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How Much Regulation Does a Country Need?

From the ISET Economist news (http://www.iset.ge/news/?p=3871)

By Eric Livny

Democracy and Freedom Watch reported October 9, that “Georgia’s controversial new immigration law may be changed”. The law, writes DFW, “has caused a wave of confusion and irritation in the country’s expat community. Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili … told journalists that if any defects become apparent after the enactment of the new law, ‘we’ll surely correct it.’”

Just a month earlier, confusion, irritation and public outrage were caused by another piece of Georgian legislation – a law greatly limiting the sales of non-prescription drugs (see Florian Biermann’s post). The outrage was caused by the fact that many of the drugs affected by the new law, e.g. plain painkillers, were in extremely wide use. As a result, less than two weeks after coming into force on September 11, the law was amended by the health minister, Davit Sergeenko, allowing 772 medicines to be sold over the counter, without a prescription.

One could perhaps say, as the Germans do, ende gut, alles gut. But, alles is nicht gut. The fact that such REALLY BIG MISTAKES are allowed to occur in the first place suggests that something is deeply flawed in the Georgian policymaking machine. One obvious concern is the lack of due “public policy” process. Indeed, there was nothing particularly urgent about either piece of legislation; both could have benefited from a proper technical review, “stakeholder consultations” and a public debate.

Second, and very importantly, these grand failures suggest that Georgian lawmakers lack a proper understanding as to the role of regulation in an economy, and how much of it a country like Georgia needs (or can afford).

THE BENEFITS OF PROCRASTINATION AND DEBATE

Any discussion of regulations can easily get politicized, sparking seemingly futile and lengthy political exchanges. Left-wing intellectuals would argue that regulations are there to address market failures (such as drug addiction and overconsumption of antibiotics) or protect the weak and vulnerable (e.g. by securing their jobs and providing income support). The libertarians among us would argue that the market can correct itself, and that, in any case, state paternalism is not a solution to any problem. Rather, it creates unnecessary red tape and leads to unintended consequences such as laziness, corruption, illicit economic activities (“black market”) and smuggling. State failures, according to the enlightened libertarian view, are as much of a problem as market failures.

Such a clash of ideas is quite legitimate, and – if conducted in a civil and constructive manner – should be welcome in any community and polity. For one thing, it would provide legislators with a better understanding of the “problem” they are trying to solve (if there is a problem), such as:

the incidence of antibiotic resistance among Georgians;

immigrants competing with (or creating jobs for) low-skilled Georgian workers;

the extent of land grabbing (as well as investment and job creation) by Punjabi farmers.

Ultimately, whether liberal immigration regime (or free access to medications) is to be recognized as a “problem” is about politics rather than science. Still, having some evidence to consider before rushing with regulatory “solutions” would be a good step forward. It may well be the case that, while generating “killer” headlines, a “problem” is ridiculously small in magnitude or does not even exist.

Secondly, when faced with the need to publicly defend their proposals, proponents of regulations would be forced to analyze alternative solutions while taking into account the cost factor, effectiveness in terms of actually solving the problem at hand, related corruption risks, and other types of collateral damage.

DON’T BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW!

But perhaps the most ideology-free criterion of evaluating the feasibility of regulations is whether a country has the requisite human capacities and skills. Even a relatively simple regulation, such as traffic lights, may be counterproductive if not properly planned and executed. First, there is the basic question of how to regulate a given intersection (traffic lights are effective only when traffic intensity exceeds a certain threshold level, which is almost never reached at night). Second, traffic lights have to be properly timed to maximize intersection capacity and minimize delays). Poorly planned traffic lights – hello, Tbilisi! – are not only a drag on traffic but also a safety hazard.

What is true about traffic, is equally true for extremely complex regulations such as anti-trust, labor, and food safety, which Georgia has subscribed to as part of the Association Agreement with the EU. For instance, it will take years – maybe even generations – to build the necessary professional capacities within the Georgian parliament and judiciary, the competition watchdog, the economics, legal and management professions in order to implement Swedish-style anti-trust law in the Georgian context. Thankfully, for now Georgia is paying lip service to some its EU-related commitments (e.g. by creating a competition agency and copy-pasting anti-trust legislation without caring to enforce it).

