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Harmonize, but do not Harm!

From the ISET Economist news (http://www.iset.ge/news/?p=4633)

By Eric Livny

The “do no harm” (primum non nocere) principle is well known to students of medical schools. It is one of the most fundamental maxims in medicine, as formulated, for example, in the Epidemics book of the Hippocratic Collection:

“The physician must … have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm“.

Doctors are taught that medical interventions are not risk-free. Thus, when facing a “problem” one should consider whether to use a particular procedure (e.g. surgery or chemical treatment) or do NOTHING.

Not surprisingly, this very principle has applications in many fields other than healthcare. And it is high time for this principle to be studied and applied in Georgian policymaking.

THE HARM OF OVERZEALOUS “HARMONIZATION”

Ever since signing the EU Association agreement in June 2014, Georgia has embarked on a spree of initiatives seeking to “harmonize” Georgia’s legislative and regulatory environment with EU’s acquis communautaire. The aim, so it appears, is to instantly transform Georgia into a European nation.

It all started on September 1, 2014, with the introduction of new VISA AND RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS, modeled – so the Georgian public was told – after the best EU regulations, and intended to meet EU requirements as part of the visa liberalization process.

Within just a few months, several other pieces of legislation have been drafted and submitted to parliament (a few more may be in the pipeline without any knowledge on the part of relevant businesses and civil society stakeholders), allegedly as part of the harmonization effort.

  • A new law onLABOR MIGRATION, submitted to the Georgian Parliament in early 2015, sought to prevent trafficking (a goal consistent with Georgia’s obligations under the visa liberalization plan), but also (Article 16) to restrict the ability of Georgian companies to hire badly needed international experts. Hard to imagine, but true! Thanks to a concerted communication effort by the Georgian business community, and goodwill on the part of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, Article 16 was swiftly removed from the draft law.
  • Recent amendments to the Georgian law onBROADCASTING (Article 64 § 2) restrict sponsorships and limit advertising to 12 minutes per hour. The idea to reduce advertising time to somewhat more civilized levels is consistent with EU rules, yet Georgia seems to be in a particular hurry to tick off this harmonization box. Whereas the Association Agreement talks about gradual “approximation” over a period of 3-5 years, Georgian parliamentarians opted to dramatically accelerate the process by making these truly life-saving amendments effective almost immediately (as of April 1, 2015). Instead of creating harmony, this kind of fast-track overzealous approximation does not allow private broadcasters any time for adjustment, jeopardizing their ability to generate income, produce high quality content, and maintain independence. Unfortunately, suggestions by Rustavi 2 and other TV channels to stagger reductions in advertising time over several years have so far fallen on deaf ears.
  • Yet another example of rushed legislation that appears to ignore the interests of businesses concerns the recent decision to increase EXCISE TAXES ON ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO as of January 1, 2015. The Government’s official aim was to increase budget revenues while harmonizing Georgia’s regulatory environment with that of the EU. Yet, the manner in which the whole process was rushed raises many questions. Georgian companies were not allowed any time to adjust their investment and production decisions, leaving them with excess capacity and losses. Furthermore, the level of excise taxes on alcohol was set at a level exceeding that of many European nations. This was decided without examining relevant demand elasticities, that is, the extent to which higher taxes will affect sales and budget revenues. In a country with rich traditions in home production of high quality alcoholic drinks (that are not subject to excise taxes), demand for alcohol is likely to be quite a bit more elastic than in most European nations. After all, Georgian consumers can switch to homemade wine or chacha, spelling doom for Georgian government’s plans to raise an extra 100mln GEL in excise tax revenue.

A COMMON PATTERN?

Taken alone, none of these legislative initiatives are particularly damaging for the Georgian economy. Georgian companies would have quickly acquired the ability to handle the extra layer of bureaucracy when bringing foreign experts and workers. Broadcasters will raise per minute prices for advertising and sponsorships, and advertising companies will learn to deliver their marketing messages in fewer seconds. Forced to pay higher excise taxes, Georgians will drink less beer and more wine. Breweries will adjust production volumes or export to Azerbaijan. The Association Agreement will be implemented ahead of schedule. At least on paper.

