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ISET Economist Blog

A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.
May
27

Short-Term Swings of the Georgian Lari: A Guessing Game with High Stakes

In the last two weeks lari depreciated, once again, against the US dollar. Georgian currency lost about eight tetri against its American counterpart, causing quite a stir in the media, among political groups and economic experts. While government authorities claimed that the recent developments are short-term fluctuations driven by negative expectations, Turkish lira depreciation, dollar’s global strengthening, and are therefore not connected to the fundamentals of the Georgian economy, the members of opposition were quick to blame incompetent fiscal and...
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May
22

Free or Fearful? The Fear of Floating in the South Caucasus

In economics there is a long-standing debate on whether emerging markets should adopt a fixed exchange rate currency regime or leave their exchange rates up to markets to decide. Intuitively, exchange rate is just another price, similar to the price on a sack of potatoes, a liter of milk or a kilogram of honey. Except that exchange rate is the price of 1 unit of foreign currency (say, 1 US dollar) in terms of our domestic currency. Textbook economics would tell us that price flexibility is essential for markets to function well, to quickly clear up any s...
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Feb
11

Is Lari Hitting Our Dinner Tables?

“The Arab Spring was a revolution of the hungry.” So stated The Boston Globe’s journalist Thanassis Cambanis in his 2011 article claiming that in countries where access to food was an issue, “hitting the dinner table” is not a good idea. In order to demonstrate the importance of food prices, he went even further, and reminded his readers that when food price inflation in Egypt reached almost 19%, the president of the country had to resign. Food price spikes like the grain price spike in 2007-2008 or some other shocks like currency depreciation, can lead ...
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Oct
17

Khachapuri Index, Exchange Rate Dynamics and International Tourism

One glance at the ₾Khachapuri Index chart (for locals) tells the whole story of Georgian agriculture. Left to fend for themselves during the cold winter months, Georgian cows produce very little milk, sending dairy prices through the roof. Conversely, milk production peaks with the arrival of sunny weather and green fodders in early spring, leading to a collapse of milk prices. In the absence of large-scale industrial milk production (that does not depend as much on climate and weather conditions), the roller coaster image repeats itself, year in and yea...
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Oct
25

Borrow in Dollar or Lari? That Is the Question!

The Georgian lari’s depreciation against the dollar has been a pressing issue for everyone: economists and policymakers, students, housewives and even the good-for-nothing “birzhavik’s”. The weaker lari may be good news for Georgia’s export competitiveness and trade balance, yet it also pushes up the prices of anything we import. This may include some luxury items we can do without, but also many things that are absolutely essential for the Georgian economy: primary commodities, production inputs and machinery, foodstuffs and medicines. And by raising th...
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Sep
14

Georgia’s Currency is Much More Than the GEL/USD Exchange Rate

It is easy to understand what it means for an economy to be weak or strong. We know that a strong economy is characterized by low unemployment and high growth rates. Other desirable traits are, for example, low levels of poverty and income inequality, when all citizens enjoy reasonable standards of living.  Things are less clear when we think about our national currencies.  When designating currencies as “weak” or “strong”, we usually think of the exchange rate against the dollar or the euro. Having a “weak” currency sounds like a bad thing, wh...
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