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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
28/03/2014
Farmer Groups: Why We Love Them, Why We Do Them and Why They Fail

From the ISET Economist news (http://www.iset.ge/news/?p=3056)
By Tim Stewart

As Georgia embarks on an ambitious program to develop farmer organizations, it is worth considering both the positive and negative lessons from the experience of similar initiatives, both in Georgia and elsewhere in the developing/transition context. The piece by Tim Stewart, originally published on www.springfieldcentre.com, identifies some of the main reasons for the failure of start-up farmer organizations. The challenge for Georgia is to learn from these mistakes in planning and implementation, and ensure improved coordination among the many cooks involved (the newly created Agency for the Development of Agricultural Cooperatives, the Ministry of Agriculture, international donors, NGOs, and farmer associations).  

10/03/2014
Women of Kvemo Kartli

Publishing the following series of stories is an attempt to highlight the ethnic diversity of Kvemo Kartli. We are going to tell you the stories of five women living in various parts of Kvemo Kartli; these women have different lifestyles and represent different cultures, but they still have a lot in common. This is their history in stories. Stories of work, endurance, taboos, restriction, dignity, honesty and womanhood. You will not see figures and percentages here; this is not a quantitative survey. These are stories that allow us to build on those figures and percentages and enable us to develop profiles of Ajarian, Svan, Azeri, Armenian, Greek and local Georgian women’s lives, to understand their complexities and areas of commonality and to reflect this in our work as a programme.

Kvemo Kartli is one of the most ethnically diverse regions of Georgia. Ethnic diversity has developed over centuries and many contrasts and cultural differences have accumulated in this region; the study and management of these contrasts and differences and the development of models for peaceful cohabitation is not an easy task. Cultural, ethnic and language differences can be seen in every detail of life. Differences are present in rural and urban areas, in highlands and lowlands, in methods of doing business. Our objective in recording these stories was to attempt to create a profile of these women, to listen to them and build the picture of their lives, to understand the effects that culture and ethnic origin have on their lives, to see what opportunities they have and how they use or fail to use these opportunities, if they have them at all.

The Baboyans from
Village Kush

Women from
Kamarlo

 Greek Woman
from Tsalka

 Nazi Bolkvadze
 and her Friends

Natela Argvliani's
Family

05/03/2014
The Baboyans from Village Kush

Armenians have been living in Kvemo Kartli for centuries. According to the 2002 census 31,777 out of 497,530 Kvemo Kartli residents were Armenians. The number of Armenians is highest in Tsalka where 11,484 Armenians live, out of a total population of 20977. The advent of Armenians in Georgia was related to the movement of people during the Arab, Turk-Seljuk, Mongolian, Turkmen, Kizilbash, Ottoman Turk and other invasions. Several major settlements of Armenians took place in 1828-1829, during the Russian-Turkish war

04/03/2014
Pikria, Phanura and Other Women from Kamarlo

Azerbaijanis living in Kvemo Kartli are Turkic-speaking people representing the legacy of the conquerors that came to this area at different times. in the 1926 Census they were referred to as Azerbaijanis. The Azeri population that settled in Kartli is comprised of two streams of migrants: 1. The Turkish-speaking population that was resettled between 15th-18th centuries; they went through the heaviest psychological and physical stress before they adapted to the new place. 2. Migrants who moved from one place to another to improve living conditions having adapted to the new environment. Currently the Azeri population in Georgia numbers 224,606. They mainly reside in Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Gardabani and Marneuli districts, mostly in district centers apart from in Dmanisi muniiciaplity where there are many Azeri villages. Some live in Tetritskaro and Tsalka districts.

02/03/2014
Greek Woman from Tslaka
A small group of Greeks was settled by Erekle II (King of Kartli and Kakheti in the 18th century) back in 1763 in Kvemo Kartli. They worked in Akhtala copper, lead, silver and gold mines and were highly skilled in this business. The next resettlement took place in 1806-1807, and the following in 1829-1830. Turkish-speaking Greeks as well as Greeks speaking the Pontus dialect were resettled to Georgia. The study of archive materials tells us that the biggest stream of Greek migrants entered Georgia during the aforementioned period and their majority settled in Tsalka and Tetritskaro areas.
28/02/2014
Nazi Bolkvadze and her Friends

In 1980’s the planned settlement of a large groups of eco-migrant Ajarians and Svanetians started in Tetritskaro and Tsalka municipalities. There were several streams of eco-migration up to 2003. The advent of these incomers has left its mark on Kvemo Kartli. It became richer from an ethnic, religious and language standpoint, however it also gave rise to new problems and challenges for new and old residents alike in seeking to adapt to the new cultural diversity.

