ISET

ISET Economist Blog

A blog about economics in the South Caucasus.

Florian Biermann is assistant professor at the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET). Until 2005, he studied economics at the Humboldt University Berlin and the Free University of Berlin. After working for a year at the Institute of Mathematical Economics of Bielefeld University, in 2006 he moved to Jerusalem to pursue his Ph.D. degree at the Hebrew University (degree awarded in 2012). His doctorate was supervised by Professors Eyal Winter and Bezalel Peleg. Florian is interested in game theory, microeconomics, and mathematical economics.

May
19

Becoming Rich Delayed

During my morning shower, I like to think about Georgia’s economic prospects and how the country should develop. Since the Rose Revolution, there was a lot of “catch up growth”, i.e. growth that stems from returning from a state of chaos to normal economic conditions. Yet a country cannot catch up forever, and the only possibility for an emerging economy without substantial natural resources to sustain high growth is to profitably interact with the rest of the world. Usually, while I put shampoo on my hair, I start thinking about what Georgia could deliv...
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Apr
21

Can Georgia Develop a Knowledge-Based Economy?

A few weeks ago, the Israeli ambassador His Excellency Yuval Fuchs delivered a speech at ISET, explaining the amazing transformation of Israel from what essentially was an agricultural state into what many economists call a knowledge economy. The ambassador reported that in his youth the foremost product Israel was known for were oranges. In the last thirty years, however, Israel created a high-tech sector that can compete (and in many aspects surpasses) the high-tech industries of the United States and Europe. Over 60 Israeli companies are listed in the...
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Apr
18

On Women and Money

One of the few economists who won the Nobel Peace Prize is Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi who invented the concept of microcredits. What is it about? Usually, it is very difficult for poor people to receive credits from banks. Their creditworthiness is considered low, as they have no collateral and little resources to make up for possible losses. Yunus believed, however, that poor people have good business ideas, and he did not doubt their seriousness to pay back the money. In the late 1970’s, he visited the poorest families in a Bangladeshi village calle...
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Apr
07

Do Economies Need Economists?

According to a rumor circulating among economists, there exists an econometric study which shows that the economy of a nation is doing worse the more great economists it produces. While this may be a myth, casual observation suggests that the correlation between the economic performance of a country and the quality of its economics profession is indeed unclear. The United Kingdom was home to the greatest economists of all times (Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and David Ricardo, to name just a few), yet throughout great parts of the 20th century, the Br...
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Mar
31

The Ethics of Empty Stomachs

At the end of Act 2 of Bertolt Brecht’s Three-Penny-Opera, the proletarian petty criminal Macheath and his prostitute Jenny reply to the bourgeois representatives of the establishment urging them to uphold moral standards: “First comes a full stomach, then comes ethics!” This aphorism echoes the widely held contention that ethical behavior is a privilege of those who have satisfied their material needs. How can one expect somebody who is fighting for survival to be decent and honorable? Indeed, when civilization broke down during wars and disasters, huma...
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Mar
21

The Crisis in Ukraine and the Georgian Economy

When Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich decided not to sign the association agreement with the European Union and instead opted for a Russian package of long-term economic support, many Ukrainians perceived this not to be a purely economic decision.  Rather, they feared this to be a renunciation of Western cultural and political values, and – to put it mildly – were not happy about this development. The Russian political system, characterized by a prepotent president, constrained civil rights, and a government controlling important parts of the e...
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