % (2003, 2008)
Sources: UNESCO, “Education for all”; World Development Indicators.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Georgia's Export to EU Decreased by 35% in Q1 2016 The share of the CIS countries in the external trade turnover of Georgia constituted 27 percent: 29 percent in exports and 26 percent in imports. Copper ore and concentrates reclaimed the first place in the list of top export items, equalling USD 84 million, or 19 percent of total exports. Exports of Motor cars totalled USD 38 million and its share in the total exports amounted to 9 percent. Other nuts, fresh or dried occupied third place. Exports of this commodity group stood at USD 33 million and 7 percent of the total exports. The top import commodity in Janu-
BY ANA AKHALAIA
n January-March 2016, Georgia's exports to countries of the European Union (EU) decreased by 35 percent compared to the same period of the previous year and amounted to USD 111 million, while imports increased by 28 percent and amounted to USD 601 million, according to the preliminary data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia. The external trade turnover of Georgia with the EU in January-March 2016
amounted to USD 712 million, growing by 11 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. The share of these countries in the external trade turnover of Georgia amounted to 33 percent: 25 percent in exports and 35 percent in imports. The external trade turnover of Georgia with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries decreased by 15 percent compared to January-March 2015 and amounted to USD 574 million. Exports decreased by 26 percent and stood at USD 129 million, while imports decreased by 11 percent and equalled USD 445 million.
ary-March 2016 were medicaments, which amounted to USD 260 million and 15 percent of the total imports. Petroleum gases and other gaseous commodity group followed in the list with USD 124 million, or 7 percent of imports. Motor cars came third with USD 99 million (6 percent of imports). In January-March 2016 share of the top ten trading partners in the total external trade turnover of Georgia amounted to 68 percent. The top trading partners were Turkey (USD 342 million), Ireland (USD 210 million), Russia (USD 185 million) and China (USD 169 million).
APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
The Gold in the Fleece: Remembering Lost Knowledge BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
yths,asthenameimplies, are not real, nor are they necessarily reputed to be accurate accounts of real events – but there is always at least a figment of reality that a myth is borne from. Sadly, unless there is a major archeological discovery, we might never know what the Golden Fleece really was or what it looked like, or whether the epic journey of the Argonauts truly took place (spoiler tags: The dragon wasn’t real, after all!), but there are underlying facts that we can be certain of. First, The Kingdom of Colchis, one of the progenitor’s of modern Georgian ethnos, was an advanced civilization that even Greeks, avid explorers and colonizers that they were, marveled over. Georgia was a civilization, that, among other things, was in possession of the coveted knowledge of “distilling” gold from the depths of the Fasis River, presumably by using sheep hide as some sort of filter for miniscule gold nuggets. A less glamorous fact that a scholar can deduce from this myth is that to have been “masters of gold”, the Colchis first needed to be masters of sheep, as, in order to sustain a sizable “gold-distilling” industry (which, once again, was impressive enough for those much-travelled Greeks) they would need an impressive supply of sheep hide, too. For the Golden Fleece myth to emerge, sheep herding must have been a Geor-
gian practice for millennia. Cradle of wine that it is, Georgia holds a claim to also being one of the earliest of “shepherding peoples”. Fast-forward a few dozen centuries to medieval times- the 13-24th centuries to be precise. Sheep have become one of the staples of the Georgian economy, especially in the mountainous regions. Documents mentioning wool as a product have become common, which serves as an indication to an already well-developed shearing and wool-manufacturing local industry. It is during this time that the endemic Tushetian sheep developed through selective cross-breeding. Of small size but robust, it is well-adapted to the harsh conditions of the land it got its name from, and the nutrient qualities of Tushe-
With the new tools, they’ll be getting a higher quality endproduct and actually see some profit from it
Expert Slovakian shearer, Milan Smolenak, together with Caritas Czech Republic project manager Alec Sumbadze, held shearing master-classes for locals in Vashlovani National Park
tian sheep’s dairy output and meat are well-known. The annual route to Kakhetian grazing fields kept Tusheti economically sustainable for centuries with sheep and wool the key to maintaining the livelihoods in Tusheti and other highland regions. And that setting proved to be extremely durable throughout the centuries. When Georgia became part of the Soviet Union, sheep and wool manufacturing gained an additional organizational boost. Wool was turned into an item of export and was produced en masse. In 1976, for example, 52 thousand tons of wool was produced in Georgia. The cooperative
system, while having its obvious flaws, transformed shearing procedures into a mechanized process, increasing both quality and output. After the fall of the Soviet regime, one would think that with the breeze of the free market economy, wool production would only expand further, but it was not to be- the organizational structure fell through with a government unable to replace or upgrade the Soviet-style cooperatives, the customary (and artificially made) export destinations suddenly disappeared, and the mechanized process of shearing was slowly abandoned.