The problem with all these initiatives is that they represent a pattern of policymaking that is very different from the European ideal which Georgia is supposed to aspire to. And, taken together, they defeat the very purpose they are supposed to serve: bring Georgia into the European family of nations.

First and foremost, the manner in which these new regulation are enacted undermines Georgia’s reputation as a great place to do business. A key consideration for new investors is stability and predictability of the business environment. Countries may certainly change their internal regulations from time to time, but this should be done in coordination with the business community, while listening to companies and allowing them sufficient time to adjust.

Second, Georgian policymakers should learn to do much better homework before coming up with new laws and regulations. To do no harm, doctors may prescribe additional X-ray or blood tests. Policymakers can employ standard tools of applied economics analysis to simulate the impact of proposed regulations on tax revenues, GDP, income and investment levels, as well as evaluate associated corruption risks. While common in Europe, none of these tools are used in Georgia. Yet another good possibility is to move in small steps, conducting policy experiments and assessing their impact.

Third, unless dealing with urgent or complicated technical matters (such as Lari devaluation), Georgia’s policymaking process could benefit from greater participation by interested parties. Practically all EU approximation measures could and should be subjected to a lengthy and inclusive process of public consultations that would increase their chances to be politically accepted. In fact, such consultations are explicitly encouraged by the EU Association Agreement.

Last but not least, the hasty attempts to tick off boxes on EU harmonization may undermine the very process of Europeanization the Georgian government is trying to promote. The use of the Association Agreement as a smokescreen for passing dubious laws not only harms Georgia’s immediate economic interests, but also plays into the hands of those political forces that aspire to bring Georgia back into the Russian fold.

*  *  *

The other day, I heard Giorgi Kadagidze, the governor of the National Bank of Georgia, speaking about the need for Georgia to grow at a faster pace, and how faster growth is predicated on the government’s ability to implement painful and costly adjustments. The kind of “second-generation” structural reforms envisaged by governor Kadagidze would take time to implement. Until then, however, there are many things the Georgian government could STOP DOING. In this way the government would save taxpayers money, save itself the embarrassment of backtracking and apologizing, and save Georgian businesses the nervous energy and resources that could be put to more productive uses.

It is time for the Georgian policymakers to learn the Hippocratic principle: do no harm!

OTHER NEWS
29/10/2019
Swiss Delegation Visit to the ALCP

On October 29th, theSwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP) hosted the President of the Swiss National Council Marina Carobbio Guscetti, First Vice President of the National Council Isabelle Moret, Second Vice President of the National Council Heinz Brand, Secretary General of the Federal Assembly at Swiss Parliament Philippe Schwab, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia Patric Franzen, Deputy Head of Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia Alvaro Borghi, and the Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Georgia, Danielle Mewly Monteleone.  The Mayor of Marneuli, MP’s of Marneuli and Rustavi and the Deputy Governor of Kvemo Kartli region were also present.  The visit was  part of an official visit of Swiss officials to Georgia, to open the new Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi, celebrate sixty years of UNICEF Switzerland, highlight the importance of the Swiss role in mediation and representation between Georgia and Russia and visit some of the outcomes of the significant investment through SDC in economic development in Georgia.

The delegation was introduced to the ALCP’s work in Georgia and the programme’s regional outreach in Armenia and Azerbaijan, emphasizing equitable impact  and women’s economic empowerment in the dairy and honey sector’s and the regional programme of vocational agri-journalism trainings in fourteen universities in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The delegation visited the Women’s Room in Marneuli municipality highlighting gender sensitive budgeting training delivered through UN Women and the projects for and started by women through funding facilitated by the Women's Room.  They then visited Milkeni Cheese Factory in Rustavi where the importance of sustainable community based enterprises supplied by local farmers was emphasized, as was the growing influence of the new dairy quality assurance mark, the Georgian Milk Mark www.Georgianmilk.ge/Milkeni.

To date, the ALCP has facilitated thirty-two cheese factories, creating a regular market for 23,000 farmers, seventy percent of whom are women; the Women’s Room Municipal Service is now operating in twenty-eight municipalities of Georgia with more than 17,000 regular rural women users, facilitating to date $2.4 million USD in government, civil and private funding for women’s initiatives and projects.

