On November 19, ISET was visited by Mr. Alan Fuchs of the World Bank Group, whose presentation, 'Taxing Tobacco in Georgia: The welfare and distributional gains of quitting smoking’, delved into the welfare and distributional impact of increasing taxes on tobacco in Georgia.

A large portion of Georgia’s population smoke, despite its long-proven negative health effects; approximately eight million deaths per year are attributed to tobacco consumption. As Mr. Fuchs stated, Georgia faces significant health, economic and social costs due to the prevalence of cigarette smoking.

Mr. Fuchs’ presentation examined how raising taxes on tobacco products can be an effective way of reducing smoking. The World Bank used an Extended Cost-Benefit Analysis (ECBA) method to simulate the welfare and distributional impact of raising the price of cigarettes, which showed that poorer households have a tendency to reduce their tobacco consumption when faced with higher prices of cigarettes. However, although the same ECBA method was used by the World Bank in similar studies in Russia, Chile, South Africa, Myanmar and Indonesia, the studies differed according to the datasets available. In some countries (such as Russia and South Africa) the datasets were widespread and informative, but others (including Georgia) were far less complete, making the results somewhat less reliable.

November 15-16 witnessed the largest and most high-profile event of ISET’s year: the first international conference on gender economics entitled ‘Removing Obstacles to Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment’. The two-day event, hosted by ISET and the FREE Network (the Forum for Research On Eastern Europe and Emerging Economies), attracted academics from 14 countries, including Australia, India, Canada, the countries of the South Caucasus, Eastern and Western Europe.

The conference began with an opening address from Dr. Tamar Sulukhia, Director of ISET, who thanked ISET partners and the conference’s main sponsor, the Swedish government, for its support and commitment to the issues of women’s empowerment in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Dr. George Sharvashide, Rector of TSU, Mr. Erik Illes, Head of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and Ms. Ekaterine Mikabadze, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, also addressed the guests in attendance highlighting the importance of the topic.

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