It’s fair to say that the Georgian sheep industry has a long way to go yet towards full recovery. In 2009, there was a temporary increase of export dimension: the combination of good quality and cheap prices and transportation costs was hard to resist for countries like Iran, Azerbaijan, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE, where Georgian sheep meat replaced its Ukrainian and Brazilian competition. But the increasing demand brought about increased prices and taxation from the State, and struggling to maintain a balance between this and quality (misgivContinued on page 7
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Continued from page 6 ings about sanitary precautions proved to be extremely costly), the Georgian sheep had to concede its place to even cheaper competition. An even sadder fate had befallen Georgian wool production. While theoretically eligible for the huge European market under the coveted spot of animal origin products (the same applies to meat, which could vouch for the indemand bio-food niche), the volume of sales has been progressively negligible. The problem can be narrowed down to a triple-head dilemma: the primitive level of shearing and wool manufacturing, a cost-ineffective local market and limited export capabilities. The latter two stem from the first as the primitive shearing techniques, mostly by hand and mechanical scissors, result in poor quality wool which many herders prefer just to throw away than to toil with. “Shearing became not a means of acquiring wealth, but a way of disposing of unwanted rubbish,” says Evzen Divis, the regional manager of Caritas Czech Republic, a humanitarian aid and development cooperation that has recently launched a series of shearing trainings in Tusheti, spearheaded by shearing pros from countries with a proven track record in quality wool production. “It’s a regrettable situation, really. The prices fell to such a low that it is no longer worthwhile
to process the wool, so most sheep owners just throw it away. Additionally, the manner of primitive shearing results in low quality goods that cannot compete on any market, be it international or domestic. We want to share the knowhow: teach the locals how to use modern equipment and show them proper shearing techniques, too. The way they shear now results in fiber, with all the important part of quality wool being too short. There is also a distinct lack of any sort of organizational structure. So, the Czech Development Agency purchased the necessary equipment and entrusted it to our partners, a local shepherd cooperative. With the new tools, they’ll be getting a higher quality end-product and actually see some profit from it,” Divis concludes. The point is echoed by the shearing guru himself, a Slovakian professional shearer by the name of Milan Smolenak, who, together with project manager Alec Sumbadze, embarked on a journey to Vashlovani National Park to provide some shearing master-classes for locals, an experience he later assessed as “very satisfying”. “When it came down to practice, the beginnings were hard,” he said, as he found out that his “apprentices” lacked both in knowledge of practical application and also that of wool processing nuances. What they lacked in knowledge, however, was soon to be overcome through their motivation. “Initially, par-
ticipants kept making mistakes which resulted in the wool being unusable. However, once they understood the shearing technique properly, it was reflected in really good wool quality, which I was very satisfied with,” Smolenak admitted, hailing the “fortitude” and “humbleness” of Georgian people living in “adverse conditions.” “I feel quite happy about the training impact,” he mused. “The best trainees had very good results, the fleece they produced was of sufficient quality.” A quality that, provided with equally scrupulous processing, could see Georgian wool on European markets in “the near future.” The sentiment is shared by Alec Sumbadze, the Caritas Czech Republic project manager, who is adamant that, with effort, Georgian wool can find its place on shelves abroad. “It’s doable,” he says. “And that’s the only way to get this industry going again – broadening the export area to include Europe. Obviously, that would also solve the aggravating transportation problem – with 1 kg of unprocessed wool costing 60 Tetri, sometimes transportation costs exceed the sales margin. Tushetian wool was taken to London for testing and, though obviously there were some shortcomings, in general they were satisfied with its quality. If the processing chain improves, we can sell wool in Europe. This change won’t happen overnight, but with steps like these, it’s bound to come eventually.” Objective, yet driven, Mr. Sumbadze’s calculations seem well-founded. And apparently, our European partners also find them agreeable: just recently, Georgia was added to the list of third countries that can sell unprocessed wool on the European market. According to the latest bit of news, two Georgian wool production companies were deemed as meeting the required standards by EU quality control structures. And while it’s still early to talk about any sizable volume of exported goods, in the gargantuan task of restoring Georgian wool manufacturing to its former glory it’s those initial small steps that matter most – the basic, forgotten knowledge, remembered now.