The botched attempts to rewrite immigration and pharmaceuticals laws suggest that professional skills are in extremely scarce supply throughout Georgia’s bureaucracy. After all, the Georgian state is one of the youngest in the world; Georgia’s educated urban elite is a tiny sliver of the population; and even this sliver has been impoverished by many years of brain drain and outmigration. In this situation, the Georgian state should not attempt to bite off more than it can chew. It should avoid complex regulations, even when these are theoretically desirable or required by its international partners. It should certainly avoid thoughtlessly copy-pasting regulations that have been designed for other times and other places.

* * *

A short story by Leo Tolstoy titled “How much land does a man need” describes the fate of a land-hungry Russian peasant, Pakhom, who is promised as much land as he can walk around from sunrise till sunset. One condition is attached: he has to make a full circle and return to the point origin by the end of the day. To maximize his future land holdings, Pakhom sets on a rather ambitious circular route, and is too late to realize that he cannot make it back on time. He runs as fast as he can and, exhausted from the effort, drops dead at the point of origin. His servant buries him in a grave only two meters long, thus ironically answering the question posed in the title.

OTHER NEWS
16/02/2021
Georgian Honey Export Expands

Nena a honey export company has been exporting since 2019. Chestnut and Jara honey have been sold in twenty shops in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from January, 2021. Nena also exported Jara honey to Japan. And by the end of February, Bio Jara honey, a new product will be exported to the USA. Canada is a promising market and has repeated its order for the fourth time.

05/02/2021
Jara Beekeeping a National Treasure

Producing honey in Jara hives has officially been granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) applied to the Agency back in 2020.

Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, a practice which almost died out but which has since 2014 begun a slow revival with the facilitation of the ALCP. The ancient tradition with strong roots in traditional agriculture, culture represents a unique way of life. The status recognizes Jara’s need to be preserved for future generations earning a place amongst other honourable Georgian traditions, including, Qvevri wine-making and Georgian song and dances. This status and will contribute to its further preservation and promotion.

It also brings hope and feeling of pride to those beekeepers who are continuing or are now taking Jara beekeeping up.

Jara has been on a fascinating journey since 2014. This journey includes The first commercial harvesting, registering the Jara honey mark, being promoted at the international exhibitionsfirst Bio certification, being taught at the VET college and reaching export markets in the US and Canada. And we can be sure, more things are on their way.  

21/01/2021
Power of Christmas Spirit Shown by Municipal Women’s Rooms

Christmas is a magical time awakening the holiday spirit in us. They say, Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting.

Before Christmas this year, the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Kakheti, who like everyone else have adapted themselves to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, established an online Christmas Charity Auction on Facebook to help families in need affected by the pandemic. The managers selected seven families in need for help. Their stories are heartbreaking; of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, raising her children by herself, grandparents raising orphans, a child with disabilities and families with many children living in extreme poverty. Up to five hundred people joined in the auction donating or buying things in the auction with the money raised going for donation. The auction raised more than two thousand Gel over two weeks and besides money, the families received sweets, books, gifts; and special food for a girl with Celiac Disease.

The Christmas of the seven families was changed for the better. The Christmas Charity Auction finished on the 7th of January, though the online group on Facebook remains active, as the Women’s Rooms are planning to continue sharing the act of kindness with families in need and are open to anyone willing to contribute to any future auctions.

There are twenty-eight Women's Rooms in twenty-seven municipalities of four regions of Georgia. Find more about Women’s Rooms here.

30/12/2020
Woman Entrepreneur on Overcoming Challenges during the Pandemic

An article Challenges Emerge for Women Entrepreneurs as a Result of the Covid-19 Pandemic  has been published on Civil Society Portal in Georgia as part of an essay competition. The woman entrepreneur-Zeinab in the article is the Director of the dairy enterprise Tsintskaro+Ltd in Tetritskaro, Georgia. The Alliances Programme, an SDC and ADA project implemented by Mercy Corps Georgia, has been facilitating this dairy since 2016. Zeinab wrote this article by herself and won the Civil Society Portal essay competition. The article comes at the right time. We all need this kind of encouraging information during the pandemic period.

You might be interested in information on how businesses in Georgia are dealing with challenges caused by COVID-19 and can check our report COVID-19 Effects on the ALCP Clients Businesses.

