Borjomi was the final stop and the highlight on a four-day anticorruption program ISET organized for students and faculty of its partner university, the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in Bergen. The tour was hosted by Borjomi LTD, producer of Georgia’s most famous mineral water – the “Coca Cola of the Soviet Union”, in the words of Jacques Fleury, the company’s former CEO. Mr. Fleury had personally greeted ISET and NHH participants on Borjomi’s premises.
Held on Saturday, April 9, the visit started with a study tour of Borjomi’s Factory #1, allowing the group to observe the entire bottling process. The factory had recently received a very large investment allowing to greatly expand and fully automate the entire production process. With a capacity of more than 100,000 bottles per hour, today’s Borjomi is selling a very large share of its output in the former USSR market where its water is considered a major premium brand.
Held on April 8, this discussion was a part of the four-day anti-corruption program ISET organized for a large group of students and faculty from ISET’s partner university, Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in Bergen. The expert panel included Jacques Fleury, former CEO of Borjomi LLC and JSC Château Mukhrani; Mariam Dolidze, Senior Economist at World Bank Georgia; Archil Bakuradze, Chairman of Supervisory Board at JSC Crystal Georgia; Bruno Balvanera, Resident Representative of EBRD Georgia; Giorgi Oniani, Deputy Executive Director of Transparency International Georgia; and ISET President Eric Livny, who also moderated the discussion.
The discussion started with an overview of Georgia’s emergence from the state of civil war, lawlessness and corruption, as illustrated by Jacques Fleury’s story of rebuilding Borjomi– Georgia’s leading mineral water company – in a “legal” environment in which the courts were a private business like any other. Mariam Dolidze underscored Georgia’s post-Rose Revolution achievements in business-friendly reforms, as reflected in its progress in the World Bank’s Doing Business and other international rankings. She also listed outstanding challenges such as judicial system reforms, labor qualifications, (external) market size and infrastructure.
The Investor Council (IC), coordinated by the EBRD, has been established in 2015 to provide a dialog platform between Georgia’s major business associations and government. Co-chaired by Georgia’s PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili and EBRD Director for the South Caucasus, Belarus and Moldova, Bruno Balvanera, IC’s February 17 meeting focused on three key issues:
- mechanisms for (sufficiently early) public disclosure and discussion of draft legislation;
- improvements in the tax administration system (e.g. the possibility to limit the Georgian Revenue Service’s ability to freeze business assets and accounts) and the impending introduction of the so-called Estonian model of corporate taxation;
- steps to increase the attractiveness of investing in Georgia (e.g. creating an effective system for investor after-care).
The recent resetting of Georgian-Iranian bilateral relations was in the focus of a seminar organized by ISET and the Austrian Institute for Caucasus Studies as part of the Vienna Forum for the Modernization of the Black Sea Region. Held on Tuesday, March 22nd, the seminar covered both historical and current – political and economic – aspects of cooperation between the two countries. The expert panel included Professor Hans-Georg Heinrich, Austrian Institute for Caucasus Studies; Prof. George Sanikidze, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at Ilia State University; Iva Khokhlov, Ernst & Young-Georgia; and ISET President Eric Livny, who also moderated the discussion.
Speakers focused on the opportunities related to Georgia’s reopening towards Iran’s investment and tourism. Georgia can offer Iran several important advantages: easier access to the EU market and infrastructure connecting Iran to the Black Sea region: sea ports, rail and road, pipelines and fiber optic. Georgia should certainly expect a sharp increase in the number of Iranian tourists following the lifting of the visa requirement for Iranian visitors. Whether or not this would be followed by foreign direct investment from Iran will depend on the quality of Georgia’s business environment, its openness to qualified Iranian labor, and access to agricultural land.
On October 8, ISET hosted Andreja Marusic, the World Bank’s Global Lead for Business Environment. Ms. Marusic delivered a presentation “Doing Business and Beyond”. The presentation covered a general overview and current international practices in business environment reforms as well as the important systemic issues of moving from ad-hoc business environment reforms (such as the Doing Business indicators centric reforms) to a more sustainable approach, including a focus on predictability, transparency, public consultation and Regulatory Impact Assessment.
In the begging of her presentation Andreja Marusic listed “traditional” business environment reform ideas and pointed out some new areas to focus on like: risk based regulations and implementation gap, sectorial and sub-national regulatory reforms etc. She also showed the main changes in Doing Business Report and explained that the new system compares countries to the best practice (New Zealand).