The FINANCIAL — How would you define the PR image of Georgia from an investment point of view? What if you were an investor planning to invest in Georgia, which sectors would you chose for higher return on investment? Or would you invest in general?
“The PR image of Georgia can be defined in two ways: one is an independent PR image of Georgia – how attractive the country is for investors, and the other is the image of Georgia in the regions,” says George Chirakadze, President and CEO of UGT.
“Georgia has a better image in comparison to its neighbour countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Southern Russia. It is much easier to start business in Georgia than in Armenia and Azerbaijan. However for Georgia to be more attractive for investment there should be more business projects and potential. The investor should have higher ROI relative to risk. If there are projects with higher risks but also with higher ROI in the country, there will be more investments made. A good example of that is the energy sector, which relative to risks and expenses has high ROI. Interest in energy did not change before, during or after the period of war,” Chirakadze says.
“Georgia is a small country with a difficult history and we should understand that improving perceptions will be difficult and take time”, David Lee, General Director of MagtiCom and President of American Chamber of Commerce believes.
“However, the many high profile foreign visits made by the President and other leading politicians are making a positive difference”, David Lee says. “The recent trade delegation to Georgia organized by the US Department of Commerce and AmCham was also very well received”.
“The PR image of Georgia in the world I can say is in general positive but due to some reasons it is not yet properly promoted and developed worldwide. I think that is something to be worked on in the future”, Farhod Tashtemirov, General Manager of Citadines, foreign residence complex in Georgia says.
“The Georgian Government has initiated prudent macroeconomic policies and made concerted efforts to attract foreign direct investments into the country. Consequently, the World Bank has placed Georgia in the top ten Eastern Europe reforming countries for the past four years”, Tashtemirov says.
Georgia’s image abroad suffered a lot in 2008 and 2009 from the Russian aggression and opposition’s protests, Fady Asly, Chairman of International Chamber of Commerce says.
“Georgia’s image is improving quickly thanks to the incredible reforms, and to the “zero corruption allowed” threshold policy set by the Government. Furthermore there has been intense promotion of the country by the President, Prime Minister and other ministers who have been roaming everywhere talking about Georgia and encouraging investors to get involved,” says Asly.
“For a small country PR is vital”, Itsik Moshe, President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business believes. He recalls the fact when in the years 2004-2005 fugitive and previously driven-out investors returned to Georgia due to the PR of the Georgian President, which turned into a reality.
“There should be much work done on the PR image of Georgia. Nowadays the country’s image is not consistent with the progress of Georgia. It is necessary to create a committee of Prime Minister Apparatus, where there will be working embassies and chambers of commerce which will together overcome the new problems”, Moshe says.
“In Israel 10 years ago there was the issue of it being apparently impossible to do business in Georgia. After 2003, Georgia needed 2 years of PR to convince Jewish companies to do business with the new progressive Georgia, after which there has been a huge inflow of investment,” said Moshe.
Georgia is an interesting country which through reforms is trying to reach concrete advantages, says Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, General Director of TBC Bank, one of the largest banks in Georgia.
“Georgia has the PR image of a post-Soviet Republic which in recent years has been trying to become different from other post-Soviet countries by implementing essentials of economic and market elements in the country, and which has political difficulties with Russia,” added Butskhrikidze.
“There is a negative aspect, represented by Russian tanks, and a positive one, represented by the new transparent police stations, efficient public services, and new infrastructure across the country”, Ted Jonas, Managing Partner of the DLA Piper Tbilisi Office.
“It would be nice to see these two images merge into one: a stable democratic state based on the rule of law. It is a very difficult goal to achieve for any country, much less one in the heart of the Caucasus. But it should remain the objective, and in the long run, I believe it is the only foreign investment strategy that will work,” said Ted Jonas.
Andrew Coxshall, Managing Partner of KPMG, declares, due to the Government PR campaign many business people have now heard about Georgia and generally have a positive impression of the country, although some are naturally cautious due to it having a large, aggressive, unpredictable neighbour (Russia).
“Georgia is seen as a promising place for business. Many foreign companies continue to show interest in Georgia,” believes Nelson Petrosyan, Director and Partner of Grant Thornton, member of Grant Thornton International, a global organization of accounting and consulting firms headquartered in London.