LATEST NEWS
The Georgian Beekeepers Union Celebrates Three Years Anniversary
20/12/2021
On December 20th, the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) hosted an event to celebrate its third anniversary inviting key honey sector stakeholders to Hualing Tbilisi Sea Plaza.  Since 2018, the honey sector has seen huge gains under the auspices of the GBU, which is leading efforts to remove pervasive constraints to growth such as the widespread use of prohibited antibiotics and performing the role of non-governmental national representative of the honey sector. The GBU’s three years of extensive work resulted in increased honey quality, more effective governmental advocacy, better vocational education in beekeeping, including, Jara teaching, available information and trainings for beekeepers, promotion and improved image of Georgian honey at the Apimondia Congress and London Honey Awards, all that paving way for an increase of honey export.    ‘There are some major developments in improving honey testing capacity, increasing awareness of Georgian honey, and opening of new export markets. The comprehensive laboratory analysis, before carried abroad, is now available in Georgia, which resulted in decreasing transaction costs.’ – Giorgi Khanishvili, the First Deputy Minister of the Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA).    ‘We were able to achieve significant improvements during these three years. We are continuing cooperation with the government and other honey stakeholders to ensure production of safe and quality honey.’ – Aleko Papava, the Executive Director of the GBU.  Photo source: The MEPA
Jara Enters the Qatar Market
19/12/2021
Nena Jara honey, along with other types of Georgian honey, found its place on the Georgian honey corner opened at the SPAR supermarket branch in Tawar Mall, the largest shopping mall in Doha, Qatar. Georgian honey corner will be opened in every branch of the SPAR chain. The process is backed by the Embassy of Georgia to the State of Qatar. The ALCP facilitated the export of Jara honey. Local influential media AI Raya dedicated a comprehensive article to Georgian honey with a special highlight on Georgian beekeeping characteristics and traditional Jara.   The Qatar market seems promising. The Embassy’s previous facilitation for approval of a VET certificate, an essential requirement for honey export, has contributed to a 255% increase of Georgian honey export to Qatar in 2021 compared to 2020. The same figure saw a 350% boost in 2020.  Photo source: The Embassy of Georgia to the State of Qatar
Sharing of Agricultural Education Experience with Azerbaijanis Colleagues
12/11/2021
The Journalism Resource Centre (JRC), in partnership with the Society of Women for Rational Development in Azerbaijan (WARD), hosted a study visit of media and educational institution representatives of Azerbaijan. Agri-journalism students and lecturers at Caucasus International University shared agricultural journalism teaching practices. In Kakheti, they visited the farm of Beka Gonashvili, Head of the Georgian Shepherds Association, farmer, and entrepreneur.  They also visited Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking to see their Jara honey and wine production and the dairy Leanka in Dedeplitskaro.  The importance of education and information for farmers and producers and their cooperation with agricultural media was emphasized. Beka Gonashvili emphasized the importance of providing quality information to farmers and producers. He is both a blogger and a farmer, so he is regularly publishing useful agriculture-related posts. The female owner of Leanka dairy talked about how the enterprise is ensuring the quality and how media is playing a significant role in this. At Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking Company particpants saw wine and Jara honey production and their export and how the Georgian Beekeepers Union is advocating the interests of honey sector representatives and supporting the awareness raising of beekeepers, such as through the national information campaign - Do’s and Don’ts of Antibiotic Use. Participants also watched a report about Jara Honey by Al Jazeera and Jara the Movie. ‘We will all together will work well for expansion the teaching of agricultural Journalism in Azerbaijan’ – Natia Kuprashvili, the Head of the JRC. The Society Women for Rational Development (WARD) in partnership with the JRC is going to prepare a course of agricultural communication based on the study visit and share it with educational institutions in Azerbaijan. Please see the related links: a textbook of Constructive Agricultural Journalism and video lessons added to this textbook.
LATEST PUBLICATIONS
MONITORING, EVALUATION, AND LEARNING POLICY
A Gendered National Honey Sector Survey in Georgia
GENDER EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND SOCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY (2020-2023)