Books on Georgia
Update No: 318 - (28/06/07)
Georgia has gone from the equality of poverty under communism
to a highly oligarchic society that is far poorer for the vast majority. Its GDP
collapsed in the 1990s, far more than in any other FSU state, not least because
three civil wars were raging, with refugees galore.
Five families control Georgia's wealth-Kukava
Democratic Front MP Kakha Kukava is accusing several high-ranking officials of
hoarding the country's national wealth. According to him, five families in
Georgia control all of the nation's wealth.
"There are five powerful families in Georgia that own the strongest
financial establishments, including President Mikhail Saakashvili, Minister of
Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili, Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, Defence
Minister Davit Kezerashvili and Prosecutor General Zurab Adeishvili." These
families, he says, practically control all the investments entering Georgia and
all local enterprises, Kukava told the newspaper Rezonansi.
According to Kukava, Noghaideli has no real political ambitions but has huge
economic influence. In all of the state-owned companies, his staff are appointed
to the top posts.
That this picture is broadly true is hardly open to dispute. Saakashvili has the
sense to live modestly in the centre of Tbilisi, leaving his predecessor,
Shevardnadze, the use of the presidential palace, a liking for which he acquired
in earlier times when he was president.
CIS Summit Appears Profitable for Georgia
An informal CIS summit was held in parallel to the 11th International
Economic Forum in the second week of June in St. Petersburg with all heads of
state in attendance, an unusual occurrence these days.
Lately, many have been criticizing the ineffectiveness of the CIS. However
analysts in Russia noted that even those leaders who have been making critical
comments about the CIS, including the Ukrainian and Georgian presidents,
attended the summit. In addition, the new president of Turkmenistan came to St.
According to MP of the Russian Duma Akhmed Bilalov this means that there is
still potential for cooperation within the CIS framework. "Georgia, Ukraine
as well as Turkmenistan used to ignore the organization's affairs. Several
times, the statements and behaviour from these leaders have threatened the
existence of the organization. But it appears that the CIS is still an
interesting sphere for them," stated Bilalov.
One of the active initiators for creating the CIS, President of Kazakstan,
Nursultan Nazarbaev, said with regret the organization has not yet become an
effective union, reports the news agency Regnum. Many had hoped the CIS member
states would develop better economic cooperation. Under former president Boris
Yeltsin, Russia was ready to extend privileges and work with its CIS member
partners. Now, however, President Vladimir Putin does not appear as interested.
However at the informal summit held outside the forum, Putin suggested that the
countries cooperate closely within the energy sphere in supplying and receiving
oil and gas from each other.
CIS member states are supposed to enjoy benefits for being a member of the
organization but Georgia is a clear example that this is not a guarantee of
membership. In principle, the CIS member states should have visa free regimes
between member countries as well as trade privileges.
Since the spy row last September, Georgia has basically no visa regime with
Russia much less a visa free regime. In fact it hasn't had a visa free regime
with Russia since December 2000. It also not only enjoys no trade privileges
with Russia, it suffers from trade sanctions. Last spring, Russia banned
Georgian wine and mineral water as well as other products from their market.
Many in the opposition have been calling on the authorities to withdraw from the
CIS, not only for these reasons but because of Georgia's intention to integrate
into NATO and other Euro-Atlantic structures. The leader of the Labour Party
Shalva Natelashvili said it was "irresponsible" for President
Saakashvili to have attended the informal summit of CIS leaders and once again
called on the administration to withdraw from the body. Though the
administration hints that they would like to leave the CIS space, they argue
that the time isn't right as they are trying to patch things up with Russia.
And patching things up, it appears, they are. Most statements were markedly on
the positive side compared to statements from the last meeting between the two
heads of state in November. All kinds of commitments seemed to be made though
mostly coming from the Russian side. They've moved in Georgia's direction in
talking about lifting sanctions as well as commenting on the importance of
Georgia's territorial integrity. Some Georgian media even commented that
statements were made about handing the Lars checkpoint over to Georgia. Rustavi
2 reported on Monday that Saakashvili stated that the message of the Russian
side to not review positions about Georgian borders and question Georgia's
territorial integrity were "very important".
It's not clear what Georgia had to do to get this movement. Perhaps WTO
membership for Russia will be in the cards for them soon.
We share our environment with animals, whose welfare is a serious concern for
human kind. The following story refers to pigs, the second to turtles.
African Swine Fever Strikes Georgia, Endangers Neighboring States
By Ana Datiashvili
Georgia has been hit by African swine fever (ASF), a devastating viral disease
that could also threaten neighbouring countries, stated Jan Slingenbergh of the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on June 8.
"The incursion of African swine fever is of great concern for Georgia and
its neighbouring countries. Delayed detection of the virus has resulted in a
long danger period where the disease has been unrecognised and the virus could
have moved to neighbouring countries. Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian
Federation should be on high alert," warned Slingenbergh.
There is no vaccine for ASF, which is highly contagious and carries a high
mortality rate for pigs. It does not affect humans.
According to Georgian officials, the first confirmed case of AFS was in Guria's
Lanchkhuti district. Since the first officially confirmed cases appeared in
April, approximately 20 000 pigs have been preventively slaughtered. Scientists
were initially unable to diagnose the disease. Only recent testing conducted in
British laboratories confirmed the diagnosis of ASF.