FINCA Bank Georgia First SMART Certified Financial Institution in Georgia
Jeff Flowers, FINCA Vice- President and Regional Director for FINCA Eurasia; Vusal Verdiyev, CEO, FINCA Bank Georgia; and Andree Simon, Co-CEO, FINCA Microfinance Holding Company
BY MERI TALIASHVILI
INCA Bank Georgia became the first SMART certified financial institution in Georgia in recognition of its commitment to the best interest of its clients - announced FINCA Bank representatives at a press conference held on April 20th. The SMART Campaign includes seven Client Protection Principles: transparency, responsible pricing, privacy of client data, fair and respectful treatment of clients, mechanisms for complaint resolution, appropriate product design and delivery, and over-indebtedness prevention. FINCA Bank Georgia met all these principles. “Georgia has a very progressive market. The regulators certainly believe in the importance of protecting Georgian clients. So it is an enormous opportunity for FINCA Bank Georgia to represent the mission of FINCA, to take steps forward to make sure that Georgian clients have access to responsible finance,” Andree Simon, Co-CEO, FINCA Microfinance Holding Company told GEORGIA TODAY. FINCA Bank Georgia has been offering responsible financial services to small and medium-entrepreneurs for more than 18 years to build assets create jobs and increase the standard of living. 79%
of total clients are from rural areas, who have potentially limited access to financial services or convenient financial services. Over 80,000 people earn their livelihoods in the businesses that FINCA Bank Georgia finances. In 2013, FINCA Bank Georgia obtained a banking license and since then has been offering a full range of banking services to its clients, including deposits. “We have always held a strong commitment to responsible banking as well as the well-being of our clients. This independent validation lends credibility to our strict internal standards and policies and our commitment to always treat our clients fairly and ethically. We are extremely proud to be the first financial institution in Georgia to receive the SMART Campaign Certificate. FINCA Bank Georgia now joins the exclusive group of 44 financial institutions globally having received the certificate for being leaders in client protection,” Vusal Verdiyev, CEO of FINCA Bank Georgia said at the press-conference. FINCA Bank Georgia is a Joint Stock Company offering financial services to more than 90, 000 clients via 40 branches nationwide. With a loan portfolio of over USD 70 million at the end of 2015, FINCA Bank Georgia is a part of the FINCA Global network, serving nearly 2 million clients in 23 countries with a double bottom line of financial sustainability and social performance.
APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Three Textile Factories to be Opened in West Georgia BY ANA AKHALAIA
hree textile factories are to open in Kutaisi and Poti by the end of the year, according to the Head of the International Investors Association (IIA), Osman Chalishkan. The factories will import raw materials from Turkey, produce clothes and export them to Europe. Chalishkan further announced that the factory will be built in Poti, Georgia’s port city on the Black Sea coast, and will employ 3,000 people. USD 3 million will be invested in the factory, the construction of which will be completed before the parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 8th, 2016.
As for the factories in Kutaisi, the legislative capital of Georgia, investor companies will rent places for two factories to employ 600 people. According to Chalishkan, one of the companies was founded last week and will be operational
in about two months. The second company is now selecting an area for the factory. The factories will not be launched immediately because the companies need to train employees for the first three
months, after which production will begin. International Investors Association (IIA), founded on July 14 of 2009, is an independent, non-governmental organization and one of the largest unions of
investors in Georgia whose members present large companies of different sectors of businesses, including textile industry, food production, construction and construction materials, banking and finance, insurance, and hotels.
UAE’s Green Valley to Launch Two Large-Scale Projects in Georgia BY ANA AKHALAIA
reen Valley International Real Estate Group, one of the largest real estate companies of the United Arab Emirates, is set to launch two large-scale projects in Georgia. Total investment in both projects is USD 300 million. The company will soon obtain permission to create Green Valley City, consisting of villas and apartments, in Tabakhmela, a resort village overlooking the city of Tbilisi. The second project is the construction of two 21-storey towers in Batumi, a Black Sea coastal city in Georgia, which will include apartments, offices and shops. Green Valley City will be located on 88 000 sq. m. Area, 35% of which will be covered with greenery. The project will combine modern architecture in line with the highest environmental standards. The projects will consist of 10 buildings and 510 different types of residential accommodation, including studio and one and two-bedroom apartments. Private houses and luxury class villas will be also included in the project. Green Valley City will introduce various recreational services. It is planned to build swimming pools, tennis courts, halls for
10 Galaktion Street
Green Valley City, consisting of villas, apartments, shops and sports facilities, to be built in Tabakhmela, a resort village overlooking the city of Tbilisi
football and basketball, as well as zones for children, public gardens, Turkish baths, a supermarket, luxury restaurants, cafes and shops. ‘Batumi Towers’ will be the largest real estate project in Batumi. Located in the heart of the city, it will consist of two towers of modern design and will contain a large shopping center. The Towers will have their own access to the Black Sea coast, being the first and only residential complex in Batumi to have its own section of the shore. The buildings will be connected via an underground tunnel.
