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GEORGIA



 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 3,937 3,324 3,100 126
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 830 650 590 145
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Georgia

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
69,700 

Population 
4,693,892 

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Georgians 68.8%
Armenians 9% 
Russians 7.4%

Capital 
Tbilisi 

Currency 
Lari

President 
Mikhail Saakashvili



Update No: 299 - (28/11/05)

The territorial integrity of the state
Mikhail Saakashvili, the president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia often returns to his pet subject of the retrieval of the territorial integrity of Georgia. He will have another opportunity to air his views soon in December of the current year, during the OSCE summit in Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana.
Georgia is still in a conflict relationship with its two unrecognised republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, situated in the Northern Caucasus. This is no longer, as in the 1990s, based on outright war. But no proper peace has been declared and they remain under the wing of Russia, with which they have deep ties.

Washington the saviour?
President Saakashvili said in an interview with Reuters that he was counting on the USA's assistance in the recreation of the territorial integrity of his country. US diplomats are currently working on certain suggestions on the matter, which are expected to be expressed during the forthcoming OSCE summit in Slovenia. Mikhail Saakashvili did not give any specific details about the suggestions, although he did not miss a chance to say something scathing about Russia. Speaking about the USA's role in the regulation of Georgia's conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Saakashvili said: "It means that we will have someone at the table to make Russia understand that peace will be good for everyone." 
According to the Georgian president, a military solution of the problem is out of the question. Indeed, Georgian officials do not fail to emphasize this position, although they seem to escalate the situation in the conflict zone. The recent decree issued by the Georgian parliament pursuant to the activity of Russian peacemakers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia can be a very good example of it. 
The recent conflict between the Georgian parliament and the head of the country's Foreign Affairs Ministry, Salome Zurabishvili, which ended with the minister's resignation, was initiated because of the minister's perceivedexcessive friendliness towards Russia. The former minister of foreign affairs could probably seem to be too Russia-friendly against the background of other statements from the deputies of the Georgian parliament. 
The former foreign affairs minister of Georgia had an obvious influence on the country's international politics. It goes without saying that the conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia cannot be described as a purely internal Georgian matter. The president of Georgia has stressed this aspect himself, when he released the statement about the upcoming suggestions from the US administration. Mikhail Saakashvili confirmed his absolute helplessness: the incumbent Georgian government is unable to solve the problem of territorial integrity on its own. They hope for Washington to do so.

Moscow takes a contrary view
Moscow is actually, however, the key power in the Caucusus, not Washington. It considers unrealistic Georgia's US-supported plan for regulating the conflict in South Ossetia, a Russian Foreign Ministry ambassador, the co-chairman of the Mixed Control Commission for the solution of the South Ossetian conflict, said on October 31st. Valery Kenyaikin said Georgia's conflict resolution plan for the self-proclaimed republic in its territory, presented by Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli on October 27th at an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Vienna, showed a less realistic position from Georgia. 
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had proposed to the UN General Assembly three stages for regulating the conflict, without deadlines, but later spoke of a three-year regulation period. The current proposals do not mention the three stages and Georgia plans to implement its plan within a year - unrealistic given the sensitivity of the issue and the need for talks, Kenyaikin said. 
The new plan foresees a new format with the involvement of the OSCE, U.S. and EU. 
"Georgia's intention to dismantle the existing talks format of the Mixed Control Commission and replace it with a magic formula that will allegedly resolve something is unrealistic planning. Everything will depend not on some new format, but on the political will to implement solutions " he said. 
The new plan should have been agreed upon with South Ossetia first, rather than the US and other outsiders, Kenyaikin said. 