11/10/2019
Honey Testing as a Constraint for the Georgian Honey Export

Honey testing requirements for export and laboratory testing capability and reality in Georgia were the main topics of the ALCP Second Honey Sector Advisory Committee meeting on 9th of October, 2019. The meeting gathered up to forty key stakeholders of the sector, including the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU), the Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, Head of the National Food Agency, the Laboratory of Ministry of Agriculture (LMA), private laboratories, a honey exporter company Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking KTW.

A laboratory service subsidy scheme was presented at the meeting, that serves for supporting honey export development through creating accessible and affordable laboratory  testing services for the Georgian beekeepers and honey exporters, which still remains as one of the key constrains for exporting Georgian honey abroad.

“For me, the honey sector is one of the most complex sectors in agriculture and I think the format of this meeting helps us with finding the best solutions to keep the sector going. I am pleased that today’s topic concerns honey laboratory testing, as we are determined to make honey as an export product. We have already made some important steps, like, participation in Apimondia 2019 and other important events for honey promotion. I think we can elaborate and agree on a future working model” – Levan Davitashvili, the Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.

“Access to affordable laboratory services will not only decrease prime cost of honey, but will ensure quality honey to be sold at local and international markets” – stated Mikheil Tetruashvili, the GBU board member.

The Minster of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia appointed a focal point in the Ministry to improve communication with beekeepers. The meeting participants agreed to continue work on the topic together with the MEPA and NFA.

The meeting was facilitated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented the Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP). 

Photo Source: The Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia

12/09/2019
Georgian Honey on the World Stage

The 46thApimondia Congress 2019, the most significant event in beekeeping worldwide, took place from 9th of September to 12th of September, in Montreal, Canada. For the second time in Apimondia’s hundred years of history, Georgia was at this world forum, represented by the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture (MEPA)the Georgian Beekeepers’ Union (GBU) and Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking company, exhibiting the different types of honey of its members and promoting Georgian honey and beekeeping.

Apimondia promotes scientific, ecological, social and economic apicultural development in all countries and the cooperation of beekeepers' associations, scientific bodies and individuals involved in apiculture all over the world. This event is a unique opportunity for Georgia to promote itself as a honey producer and claim a place next to world leading honey producers. The recent placing of Georgia on the list of third countries for honey only further cements the credibility of Georgia as a viable producer country.

Georgia has been extensively promoted internationally as the birthplace of winemaking. Apimondia provides the  opportunity to put energy into a new promotion of Georgia as the homeland of the oldest honey ever discovered, preserver of ancient beekeeping traditions as shown in the Jara movie and producer of a wide variety of artisanal natural honey and bee products fueled by the un-paralleled flora of Georgia’s uniquely bio diverse and unspoiled landscape.

The Georgian Beekeepers Union (2018) as an umbrella association for advocating and representing beekeepers’ interests developed Honey promotion video, websites/catalogues of Jara Honey and Georgian Honey for further promotion of Georgian honey.

The first participation at the congress was facilitated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP) in cooperation with the Ajarian Beekeeping Business Association (ABBA) operating under the Ajara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in Istanbul, Turkey in 2017.

Follow the links on the Apimondia Congress 2019: Interpressnews, Palitranews.ge

25/07/2019
Expanding the Women’s Rooms Success to Armenia

The Women’s Room in Alaverdi municipality, Armenia was officially opened on the 25th of July by the Governor of Lori Province, Andrey Ghukasyan, the Head of Alaverdi Municipality, Sasun Khemuchyan and the ALCP Team Leader, Helen Bradbury. The Head of the Department of Family, Women and Youth of the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues, the Head of the Municipality, the representative of Association of Lawyers, local businesswomen and other guests attended the opening ceremony. The Mayor of Keda Municipality of Ajara region and the Manager of Women’s Room in Keda were invited, representing one of the most successful Women’s Rooms in Georgia. Keda and Alaverdi Municipalities forged links when the representatives of Alaverdi Municipality were invited to the Women's Business Forum held in Batumi, Ajara in March, 2018. 