14/12/2020
Jara Honey Bio Production Grabs Newly Appointed Minister’s Interest

The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) hosted the new Minister of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic. One Bio certified Jara beekeeper invited the Minister to Namonastrevi village in Keda to watch the Jara harvest. He also visited the Agro-Keda factory where KTW produce the Nena honey brandto see the Bio honey production and packaging process following strict Bio standards. The JBA together with its members talked about their work, education materials they have disseminated among their members, results and planned activities.

‘Jara honey is an amazing product it’s tradition and now Bio certification. It has great export potential. Even though, the pandemic has significantly limited our budget, we will support the JBA to help ensure the sustainability of the Jara honey production and Bio certification.’ – Giorgi Surmanidze, Minister of Agriculture of Ajara.

In a country first, there are now twenty four Bio certified Jara beekeepers, including the Jara apiary in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden. The Agro-Keda Factorythe only company commercially harvesting Jara honey, received Bio certification in October 2020, thus the company is eligible to sell the Bio certified Jara honey crop with a Bio label soon available in the supermarket chains throughout Georgia.

The JBA is due to start selling the honey of its members under its own label from December this year. The Agroservice Center of the Ministry has already allocated a room in Keda municipality center for the JBA for the compliant packaging and labeling of its products.

More details on Jara honey to be found on www.jarahoney.com.

Photo source: The Ministry of Agriculture of Ajara Autonomous Republic

17/11/2020
Georgian Milk Mark in Ministry Magazine

Our Village, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) magazine with a circulation of 10,000 copies a month is publishing an article about the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) in its October issue. The article provides comprehensive information about the GMM, a list of the GMM dairies and their products. Rural farmers across Georgia will receive the magazine through fifty-four MEPA Information Consultation Centers (ICCs) for free.

Currently, sixty-seven types of GMM dairy products from eighteen GMM  dairy companies are being sold  in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Foodmart, Carrefour, Goodwill, Willmart, Libre, Deili, Bilion supermarket chains. Details on www.georgianmilk.ge.


LATEST NEWS
Georgian Honey Export Expands
16/02/2021
Nena a honey export company has been exporting since 2019. Chestnut and Jara honey have been sold in twenty shops in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey from January, 2021. Nena also exported Jara honey to Japan. And by the end of February, Bio Jara honey, a new product will be exported to the USA. Canada is a promising market and has repeated its order for the fourth time.
Jara Beekeeping a National Treasure
05/02/2021
Producing honey in Jara hives has officially been granted Intangible Cultural Heritage status by the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) applied to the Agency back in 2020. Jara is traditional wild beekeeping, a practice which almost died out but which has since 2014 begun a slow revival with the facilitation of the ALCP. The ancient tradition with strong roots in traditional agriculture, culture represents a unique way of life. The status recognizes Jara’s need to be preserved for future generations earning a place amongst other honourable Georgian traditions, including, Qvevri wine-making and Georgian song and dances. This status and will contribute to its further preservation and promotion. It also brings hope and feeling of pride to those beekeepers who are continuing or are now taking Jara beekeeping up. Jara has been on a fascinating journey since 2014. This journey includes The first commercial harvesting, registering the Jara honey mark, being promoted at the international exhibitions, first Bio certification, being taught at the VET college and reaching export markets in the US and Canada. And we can be sure, more things are on their way.  
Power of Christmas Spirit Shown by Municipal Women’s Rooms
21/01/2021
Christmas is a magical time awakening the holiday spirit in us. They say, Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. Before Christmas this year, the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Kakheti, who like everyone else have adapted themselves to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, established an online Christmas Charity Auction on Facebook to help families in need affected by the pandemic. The managers selected seven families in need for help. Their stories are heartbreaking; of a single mother, a victim of domestic violence, raising her children by herself, grandparents raising orphans, a child with disabilities and families with many children living in extreme poverty. Up to five hundred people joined in the auction donating or buying things in the auction with the money raised going for donation. The auction raised more than two thousand Gel over two weeks and besides money, the families received sweets, books, gifts; and special food for a girl with Celiac Disease. The Christmas of the seven families was changed for the better. The Christmas Charity Auction finished on the 7th of January, though the online group on Facebook remains active, as the Women’s Rooms are planning to continue sharing the act of kindness with families in need and are open to anyone willing to contribute to any future auctions. There are twenty-eight Women's Rooms in twenty-seven municipalities of four regions of Georgia. Find more about Women’s Rooms here.
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