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.

Oct
10

Excise Tax Experiments with the Georgian Beer Industry

During the last 12 months, the Georgian authorities have been conducting interesting experiments designed, so it seems, to test the resilience of domestic beer producers. In September 2014, the industry was hit by Article 171 of the Civil Code, prohibiting alcohol consumption in public places. The beer market, 97% of which is supplied by local producers, has immediately shrank by 22% (in physical volume, see chart), in annual terms. As if that were not bad enough, the Georgian Ministry of Finance had another surprise up its sleeve: a doubling of excise t...
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Oct
01

On Innovation, Coffeehouses and Georgian Supras

According to Steve Johnson (a popular American science writer and media theorist, the author of Where Good Ideas Come From), coffee and coffeehouses were a significant contributor to Europe’s scientific and industrial revolution. The first coffeehouses opened in London in 1650, and quickly mushroomed all over Europe. The coffeehouse had two major positive effects. First, it provided a healthy alternative to water (heavily contaminated) and alcohol (heavily abused at the time). And, second, as more and more intellectuals switched to coffee, the coffe...
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Sep
18

Confidence Matters!

Georgian consumer confidence suffered a major blow at the end of 2014, in the wake of the sharp Lari depreciation. Around February 2015, the Index found some support at the very low level of -35-30 points, and has been slightly improving since then. In July 2015, this mildly positive trend was reversed, and in August, the Index dropped another 4.1 points to reach a new historical minimum of -38.4 points. Interestingly, this entire drop was driven by older respondents, those aged over 35. We will come back to this point later in the article. At the same ...
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Jul
17

Tea: a Potential Gold Mine of Georgian Agriculture?

The first tea bushes appeared in Western Georgia in 1847, and since then tea production has played a significant, yet widely unknown, role in Georgia’s history. The humid and subtropical climate of Western Georgia in the regions of Guria, Samegrelo, Adjara, Imereti and Abkhazia are ideal for harvesting tea, and this was a fact eventually recognized by businessmen outside Georgia. With a commission to produce tea in the country, Lao Jin Jao, an experienced tea farmer, arrived from China in 1893. By 1900, the tea he was producing was world-class in quality...
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Jun
29

Why Armenia Is Not (Yet) Ukraine?

  Yerevan is presently rife with protest. Dubbed “Electric Yerevan,” the protests are aptly named considering that they began as a result of Armenia’s government succumbing to demands by the country’s electricity distribution monopoly (Electric Network of Armenia (ENA)) to raise regulated tariffs by 16.7% as of 1 August, 2015. ENA is owned by Inter RAO UES, a Russian energy giant, giving rise to suggestions that Armenian officials are effectively serving Russian interests. Yet, the hike in electricity prices, which the government had initially resis...
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Jun
26

The Brutal Revolution

  When offered the ISET director job back in March 2007, I did not think twice. Everything I’ve read about Georgia until then was incredibly positive. Livable, hospitable, beautiful, corruption free, etc. etc. The latter part sounded particularly promising given that during my last days in Moscow (I lived and worked in Moscow from 1993 till 2007) I had my brand new BMW motorbike stolen in broad daylight by a local police officer (sic!) who knew that I am about to leave the country and probably thought that there would be no use for motorbikes on Geo...
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