“This service is very important for women and their families to improve their business skills. I would like to thank all of the initiators and supporters of the project and I am ready to discuss the opening of this service in other municipalities as well” - Andrey Ghukasyan, Governor of Lori Province.

“The Idea of the opening of the Women’s Room in Alaverdi came when we visited the Women’s Room in Keda, Ajara region three years ago. The Alliances Caucasus Programme expressed their readiness to share their experience with us how to establish and operate the WR. This service will help women with accessing resources and training to get finances for their businesses. When we help women, we strengthen their families’ Sasun Khemuchyan, the Head of Alaverdi Municipality.

Photo Source: Facebook page of Women's Room in Armenia

21/06/2019
Facilitating Funds for Women

All the managers of the municipal Women’s Rooms and representatives of the Governor’s office in Kakheti region attended a training on Business Plan Writing and Fundraising held by the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) with ALCP facilitation. For three days George Turkia and Nikoloz Abuashvili, full professors of GIPA, explained how to transform ideas into real plans and where to find the money for them.

‘This was the most interesting training I have ever had. A lot of women are coming to my room with business ideas but I cannot provide help because of lack of knowledge. Now I am full of enthusiasm and ready to help them. It is also important for me that helping women with starting businesses in rural areas will be supported by the local government through the Women’s Room. We will make it happen’ – Bela Marukashvili, the Women’s Room Manager in Akhmeta municipality.

Background information: Twenty-eight municipalities of Ajara, Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kakheti have established free information-consultation spaces - Women’s Rooms to support women’s equal participation at local decision making fora and their economic empowerment. In 2016 the Women’s Rooms in Ajara pioneered to help rural women with applying to the government grant programmes and after a year the model was copied by Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti as well. To date 88 women business start-ups have been funded through the Women’s Rooms in Georgia.


22/05/2019
Georgian Honey in London

Honey and bee products of four Georgian companies were exhibited at the event WORLD BEE DAY COMES TO LONDON on 21st of May, in the Conway Hall by the initiative of the Embassy of Slovenia to the UK.

The Embassy of Georgia to the UK organized a stand for Georgian companies with the help of the Alliances Caucasus Programme, the Georgian Beekeepers Union, the Jara Beekeepers Association and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Georgian honey was well promoted by the Embassy.

Twenty-seven countries exhibited their bee products. More than 500 guests tasted Georgian honey; Chestnut and Jara honey were one of the favorites.

