The FINANCIAL — The Georgian Government must be clever and not agree to a long-term contract with GazProm. Short-term deals, however, do not seem as concerning to Bruno Bernard, lobbyist at the European Parliament and expert for the Euro Commission. Maintaining neutrality, less dependence on the big players, and developing small industries are the main solutions for the economic development of Georgia.
“Energy is a poker game. It depends on the global situation. Everything can change in three years. Lots of gas has been found off Egypt as well as in Cyprus. So, perhaps in three to five years Georgia will also start importing gas from Cyprus. The issue is that business and politics must be separated. Georgia can have as many suppliers as it wants. Previously we had only the leading player, now we have lots of them. Today you can have a contract with Gazprom for one or two years. The Georgian Government must be clever not to make a long term contract. So, in the event of clever thinking and strategic planning, like in poker, you can make short term contracts with Russia,” Bruno Bernard, Professor and Accredited Lobbyist at the European Parliament, and Expert for the European Commission, told The FINANCIAL.
“As a small country Georgia is a small consumer. The bigger the player you are, the bigger risk you have. If you were like Poland, in the middle of nothing and you need energy for forty million people, it would be easy to control you. Luckily, Georgia is a country of 3.5 million people, bordered by Turkey and Azerbaijan, which have gas resources,” said Bernard.
Bernard was an adviser on Eastern countries to French President Jacques Chirac. He is the author of 22 books, which have been translated into 12 languages. Bernard’s leading book is ‘Easy Export for SME’. It is more of a practical handbook than an academic edition. Currently he is working on his book ‘Easy Export for SME in Georgia’. It will be published next year in the Georgian language.
The FINANCIAL met Professor Bernard in Tbilisi and asked him for his views regarding topical issues in Georgia. Bernard was invited in Georgia by Caucasus University (CU). At CU he was awarded with an honorary doctoral degree. “I will be involved in the University and will be visiting twice a year as an adviser, in order to give suggestions regarding various fields. The Georgian people are very clever but sometimes they do not know which direction to choose,” he said.
Maintaining neutrality, playing with everybody, and being less linked to the big players are crucial for encouraging Georgia’s economic development and solving the poverty level. “Politics and business are not the same thing. We recall that AmCham Russia’s President recently stated in his interview with your newspaper that Russia was, is and will be an attractive place for the US. The US considers Georgia a very interesting market. On its side Russians are quite open with Georgia because of tradition and proximity.”
As Bernard added, he sees the importance of developing small industries in Georgia. “That is why I am here,” he added. “The more small industries Georgia has, the more educated its citizens will be, and the country will easily manage to adapt to markets.”
“Unique” – is how Bernard characterized Georgia’s organic products which he himself and his wife have tasted in Georgia. “Georgia mostly focuses on exporting products to its neighbouring countries. In the event of entering EU markets the margin could be a hundred more. Local people know that their products are organic but they do not know the price difference. Young Georgian students have a good opportunity to become successful entrepreneurs. They now have everything they need to start a business. The only thing they have to change is their mindset, to have a new way of thinking. I would rather be a young guy in Georgia than in Belgium, my home country,” he said.
Since the trade embargo between Russia and the EU, European producers have faced problems of overproduction. However, as Bernard said, currently the problem is resolved. So there are no barriers for Georgian exporters in the EU in this regard.
“I was very astonished. Last September it was a disaster. However, right now EU companies have reacted quickly and found new markets to replace Russian consumers with. Currently the Russian market has been fully replaced with other markets for EU and US exporters.”
“The global economy is changing too rapidly. We know what happened with VV. German quality, being built for 50 years, has fallen down in just a week,” Bernard added.
Industrial creativity is what Georgia can offer to the whole world, believes Bernard. As he said, Georgians have a global perspective. Other people are mostly focused on knowledge of a specific field. “Georgia is an exception. Georgians do not concentrate on a specialization in one narrow field. The problem in the US and Europe is that while people are growing up they specialize in just one direction, then after twenty years people become old-fashioned and have no value on the market. When abroad if I happen to be introduced to very clever people, who are good specialists and can find solutions to anything, they are definitely from Georgia.”
“Young Georgians are not obliged to escape to abroad from Georgia. They can stay here and maximise a business, making a maximum amount of money. Georgia has a legal system, which is in itself a new way of working. For example, when we build an airbus in Europe we do not need any specific factory for that as the pieces come from everywhere. So, Georgia can produce pieces for airbus here in Tbilisi. It is the same for web development. You can make an application and succeed from here. There is no need to be in New York or Paris to succeed. Starting a new life abroad wastes over five years of one’s life while attempting to build a new environment,” the Professor suggested.
“The truth is that every country is more prone to accepting new ideas from foreigners than from locals. There is a kind of charm to a stranger, which really applies everywhere,” he added.
The main problem of Georgians is their low self-confidence. As Bernard said, they consider themselves to be representatives of a small nation. They do not feel proud of themselves. However, he suggests that as a result of globalization, the centre of the world can be anywhere. “If Australia can be a centre of the world in a specific field, then the Caucasus can also be a centre of the world. I am from Belgium and the attitude of our people towards themselves is the same. Indeed every country has its place in the world. The only thing people have to do is to go fight,” Bernard told The FINANCIAL.