In a June 6 government session, special measures were enacted to prevent the
spread of the disease. Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs Lado
Chipashvili stated it is possible that Georgia's entire pig stock would be
slaughtered, reported Regnum.
"Unfortunately, we have determined that African swine fever really exists
in Georgia-it is very important to note that this disease is not dangerous to
people," Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli announced.
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia have banned pork imports from Georgia. The virus
can last up to 15 weeks in meat.
Despite strict controls, there is still a high risk of the disease spreading due
to the ease of transmission. Pigs feeding on contaminated garbage and meat
products or coming into contact with infected animals are susceptible to the
Azerbaijan, in addition to containment measures at border checkpoints, also
faces the difficulty of controlling the movement of wild pigs.
According to the FAO, the virus may have entered Georgia via frozen and
non-processed pork. The EU, World Health Organization and the FAO will send a
joint group of experts to Georgia to evaluate the situation.
Georgia Sea Turtle Centre Celebrates Grand Opening on June 16
World Sea Turtle Day, June 16th, has special meaning in Georgia this year.
The state's first, and only, facility devoted to sea turtle rehabilitation,
research and education, will officially open to the public on June 16th. The
Georgia Sea Turtle Centre on Jekyll Island will provide state-of-the-art
emergency care to sick and injured sea turtles alongside opportunities for
scientific and medical research. The facility will also have ongoing education
programs including exhibits on sea turtle life history, conservation and
rehabilitation, and a variety of outdoor educational programs including evening
and morning beach walks exploring the nesting habitat.
Construction of the $3 million Georgia Sea Turtle Centre was funded by donations
with efforts led by the Jekyll Island Foundation. The Grand Opening Festivities
will take place in conjunction with the Foundation's 6th Annual Family Weekend,
a family-oriented celebration filled with activities that will also raise
additional funds for the Georgia Sea Turtle Centre as well as ongoing
conservation and preservation efforts of Jekyll Island.
Foreign investment banks eye market
Roman Gotsiridze, the president of the National Bank of Georgia, believes that a
few large foreign investment banks could appear on the Georgian banking market
before the end of 2007, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We expect another two-three large foreign banks in Georgia before the end
of this year," he said at a forum on investment in the Georgian banking
system in Tbilisi at the end of last week. Things will become clearer over the
next two months, after which the National Bank will be able to specify the names
of the banks, he said. A source at the National Bank told Interfax that the
banks could include Britain's HSBC, Kazakhstan's Halyk Bank and France's Credit
Agricole. Talks are currently being held with these banks, the source said.
Saakashvili, Yushchenko enhance cultural cooperation
Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor
Yushchenko, on June 7th took part in a ceremony to unveil a monument to the
prominent Georgian poet, Shota Rustaveli, in Kiev, according to the Ukrainian
president's press-office, UNIAN reported.
Yushchenko said in his speech that it was better "to pen and formulate
modern politics and modern truths together. Today Ukrainians and Georgians feel
their alikeness. Both nations value freedom. Both nations are European and have
been creating and passing on these values through generations."
Saakashvili described the event as a "historic fact." "Our
friendship is not the friendship between the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia.
Our friendship is the friendship between the nations," he said.
The ceremony is part of Yushchenko and Saakashvili's agreement to enhance
cultural and humanitarian cooperation between Ukraine and Georgia. Last March,
President Yushchenko unveiled a monument to Taras Shevchenko in Tbilisi.
Electronic communications market grows
The recent annual report of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC)
reveals that turnover in Georgia's electronic communications market exceeded one
billion laris (US$595 million) in 2006, up from 715.5 million laris in 2005,
Interfax News Agency reported.
The sector is worth 7.5 per cent of the country's GDP, up from 6.2 per cent in
Mobile phone service providers lead the pack, with 65 per cent of the total
compared to 59.4 per cent in 2005. Fixed-line phone operators have 29.9 per
cent, down from 35.2 per cent in 2005 and TV and radio broadcasters take 5.22
per cent of the sector. In 2005, they held 4.43 per cent. Turn over for mobile
phone operator companies in Georgia increased to 650 million laris (US$387
million) in 2006 from 425 million laris (US$337.4 million) in 2005. The number
of mobile phone users increased by 45 per cent, reaching 1.7 million in 2006,
according to the GNCC. Geocell and MagtiCom were the only mobile operator
companies in Georgia for the past decade, but Russia's VimpelCom entered the
Georgian market in March under the Beeline brand name. Fixed-line phone
operators' turn over was up to 299 million laris (US$177.8 million) in 2006 from
252 million laris (US$140.7 million) in 2005.
BP invests US$300 million in Georgia in 2006
Investment by BP and its partners in Georgia in 2006 in projects to transport
Azeri oil amounted to US$300 million, BP-Georgia General Director, Hugh
McDowell, said at a press conference in Tbilisi, New Europe reported.
He said that last year investment by BP and its partners in Georgia amounted to
US$300 million, and that if investment fell this year, then it would only be a
slight drop. He said that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan system is working normally.
Since June last year, when the pipeline was commissioned, it has pumped 130
million barrels of oil and 160 tankers have been shipped from the port of Ceyhan.