Photo source: The Embassy of Georgia to the UK

LATEST NEWS
Georgian Milk Mark Dairies on Show
04/05/2022
The Cheese and Tea Exhibition showcasing Georgian traditional, as well as foreign produce was held at Mtatsminda Park on May 1st, 2022. Ten dairies with the Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) - Milkeni, Tsintskaro +, Meskhuri Gemo, Bebo’s Kveli, Suamta, Leanka, Alpuri Javakheti, Dertseli’s Nobati, Naturaluri Rdzis Gemo, Tsezari presented their products at the event organized by Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze, the Head of the Cheese Producers Guild. Visitors tasted cheese and got to know about the GMM. Butter with spices, a new product by Milkeni, was their favourite. ‘The GMM contributed a lot to make this event happen. I am thankful to them for giving me an opportunity to discover amazing products, like butter with spices. I am glad that the GMM promotes raw milk production’ - Event founder Anna Mikadze-Chikvaidze praised the development of the GMM in her Facebook posts. Created in 2019, the GMM has twenty dairies currently using the mark. The GMM products are available in Madagoni, Spar, Tserti, Magniti, Smart, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, Goodwill, Daily, Billion and Willmart supermarket chains. A comprehensive online portal www.georgianmilk.ge provides a profile per enterprise allowing consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique registration number printed on the label.         
Cooperation Solidifies Between Georgian and Armenian Women’s Rooms
15/04/2022
For three days from 11-14 April, the Women’s Rooms Union of Georgia NGO hosted an Armenian delegation of the Mayors of Alaverdi, Tumanyan and Tashir municipalities of Armenia, their three Women’s Rooms managers, representatives of Lori Region Governor’s office and the Association of Lawyers Community NGO.  These three municipalities in Armenia have now all instituted Women’s Rooms and were in Georgia to learn more about their operation and potential and to strengthen links in the region. They met the mayors and deputy mayors of Akhmeta and Telavi municipalities, and a representative of Kakheti Governor’s office and visited the rooms. The Women’s Room managers of both municipalities did presentations on their work. ‘It was a very interesting and useful visit. We have just established the Women’s Room service in our municipality and, as we’ve copied the Georgian model, it was necessary for us to see how this it works here,’ – Suren Tumanyan, the mayor of Tumanyan municipality said. ‘After this visit we clearly see how to use our Women’s Rooms and make sure that our women and girls are involved in local decision making through the Women’s Room as it was done in Georgia,’ – Edgar Arshakyan, the mayor of Tashir municipality said. One of the main goals of the municipal Women’s Rooms in Georgia is to support women’s entrepreneurship by helping them write business proposals, connect with other women entrepreneurs and access the trainings and information. Participants visited social enterprise Skhivi, where women are making traditional enamel jewelry and accessories, the shop of entrepreneur Tamar Mikeladze, who is making handmade soaps and candles under the brand name Kumpa, and a local female beekeeper. ‘We are impressed with the results of Georgian Women’s Rooms regarding women’s economic empowerment. The managers here had business plan writing and fundraising trainings to help local women to start their own businesses. We are looking forward to doing the same in Armenia,’ – Sasun Khechumyan, the mayor of Alaverdi said. ‘In Lori region there are five municipalities in total, out of which three municipalities have already opened the Women’s Rooms. We are ready to support the opening of this service in the other two municipalities as well,’ – Alik Sahakyan, the representative of Lori Governor’s office said. This study tour has laid the foundation for future cooperation between Georgian and Armenian municipalities. Alaverdi and Akhmeta municipalities have decided to become twin towns and the Women’s Rooms Union is going to continue cooperation with these Armenia municipalities. Background information: From 2011 to date the SDC and ADA funded Mercy Corps implemented Alliances Caucasus Programme has been facilitating the establishment and scaling up the municipal Women’s Rooms in Georgia and Armenia. 32 Women’s Rooms in Georgia and three Women’s Rooms in Armenia have been opened so far. The Women’s Rooms are owned by local governments and are used to facilitate access to public decision making, goods and economic opportunities. The Women’s Rooms Union was formed in 2021 to represent the rooms and facilitate their interests. The information about the visit was posted on a Facebook pages of Telavi and Akhmeta City Halls. Local TV Tanamgzavri made two news items about the visit. Please, follow the links below: Meeting at Telavi City Hall  *  Visiting Local Women Entrepreneurs Follow the link to watch The Women’s Rooms Promo Video
New Jara Textbook Introduced for VET
12/04/2022
Georgian Traditional Beekeeping: Jara Honey Production is a new textbook now available for VET colleges who include a Jara component in their beekeeping courses. It is part of making the Jara beekeeping course material an accredited component in its own right from September this year. The author Aleko Papava, who is a competent, reliable and respected beekeeper teacher and Head of the Georgian Beekeepers Union, wrote the book together with education specialists on behalf of the Georgian Beekeepers Union and Jara Beekeepers Association. The Scientific Research Centre of Agriculture of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture reviewed and acknowledged the book positively.   ‘The book is written in a highly professional manner, materials meet the demand of the beekeeping sector in terms of bio honey production and provide comprehensive information about all the topics for studying Jara Honey Production’ – says the Centre in their letter sent to the GBU. In June 2021, thirteen VET college representatives from seven regions of Georgia attended a Training of Trainers in Jara Honey Production and later received jara equipment. Now eight of them are integrating aspects of Jara beekeeping into different subjects of the beekeeping programmes to 106 students. Five more colleges will start soon. This textbook means that Jara Beekeeping will be taught as a separate accredited component of these courses. The newly established Vocational Skills Agency, National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo are all supporting Jara teaching integration in the VET colleges. Linked resources: Jara Honey Production Handbook; Bio Certification Guidelines for Beekeepers; www.honeyofgeorgia.com; Discover Georgia: The Land of the Oldest Honey.
LATEST PUBLICATIONS
Sheep Dipping Guidelines
Georgian Traditional Beekeeping: Jara Honey Production GEO
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