Posted: 4 months ago

Georgian-Azerbaijani Economic Cooperation

The attractiveness of investment and investment prospects amid the  challenges posed by the coronavirus in 2020 – Zviad Chumburidze, secretary general of the EU-Georgia Business Council, discussed these issues on Business Partner. 

A country like Georgia, with various risks, should offer much more guarantees to foreign investors to attract investments. Top officials should provide these guarantees. This is the responsibility of the authorities, Zviad Chumburidze noted, and added that in 2020, it will be very difficult to attract investments amid the coronavirus outbreak and the coming parliamentary elections. 

“We have two big problems this year – the coronavirus is a definite obstacle that will push away investors interested in foreign countries, and the election year; a very difficult year is ahead. We know that several days ago, the ruling party and the opposition signed a new agreement on the election system. I would like to thank the USA and EU. Once again, we have witnessed that Georgians have failed to reach an agreement with each other. These disagreements would continue, if not for the mediation of the EU and the USA”, Chumburidze said 

Georgia suffers problems in almost all respects that shape an attractive investment environment, he noted. 

As for direct investments, first, we should create an attractive and stable environment. Without a stable environment, the big investors that you want to see in your country will stay away. We need decent state services and officers, and a good judicial system, first of all, he said. 

As noted by Chumburidze, if the court system fails to get rid of the current, investors will hesitate to make investments in our country, because arbitration and the courts are only an instrument. The culture of arbitration remains undeveloped in our country, and we know how trials are protracted for three, four and five years. Some cases may be resolved  shortly, but not on behalf of investors, Chumburidze said. 

“This depends on our attitudes. The third factor is related to our considerations as to what regulations and legislations should be introduced, and how investors should be encouraged. It is unacceptable that the authorities introduce a new law 2-3 weeks earlier,  without consultations with businesses. Caring for investors is the fourth aspect, and a very important one. The authorities, Ombudsman, business associations should unite efforts to resolve all issues of dispute. If we fail to settle the situation, and cases are put before the court, then every investment will become questionable. Therefore, all four of these components shape an attractive environment. Regretfully we have problems in every quadrant”, Chumburidze noted. 

The occupied territories and political tensions with Russia represent additional risk factors for investors. We allow for the fact that major foreign investors enter the country and the authorities should provide additional guarantees in this regard, Chumburidze pointed out. 

“Therefore, I say that, for example, BP has been presiding over the EU-Georgia Business Council for 16 years, is the biggest player in the region, based in Azerbaijan and Georgia, and this company is not the  only investor in Georgia, but also a certain guarantor of safety. Consequently, we should try to attract major investors in various directions, and give guarantees to them. This is the government’s responsibility, first of all. I say this openly: top officials should provide these guarantees - the President, the Prime Minister, at least a Minister. The point is that in countries like Georgia, with so many threats, the occupied territories and the state of war with the big neighbor, need many more guarantees to attract investors, and it is up to the authorities to fulfill this mission”, Chumburidze noted. 

We have the unique opportunity to bring into closer collaboration countries in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea basins through Georgia-Azerbaijan cooperation, he said. 

Georgian-Azerbaijani cooperation is very important in this regard, and despite long strategic partnership, these two countries have not fully employed the potential of their economic and geopolitical relations, Chumburidze said. 

“We have a unique opportunity to bring closer the countries of the Black Sea and the Caspian basins through Georgian-Azerbaijani cooperation. This is a unique cooperation between two countries in this region. Azerbaijan is our strategic partner, and I would like for this partnership to be intensified. Therefore, our board conducted a Georgia-Azerbaijan business forum on March 5th, and about 40 companies were represented at the event. 

Two delegations arrived from Azerbaijan. One was a very important organization, the Caspian European Club, and its honorary chairman is President Ilham Alyiev; another Azerbiajani company was AzPromo (the Investments and Exports Promotion Fund of Azerbaijan) with a representative delegation that introduced very interesting information to the business community. Our party was also very representative. The First Deputy Minister of the Economy of Georgia and the Azerbaijani Ambassador also attended the event. The main thing: general sponsors, like BP, the biggest player in the region, and SOCAR, the biggest energy player, and Pasha Bank, which is famous for its mega-projects, also attended the forum”, Chumburidze said. 

The Georgia-Azerbaijan business forum that was held on March 5 will grow into a permanent format, and it will be held every year either in Baku or in Tbilisi. The work is underway to transform the forma t into a trilateral platform through engagement with Turkey, and forums will be held in Tbilisi or in Batumi, Baku and Istanbul. This cooperation is aiming towards getting closer to Europe, Chumburidze noted.