The complex, one square meter of which will cost USD 1,300 – 1,500, will have restaurants of western and oriental cuisine, two swimming pools, a gym and a sauna. According to the company’s general manager, Ali Saeed Al Salami, Georgia is one of the most attractive places in Europe for the development of the real estate market and has all the necessary aspects, such as the environment, economic and political stability, good infrastructure, a good business climate, an optimal tax system and geographical proximity to the Arab world.
Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Walsh, SDSU: Georgia Needs More Involvement from the Private Sector BY TIM OGDEN
he ways in which to further modernize and develop Georgia dominate the conversations of many of its citizens and the rhetoric of all of its politicians. Some contend that attracting business investments from the United States, China and the UAE is the answer, while others adhere to a vague belief that as soon as Georgia attains membership in the European Union, its economy will somehow fix itself. Yet the unpopular (though infinitely more realistic) opinion that Georgia’s democratic and developed future lies in the education sector is beginning to gain ground amongst the government and the public. After an internal evaluation, the Georgian government found that the country fell behind in its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. Following a previous successful collaboration between Georgia and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which resulted in developed enterprises and rehabilitated infrastructure including the Samstkhe-Javakheti Road, Georgia reached out to them once again in 2013. Tender on one of the biggest higher education projects within the 2nd compact was released across the United States and attracted the attention of San Diego State University, which was ultimately selected for the project in April 2014. “This is Georgia’s second collaboration with MCC, and I think the fact really speaks to the strength of the relationship between the USA and Georgia,” says Dr. Ken Walsh, Dean of San Diego State University Georgia. The mutual benefits of the project also attest to the partnership between Georgia and the US. As well as Georgians now being able to earn American degrees
in their homeland, American STEM students now have a greater opportunity to study abroad. “SDSU became very interested very quickly because one of our strategic priorities is to triple the amount of our students who study abroad,” says Dr. Walsh. “We believe that there are two primary reasons why someone goes to university – one is to learn a body of knowledge, the other is to develop as a person. We strongly believe that personal development is better facilitated by a study abroad experience. One of the challenges we face in sending our students to other countries is that scientists and engineers usually won't go. Those faculties are so specific in their curriculums it can be difficult to find somewhere else where the course content will translate exactly. What we could see about this program was that since we were supposed to offer accredited programs from the USA, it would be a place for our scientists and engineers from our main campus to come and get international experience, but be guaranteed that the course is the same.” Yet the main benefits of SDSU’s presence in Tbilisi will, naturally, apply to
Any story of how universities achieve greatness all over the world is by partnerships with the private sector
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Georgia. The turmoil of the 1990s prevented Georgia from developing effective and available higher education in STEM fields, which resulted in Georgia either having to hire foreign corporations (which proved expensive) or rely on its own graduates from universities with facilities and infrastructure far below international standards (which proved ineffectual). “We're trying to address those issues directly by providing a workforce with an internationally accredited US degree educated here in Georgia,” Dr. Walsh states. Starting from 2015, SDSU offers Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Chemistry/Biochemistry Bachelor of Science programs in Georgia. The trend of Western-educated Georgians is to leave the country and not return, though Dr. Walsh does not believe this problem will prevail amongst SDSU Georgia graduates. “Hundreds of thousands of students come to the US for higher education every year, and about two thirds of them never leave. Once you go through your undergraduate degree, in that time you become a different person and connect with the local industry in your degree field; this is particularly true for STEM fields, due to the ways in which they coordinate with local industry. Students develop a lot of familiarity with where they are, especially after working internships in the summers and developing personal relationships. With things like that, it is much more likely students will stay where they get their bachelor's degree, so we think it is far more likely that a significant number of our students will stay in Georgia.” Although producing US-educated Georgians is a key aspect of the project, it is not the only way in which SDSU is helping to develop the country’s education sector. “Our real objective here is to improve the infrastructure for higher education
Says Dr. Ken Walsh, Dean of San Diego State University Georgia
in Georgia, which is why we partner with three local universities in Georgia – Technical University, Tbilisi State University and Ilia State University – and we're building our facilities within their campuses. We are also working with their faculty; more than 40 of them have been to San Diego to learn about our teaching methods, technologies and laboratory equipment. Some of them are teaching on our courses right now and there will be more over time, so it will have a jump-start effect with this group of young people who are currently studying with us. This will be magnified by the fact that the infrastructure in these universities has been upgraded very quickly, and those facilities will also become available to students studying outside of the program, as well as students from other universities on a sharing basis.” However, further investment from the private sector remains a critical component for any project of this kind. “There are so many examples all around the world where universities and the private sector work together in many ways; any story of how universities achieve greatness all over the world is by partnerships with the private sector. A key component right now, even though our programs are relatively inexpensive from the perspective of an international