Georgian President Saakashvili: Azerbaijan, Turkey important partners for Georgia
Georgia, as it so happens, is cultivating good relations with those closer to home, in concrete economic matters. President Saakashvili said on October 26th at a ceremony marking the opening of the Georgian section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that Azerbaijan and Turkey were important partners for Georgia. Saakashvili welcomed his Azerbaijani and Turkish counterparts at the ceremony in Tblisi. 
"We are glad that Azerbaijan is developing very well," the Georgian leader said. "It is becoming a rich country with a developed infrastructure and economy." He said Georgia was ready to provide whatever support Azerbaijan needed. 
He also said Turkey had always supported Georgia in hard times and remained a close partner. "We are one region with a common economy," he said.
Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia have good relations in almost all areas including defence and economic integration. All three countries see the NATO, the European Union and the United States as important actors in security and stability of the region.
Dr. Nilgun Gulcan from Ankara-based ISRO said "Turkey-Georgia and Azerbaijan-Georgia relations are simply perfect. The missing part of the regional integration is Armenia. However we cannot blame Georgia or Turkey for that." According to Dr. Gulcan, Armenia has thorny relations with almost all neighbouring countries except Iran. "Armenia prefers Russia and Iran in the region. Armenia also has problematic relations with the EU, US and Israel. The Armenian Diaspora in Europe and US has secured the Armenian interests until now. However Armenian policies contradict Western interests. So this balance of power cannot last any more" Gulcan added.
The only Russian military base in the region is in Armenia. Armenia does not recognise Turkey's and Azerbaijan's national borders and Armenian separatism in Georgia causes doubts in Tbilisi about Yerevan's policies.

Rose revolution in jeopardy
It is the fate of revolutions to turn sour. This would appear to be the nub of the following article we reproduce in full

Freedom of media in Georgia declines even further 
By Zaal Anjaparidze 
Reporters Without Frontiers, a Paris-based watchdog organization, released the 2005 version of its Worldwide Press Freedom Index on October 20. Georgia fell from 94th place in 2004 to 99th place. Prior to the November 2003 Rose Revolution, the organization ranked Georgia 73rd. Georgia's falling scores confirm other reports about growing restrictions on the media and freedom of expression. In comparison, the report ranks Moldova at 74th, and Ukraine jumped from 138th to 112th following the Orange Revolution.
At a news conference on September 11, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili discussed the growing reports about media restrictions, stressing that without media the ongoing reforms in the country are impossible. "If somebody dared to put pressure on media I would be his worst enemy. It is an attack on my own prerogatives, ideals, and authority," he stressed. On October 9, Giga Bokeria, an influential parliamentarian reportedly exerting a strong influence on Saakashvili, denied that there had been any political reprisals against the media and particular journalists. "I can tell you with full responsibility that our political will is unequivocal. We will respect and protect the freedom of speech of any citizen" Bokeria insisted.
However, the high flown statements by Saakashvili and his allies about preserving freedom of the press do not necessarily mesh with the real situation. Their statements come on the heels of the arrest of Shalva Ramishvili, anchor and co-founder of the Tbilisi-based private television company 202, and the station's general director, David Kokhreidze on August 27. They were accused of blackmailing Koba Bekauri, a legislator from the ruling National Movement party, and extorting US$100,000 from him in exchange for not airing compromising materials about Bekauri's illegitimate business interests. On August 29, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced Ramishvili and Kokhreidze to three months in pre-trial detention. 
Ramishvili's case is striking because a conversation between him and Bekauri -- and the handover of the cash -- were captured on film by a hidden camera that police had concealed on Bekauri. For his part, Ramishvili has claimed that he wanted to film Bekauri offering the bribe himself but could not obtain a hidden camera. 
Ramishvili's arrest prompted media speculation that the scenario had been staged by high-level officials to punish the freewheeling television station and smear its anchor, who had been sharply criticizing the government during the popular evening talk show Debate on 202. But although most analysts dismissed Ramishvili's arrest as a concerted "attack on free media," some newspapers and media experts argued that Ramishvili had unwittingly played into the government's hands and tarnished the reputation of Georgian journalists by taking cash from the parliamentarian for whatever reasons. The daily Resonance summed up the situation, by saying the government had "managed to silence a small, but highly independent media source [202 television]." 
Eka Kvesitadze, coordinator of the recently established Media Council, which is designed to be a media watchdog and defender of journalistic ethics, said that Ramishvili's political statements "have turned his show into a vehicle for voicing opposition opinion" and "perhaps the government really did want to silence" that program. However, Kvesitadze said that broadcasting the footage of the bribe handover calmed the public sense of injustice about the government case against Ramishvili.
The row around TV-202 did not end with Ramishvili's arrest. Irakli Kakabadze, who substituted for Ramishvili as anchor of Debate and was also critical of Saakashvili's team, was severely beaten by still unidentified assailants on September 7. Saakashvili called the attack a "blunt provocation" and urged law-enforcement officials to investigate the incident "in a very strict manner." However, little progress has been made. 
On July 6, parliamentary opposition parties accused Saakashvili's government of gagging the media, especially the electronic media, by overt persecution and pressure. As an example, they cited the private television company Mze (Sun). In July Mze reportedly was forced to cancel a its popular talk show Archevanis Zgvarze (On the Verge of Choice), which frequently supported opposition leaders. 
On July 7, an open letter by 77 journalists from some 20 media outlets expressed their concern for the authorities' attempts to control editorial policies at Mze and elsewhere. The statement underlined existing pressure on regional media, especially in Shida Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti, and Ajaria. 
Their concerns appear to be reasonable, because since the Rose Revolution persons loyal to the government have become controlling shareholders of the leading television companies. Knowledgeable sources claim the TV companies regularly supply the government with a list of "unwelcome respondents." The popular political talk shows taken off the air have recently been brought back, but with new and strictly controlled formats. 
Analysts argue that Saakashvili's government knows the potential of the media to spread anti-government opinions and therefore fears it and tries to it keep gagged. They complain that the international community still sees Saakashvili's regime through rose-colored glasses and ignores such violations of liberal political thought.

