The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Georgia is creating an online platform to connect finance seekers and investors worldwide.
Chairman of the ICC Georgia Fady Asly said that ICC is returning to its normal pace of operations with new projects.
“One of the most interesting upcoming projects is the creation of an online platform on which seekers of investors and finances for projects will be able to post their projects”, said Asly.
Meanwhile, this month a meeting of all ICC committees is planned to discuss further initiatives.
“The team is working on a new IC Commerce magazine, which will be released in September”, said Asly.
In an interview with Golden Brand, Asly touched on recent developments in Georgia, how the global coronavirus crisis has affected the country and how the government handled the situation.
Georgia has been praised by global health leaders, as well as the international media, for its efforts in successfully containing the spread of the novel coronavirus. What are your impressions about Georgia’s efforts in fighting the pandemic?
Georgia responded quickly to the threat of the virus and contained it with very limited damage; as a matter of fact, as of today the total number of deaths is just 15.
The terrible problem that we are facing now is that Georgia has trapped itself into its own success story and the authorities are unwilling to open up the country unlike every other country, including those who suffered a very large death toll per million inhabitants.
Georgia depends on tourism for a very large part of its economy; as a matter of fact, the ratio of income from tourism to GDP is the highest in Europe and in the region.
Keeping the borders closed to maintain the dividends of the COVID crisis management results, means total economic suicide for the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, thousands of businesses are unable to sustain themselves anymore and have closed their operations or will do so very soon, crippling the economy this way is simply irresponsible and criminal.
Donor organizations are offering $3 billion to assist Georgia in the battle against the coronavirus crisis. This is a long-term loan for Georgia. Georgia’s external debt will increase in this quarter. How would you assess the government’s steps to attract financial resources from donor organizations?
Borrowing from international financial institutions or governments is a double edged sword that on one hand solves very short term problems but in the medium and long term, the implications can be very negative on the economy and the health of public finances.
A much more effective measure to revive the post-covid economy would be to attract foreign direct investments, however, this government has totally undermined in the past eight years the image of the country as a friendly destination for foreign investments, and as long as this government will be in power there is little hope to see a serious flow of foreign investors coming to the country.
What about the government’s anti-crisis plan – is this assistance for business enough? Could the government create a better plan, assist citizens better as well as businesses? How satisfied is business with this assistance?
The Georgian government has very limited financial capacity to assist the private sector. Despite that, we believe the proposed package of 3.5 billion GEL is not what the business community has been asking for.
Several business organizations have sent a letter to the prime minister requesting a delay in the payment of VAT until one month after import.
The government borrows money from businesses when VAT is paid at customs point, we only asked the government in those very challenging times for businesses not to borrow money from us! Despite that, the government refused to agree to the only request that we had.
It is as if you ask your spouse what do they want as a present, they ask for a watch and you offer them instead a juicer for the kitchen, this is what the government has done!
In addition, if you look into the assistance package, we didn’t find much financial contribution from the government, most of it is delayed tax payments and requests to banks to facilitate credit to businesses.
How would you assess the results of eight years of the Georgian Dream party in power?
In two words? Heart breaking!
Bidzina Ivanishvili has destroyed everything he could destroy of what Saakashvili’s team had built in nine years, whether material or institutional, for the sake of illustration I will just give you a few examples:
1. Material: Prohibiting both Presidents Margvelashvili and Zurabishvili from using the Presidential Palace; decommissioning the Parliament in Kutaisi; Freezing the two “jugs” in Rikhe Park; Intention to dismantle the Peace Bridge (not implemented); Scrapping Anaklia Port and city development (Lazika); Stopping the railway by-pass that was almost finished.
2. Institutional: Boosting corruption; Developing bureaucracy; Increasing criminality and allowing thieves in law to operate; Encouraging nepotism; Discouraging foreign investors; Crippling the independence of the legislative and of the executive.
In short, Ivanishvili’s eight-year legacy was the destruction of Saakashvili’s nine-year legacy.
If we are lucky now and we will manage to have a proper government in October, Georgia will need to begin rebuilding its institutions from where they were in 2004.
Saakashvili’s government behaved like a real dictatorship in its last years in power, however, we should never forget that when they came to power, Georgia was a totally failed state.
Saakashvili’s team built the country from scratch, roads, bridges, restoring the old town, Agmashanabeli Avenue, Signaghi, building Batumi, Mestia, Tbilisi Airport, Kutaisi Airport and Parliament, Justice house(s), Rikhe Park, the Peace Bridge, the Presidential Palace, Rabati Fortress and others, the list is endless...people were making fun of Saakashvili for even building fountains in squares...
Maybe someone can enlighten us and inform us about Ivanishvili's government landmarks that were built in the past eight years? They couldn't even finish the Tbilisi highway to Poti that was started under the previous government!
How will the coronavirus change the business environment in Georgia in your opinion?
It all depends on the government approach, if they will continue making people panic and striving to protect their reputation as good crisis managers, the prospects are very bleak and the country will totally collapse economically, we have to open up and learn to live with the virus like any other disease. If we do so, we could get back to normal.