student thinking to go to the USA to get a US degree, they are still expensive in the Georgian reality. The private sector really needs to help us to provide resources in scholarships and for students. It is not entirely a philanthropic exercise because this workforce can ultimately build their companies, and in addition to that help us develop research collaborations involving our students, or internships involving our students, so it can speed this university towards private sector engagement.” So far, SDSU’s involvement with Georgia is proving a resounding success, not least in the performance of its students. “We don't have a lot of experience with Georgian students, we didn’t really know what to expect. What we have discovered is that the students here are very dedicated and very talented. In many ways, they have outperformed their peers at our main campus in San Diego. They say things like 'I want to win the Nobel Prize, I want to transform Georgia’, unlike some of our American students who are hoping to make money have a career. The Georgian students are always pushing for what else they can do more.” The lack of available higher-education facilities is a frequent cause for complaint amongst Georgians; MCC and SDSU have now set a precedent for success that will hopefully be followed.
APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Canadian and Korean Delegations Talk Investment Potential in Georgia BY EKA KARSAULIDZE
wo foreign delegations visited Georgia separately to meet with high officials last week, with the investment potential of the country the hot topic. Canadian and Korean authorities appreciated the progress of Georgia and recognized the favorable field for investment and tourism potential in the region. Investors from Westwood International Advisors, a privately-owned investment management firm, visited Georgia at the beginning of the week and found satisfaction with the current business climate in Georgia, especially with the focus on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and on the on-going work to create a transparent investment environment. “We came to Georgia to understand and learn about what drives and motivates the people of Georgia to progress,” said Patricia Perez-Coutts, Senior Vice President of Westwood International Advisors. “The peacefulness of this environment is absolutely remarkable and we will certainly encourage everyone to travel here and to understand what Georgia is all about.
The delegation of Korea's National Assembly visited Georgia to discuss the importance of deepening relations between the two countries
We look forward to returning here and seeing the progress made to open up the capital markets; the progress made towards the pension fund reform, as
well as the progress for SMEs.” Later in the week, the delegation of Korea's National Assembly also visited Georgia and highlighted the impor-
tance of deepening relations between the two countries. The Chairman of the Assembly, Chung Ui-hwa, said Georgia could attract the attention of
the whole world and become an exemplary country for reform, democracy and business. He also expressed the desire to share Korea’s experience with Georgia. “Korea is a very important global player in many areas, and we are pleased that the relations between our countries become deeper and deeper. We have achieved industrial development in the shortest period of time thanks to assistance from other countries. Now we will try to share this assistance with others,” said Ui-hwa. Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, thanked the delegation estimation and welcomed Korean investments. He highlighted a 1 billion USD investment which Korea recently launched in Georgia’s energy sector whereby its national water company ‘K Water’ is to build the Nenskra HydroElectric Power Plant in the Upper Svaneti region in western Georgia. Foreign trade turnover between Georgia and the Republic of Korea amounted to more than 13.8 million USD for the fi rst quarter of 2016. During 2015, imports amounted to about 50.5 million USD. Georgia exported to the Republic of Korea production of 600 thousand USD in the first three months of this year, and about 3.5 million USD for the entire year last year.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
5-Star Hotel Construction to be Launched in Ganmukhuri, West Georgia
BY ANA AKHALAIA
he construction of a 5-star hotel is to start in Ganmukhuri, a village on the Black Sea coast close to Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia. The construction company of the hotel, Black Sea Rivera, held a meeting with local government officials at which the representatives of the company introduced the project and discussed technical details, including water supply, electricity and gas communications resources. Georgian real estate developer Black Sea Rivera won an electronic auction held by Georgia’s Economy and Sustainable Development Ministry on March 30th, for 33,951 square meters of non-agricultural land and buildings with a market value
of GEL 2,263,500. The company plans to build a 120-room hotel complex which will also comprise indoor and outdoor swimming pools, football pitches, playgrounds and tennis courts. Parking space for at least 35 vehicles and a landscaped yard will also be included. The project will be developed over a period of five years, with total investments amounting to 10 million GEL. The project is expected to create hundreds of jobs in the region, develop tourism and attract more investments to Georgia’s north-western Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region. Locals will be trained before completion of construction for employment in the hotel. The company plans to present the full project of the hotel and its surrounding infrastructure in the near future.
