ISET

ISET Economist Blog

A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.

A graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Eric Livny has been living and working in Georgia since April 2007. Mr. Livny was the founding director and president of the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET) and the affiliated ISET Policy Institute over a decade, through July 2018. Prior to that, Eric held leading positions with the Moscow-based New Economic School (which he helped establish in 1992), and the Economics Education and Research Consortium. In 2000-2007, Mr. Livny served as the CIS representative of the Global Development Network (GDN), and led the GDN Bridging Research and Policy Project.
Eric’s policy research and consulting activities span a wide range of issues such as foreign direct investment (FDI), trade and national competitiveness, public private partnerships (PPPs) for economic development, inclusive growth, rural development and agricultural cooperation, economics of education, migration and labor markets, transport and economic geography.
Passionate about blogging and social media, Eric serves as editor-in-chief of, and is a frequent contributor to, the ISET Economist Blog, which he created together with other ISET faculty in 2011. Additionally, he is a columnist with Georgia Today, The Financial, and the Georgian Journal.
Eric was born in St.Petersburg (Russia) but grew up in Israel, where his family emigrated in 1977. He is married to Anna Sekowska Livny, and is the father of Katya, Jan, Natalie and Tal. Eric is fluent in English, Russian, and Hebrew. His Georgian language skills are fast improving.

Feb
15

Young Seedlings of Georgia's Agriculture

Ancient Greeks’ fascination with Georgia was not limited to the Golden Fleece. Legend has it that ‘Georgia’ comes from the Greek γεωργός (Georgios), reflecting the advanced land plowing practices of Georgian tribes, which distinguished them from their nomadic and yet unsettled neighbors. The Georgians (Colchians and Iberians, to be more precise) must have really made a formidable impression on the Argonauts to deserve such a recognition. Fast forward to the 21st century. According to the CIA World Factbook, Georgian agriculture employs a mind-blowingly h...
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Feb
08

Estonia Inspiring Georgian Reformers

There is a lot of affinity among Estonia and Georgia, two tiny nations for centuries caught between the Russian rock and the German or Ottoman/Persian hard place. Common fate may be, indeed, the reason for Georgia’s topping the list of Estonian development cooperation priorities. Georgia is the largest recipient of Estonia’s bilateral aid, most of which is about sharing the Estonian experience of establishing itself as a new European democracy and a unique place to do business. Uniqueness is a huge asset for small countries trying to carve out their nich...
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Feb
01

Let It Be

When Saint Nino, one of Georgia’s most venerated saints, traveled to Mtskheta back in the fourth century, she stopped to erect a grapevine cross in Foka, a small settlement on the shores of Lake Paravani some 2000 meters above sea level. Saint Nino must have traveled during the summer since, even today, Foka is very difficult to reach for about 6 months of the year. Heaps of snow block all major access roads during the long and cold winter.  In 1992, as Georgia was going through the most painful period in its recent history, six young Georgian ...
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Jan
25

If Moscow Can Beat the Traffic, So Can Tbilisi!

When I left Russia back in late 2006, attempting to cross a busy Moscow street bordered on suicide. Instead of slowing down before a zebra crossing, Russian drivers were in the habit of accelerating so as to signal their intention NOT to stop. Understandably, pedestrians had no choice but to adjust their street crossing strategies accordingly. The result was what an economist might call a “bad” equilibrium. Moscow drivers would not even consider letting pedestrians cross. And pedestrians would not even try.  When visiting Moscow for the New Year hol...
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Dec
12

Russo-Turkish Drama: a Christmas Gift for the Georgian Economy?

A “STAB IN THE BACK” AND ITS “GRAVE CONSEQUENCES” On November 24th, a Turkish Air Force fighter jet shot down a Russian SU-24 that briefly strayed into its airspace. One pilot was killed, and another member of the Russian military perished in the rescue attempt. Vladimir Putin called the event a “stab in the back” even though he had turned his back on Turkish warnings about incursions into its airspace. Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, facetiously stated that Turkey would not apologize for the event and that Russia should be the one apologizing. ...
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Dec
07

If You Are So Smart, Why Are You Stuck in Kutaisi?

Rachvelis, the natives of a beautiful highland region in western Georgia, have a reputation for being slow but thorough in speaking and behavior. Whether slow or not, Rachvelis are certainly not dumb. At least according to their performance in the national General Ability Test (GAT). In 2012, students from Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti (R-L-KS) were 2nd (!) after Tbilisi on the average GAT performance (Chart 1). Yet, not as many Rachvelis as one would expect end up in the best Georgian universities (Chart 2), which, judging by the average GAT perform...
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