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CREDIT RATINGS

Fitch upgrades Georgia's TBC bank to B- 

International ratings agency Fitch upgraded Georgian-based TBC Bank's (TBC) ratings to long-term B- (B minus) from CCC+ and short-term rating B from C, the agency said in a press release, New Europe reported. 
Its other ratings are affirmed at Individual D and Support 5. The outlook on the long-term rating remains stable, the release said. The upgrade reflects improvement in the operating environment in Georgia and TBC's strong domestic franchise and sound profitability, capitalisation and asset quality to date. However, TBC remains a small bank by international standards operating in a still high-risk environment. In addition, its rapid growth gives rise to credit and operational risks; and its loan book is concentrated and of relatively long-tenor. Upward pressure on TBC's ratings maybe due to further improvements in the operating environment or an extension of the bank's track record of sound profitability, capitalisation and asset quality as it grows rapidly. Downward pressure could be caused by deterioration in the operating environment, a significant reduction in asset quality or a marked weakening of profitability or capitalisation. 
TBC is the largest bank in Georgia, with approximately 25 per cent of the country's banking assets and customer deposits at third quarter of the year. It has developed a strong franchise in Georgia both in retail and corporate business. The bank is controlled by two well-connected Georgian businessmen, Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze with approximately 79 per cent of shares.

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MINERALS & METALS

British firm wins mining company 

British Stanton Equities Corp. has offered US$51.1 million to win a tender on privatisation of 97.2 per cent shares of the Madneuli mining company and 50 per cent of the shares of Trans Georgian Resource Ltd, which focuses on exploration of ore, Georgian economy Minister, Irakli Chogovadze, announced recently, Civil Georgia reported.
US$35.1 million will be paid for 97.2 per cent of shares of Madneuli while US$16 million will be paid to the state budget to cover the company's debts. Madneuli, itself owns 50 per cent of shares of the Georgian-Australian joint gold mining company Quartzite Ltd. The main operations of the Madneuli include ore mining, processing and production of copper concentrate. Chogovadze said that the British company has to pay 50 per cent of the sum by November 15, and the rest by December 15.

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