Contact: www.edelbrand.ge Phone: 599 461908
APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
PASHA Bank – US Congressman Wants Special Partner State Dept., Banks to of Golden Brand Freeze Ivanishvili’s Assets 2015 Awards BY TAMAR SVANIDZE
heGoldenBrand2015annual awards ceremony was held in Radisson Blu Iveria with PASHA Bank as the special partner of the ceremony for the second consecutive year. Golden Brand is considered to be the most prestigious and influential annual business award in Georgia and since 2006 it has been awarding locally operating companies for various achievements. As per tradition, the ceremony was attended by representatives of leading companies. Among the special guests were governmental and diplomatic corps representatives. Shahin Mammadov, CEO at PASHA Bank, addressed the guests and once
again underlined the Bank’s readiness to contribute to the development and growth of local business. Mr. Mammadov awarded a Golden Brand prize to winning companies: - Elit Electronics - Ipkli - Georgian coffee producer Cherry - Laboratory My Home - Aspria - Gas stations network Formula Gas “We are glad to have the opportunity to be partners of the Golden Brand Awards for the second time. We believe that this annual event serves all the winners and nominees as additional motivation to develop their business and achieve more. PASHA Bank gladly supports such initiatives,” said Shahin Mammadov.
ongressman Steve Russell, on the floor of the US House of Representatives Thursday, warned that Georgia’s upcoming October elections are under a fundamental threat from the corrupt influence of Russia. In his short speech, the Republican congressman said Russia remained Georgia’s greatest security threat and demanded that the United States Treasury Department and the West’s largest banks freeze Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s vast financial assets for having carried out Moscow’s plan to destabilize the country. “Since Georgia reasserted her independence from Russia in 1991, the country’s struggles have not been easy,” Russell said.
Bidzina Ivanishvili is the main player in the Kremlin’s infiltration strategy
Congressman Steve Russell demands that the US Treasury Department and the West’s largest banks freeze Georgia’s former PM’s vast financial assets for having carried out Moscow’s plan to destabilize the country
Russell said Russia attempts to maintain influence over the post-Soviet space by undermining the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and the three Baltic countries through economic and military pressure as well as via proMoscow governments that are keen to advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to strengthen Moscow’s grip over territories it once controlled. Russell was quick to single out Ivanishvili as one of Putin’s most trusted allies in the region. In echoes of the fraudulent 2003 elections that led to Georgia’s Rose Revolution and the ouster of pro-Russian President Eduard Shevardnadze, Russell accused the Kremlin of using Ivanishvili as an agent charged with guaranteeing that the October parliamentary elections go Moscow’s way. Ivanishvili - the country’s richest man, worth an estimated USD 5 billion - has been dogged by accusations that he is
a pro-Russian politician. Though born into poverty in western Georgia’s Imereti Region, Ivanishvili spent most of his adult life in Moscow where he made his vast fortune in the chaotic privatization period immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite having returned to Georgia nearly a decade ago, Ivanishvili retains close ties to his former associates in Moscow’s private and government sector. “Russia has tried to infiltrate Georgia’s political process by establishing proMoscow proxies in the government. They expect them to hand over everything to the Kremlin on a silver platter. Bidzina Ivanishvili is the main player in the Kremlin’s infiltration strategy. He is a close ally of Vladimir Putin and has been charged with finding a way to rig the election like in 2003. They’ll try to buy votes and marginalize Georgia’s political opposition to achieve their goals,” Russell said.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Post What You Say: Topishare Overcoming Hurdles of Other Social Networks Topishare is the first social network globally to offer users the innovative audio-posting. The newly launched social network combines the power of social networks and the idea of forums,
and was launched March 3rd. It currently has over 200 kingdoms, and a daily growing user base. Join Topishare now at https://topishare.com or contact Inge at email@example.com
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ave you ever struggled to write down exactly what you want to say and noticed it comes more natural when you just ‘say’ it? It is obvious that social networks are great for people who can write well, but not so much for those who are less confident in their writing. The new social network Topishare, headquartered in Tbilisi, is the first social network to give you the possibility to record and post what you say instantly, next to regular text, picture, and video posting. The idea for audio posting came from Topishare’s founder Rotem Peled (COO), who all her life had felt frustrated that she was unable to express herself well in writing due to her dyslexia. “The only way you can express yourself on social media is by writing, and when I really had some-
thing to say about something, I couldn’t. Or it would take me forever. I got mad at myself, but it isn’t really my fault,” Rotem says. She realized that persons with disabilities have a major disadvantage in today’s most powerful way to connect, express yourself, and even find jobs. So, how does audio-posting work? It’s very simple. You can click on the record button (like you would on a picture icon if you want to share photos), record what you say, play it back –if you want, and press the publish button. Your audio post appears in the group as a regular post, and people can comment on it. Besides audio-posting, the Topishare team is working hard to develop new features so everyone can share on Topishare. “It’s not fair that a large part of the world’s population can’t use social networks because of the hurdles. But they have great things to say and we want to give all people a voice, and we will continue to work hard to make this possible,” Rotem says.
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APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Smart Supermarket Introduces German Techniques in Local Bread Baking Australian Company Plans to Export Georgian Oil to China BY ANA AKHALAIA
Soso Pkhakadze, Wissol Business Group President, with Smart bakers
eorgian supermarket chain Smart has invited German bakery product developer expert Ulrich Lenarz to hold master classes in German baking styles and technique with local bakers. According to Smart’s press office, customers will soon see a more diverse and sophisticated line of in-house baked products. Smart already offers more than 20 varieties of breads, flavored with sunflower, white and black sesame seeds, oat flakes,
wheat or buckwheat oats. “The classes will give local bakers the opportunity to learn European baking standards and develop their own techniques and adopt them to modern trends. This will give them the chance to offer customers more diverse products. I hope our loyal customers will be excited by this news,” Wissol Business Group President Soso Pkhakadze said. Wissol Group launched the Smart Supermarket chain in 2010. The company currently has 16 outlets across the country.
ustralian company Skyland Petroleum plans to export oil and gas from Georgia, Tajikistan and Russia to China in 2016. According to the company’s Management Board Chairman, David Robinson, Skyland plans to buy the stocks of several mines in Russia and eastern Siberia that transfer energy resources through the ‘Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean’ and ‘Siberian Power’ pipelines to China's provinces. In addition to Russia, Skyland Petroleum owns mine licenses in Tajikistan and Georgia. In particular, the company has acquired a 20 percent stake in Georgia’s Block XIG. Skyland will work in collaboration with a local partner, Georgia Oil and
Gas Limited (GOG), who are the majority owners and operators with 60 percent interest in the field. Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, a state entity, also have a financed conversion of just over 20 percent of the project. Block XIG covers an area of 289 km2 and is located on the outskirts of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, close to the oil producing oil fields of Samgori, Teleti and west Rustavi. Negotiations are underway and an agreement with the project’s investors is to be signed within a month, after which the exploration process in the area of operations will begin. “Preliminary research suggests that it is a promising area, however, it is necessary to determine the reserves of energy sources and how its extraction is commercially substantiated with the existing technologies,” said Mikheil Dalakishvili, representative of GOG
Ltd. “Several sample wells have already been drilled, but we need to drill a few more. It’s impossible to make a 100 percent prediction on the reserve capacity. We were able to reach a 90 percent agreement with the partners and are likely to begin explorations in the summer if we have good results. That would make it possible to begin exporting next year.” Georgia Oil & Gas Limited has a net acreage position of 6,500 km2 with working interests in 9 Production Sharing Contracts (‘PSCs’) in Georgia. Skyland Petroleum is an oil and gas exploration and production company established in January 2015 by British company Vazon Energy. It is actively seeking suitable projects in line with the company's mission of supplying the growing economies of East Asia, where the company's financial partners are based. Source: Europe for Georgia
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 26 - 28, 2016
Working Women: The Kings, or Queens, of the Kitchen Tekuna Gachechiladze, celebrity chef and owner of the Culinarium restaurant and Culinary Academy
BY TIM OGDEN
he difficulties women encounter in equal employment opportunities afflict even the world's most developed countries; women are almost universally paid lower wages than men. Many industries are also dominated by men, making it difficult for many women to gain a foothold. Despite the global male-espoused stereotype of women belonging in the kitchen, few professional chefs are female, and women frequently encounter obstacles when trying to break into the culinary industry. This is equally true in Georgia, a country which already suffers from chronic sexism issues in society. Tekuna Gachechiladze, a celebrity chef and owner of the Culinarium restaurant and Culinary Academy, recalls her early difficulties in breaking into the business in New York. “Being a chef is a far more physically demanding job than people realise. When things get tough, you can't complain; they'll just deride you for being a woman and won't take you seriously. They've seen a lot of women try and do their job and quit, so you have a lot to prove. But New York was the perfect place to start my career – I originally trained as a psychologist – even though American chefs were very aggressive in their work, far more aggressive than Georgian chefs I've worked with. But if you don't complain, get on with it and do a good job, you'll be accepted eventually.” Gachechiladze believes that it is the physical strain of the job that dissuades many women from attempting to embark on a career in the food industry, and the doubt that many male chefs have that women can handle it. “It's a very stressful job, and to be honest men seem to be able to cope with it better. Physically at least, women are weaker, and when things get difficult many also don't have the mental strength to keep going.” Yet she thinks that women – especially Georgian women – have the potential to replicate her success and work as pro-
fessional chefs in their homeland and abroad. “On the whole I think that Georgian women are more independent than Georgian men, so I think the ability to be individually successful comes more naturally to Georgian females. We adapt more easily; I really can't imagine a Georgian man putting up with the difficulties I had in New York.” It is this adaptability that has led to her becoming a successful entrepreneur, owning a renowned cooking school and restaurant, as well as starring in a cookery programme which bears her name. Innovation and doing things in a unique fashion are also keys to her success, she claims; anyone familiar with Georgian restaurants visiting Culinarium (Lermontov Str. 1, Tel: 32 2 43 01 03) will find it difficult to disagree with her. Designed to resemble a homely kitchen, the central communal table and charming décor make a stark contrast to the uniform appearance of most Tbilisi eateries. Yet despite its originality, Culinarium was not initially a hit with Georgian people. Reluctance to try an experimental cooking school only operating as a restaurant twice a week and owned by a woman was a significant challenge facing Gachechiladze at first, but this has been gradually overcome, mostly thanks to the quality of her gourmet dishes. “Originally, I didn't have many Georgian guests, but now Georgians are enjoying my restaurant too, which is an encouraging sign. It makes me feel good because it's part of my own private war against social fundamentalism, which I think is a big problem in this country. The spirit to try something new isn't found too often here; Georgians are usually afraid of new things, but I'm happy that this slowly seems to be changing.” Keti Bakradze, another celebrity chef and owner of The Dining Room restaurant (Paliashvili Str. 38, Tel: 0322 25 09 00), attributes her own success to her strength of character and her hands-on approach to business. “I put it down to my personality and mentality. I think you have to be a bit rough and ready to succeed as a woman in this business,” she says. “You also have to keep control. I don't appoint a chef in my restaurant, I do everything myself. It's hard work, but I don't trust anyone else to run my kitchen.” For her, a thorough understanding of the culinary business is also essential. “Oftentimes they just don't understand the industry well enough to get the best produce to sell in their restaurants. To be honest, that's true for both men and
women. There's lots of problems with both wine and food quality in some restaurants, mostly because people try to run things far too cheaply and aren't prepared to pay for quality.” Residents of Tbilisi have long become accustomed to the sight of restaurants and bars opening and closing every month, the names and logos changing, the poor service and predictable menus remaining the same. Bakradze attributes this to a simple lack of understanding of the industry. “They just have no ability to plan for the future, and this is where it all falls down,” she says. “Nobody has any longterm plans; everyone wants to make money quickly and in the easiest way. I've been meticulous in doing exactly the opposite, and I think that has been one of the keys to my success.” The Dining Room has been open since 2008, a long time for a Tbilisi restaurant to remain open and successful, and a testament to Bakradze's business philosophy; so, too, are her soon-to-be open bistro and delicatessen on Tapidze Street. For women to succeed in the culinary industry, it seems that perseverance in the face of challenges is the key, whether it be in the form of Gachechiladze's liquid adaptability and original ideas or Bakradze's inexorable efficiency and business brain. As Gachechiladze herself says, “I'm a strong feminist, and I think that Georgian women have a lot of potential to succeed in this business. I would love to see more Georgian women in our kitchens. They just shouldn't give up.” The success of Culinarium and The Dining Room are gourmet restaurants are testaments to the heights that Georgian women can reach in the culinary industry, as well as proof that the sex of the chef in the kitchen truly does not matter; quality is king.
Keti Bakradze, celebrity chef and owner of The Dining Room restaurant
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