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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
24/04/2019
Spread of 'Georgian Milk Mark'

Seven dairy enterprises are using the Georgian Milk Mark: Milkeni Ltd Rustavi, KK; Tsintskaro + Ltd Tetritskaro, KK; Khiza Ltd Akhaltsikhe, SJ; Badri Gogoladze I.E Bolnisi, KK; Gocha Gagashvili I.E Telavi, Kakheti; Tsolak Grigorian I.E Ninotsminda, SJ; Karen Simonian I.E Akhalkalaki, SJ.  

Six dairy enterprises are being audited: Imeruli Ltd Marneuli, KK; Zekari Ltd Terjola, Imereti; Tsezari Ltd Khulo, AJTsalka KK; JTA Ltd Tsalka, KK; Ramaz Nazrashvili I.E Gori, Shida Kartli; Tanadgoma Gardabani, KK.

The products with the mark are available in Spar; Nikora; Zgapari; Fresco and Madagoni supermarkets’ chain.

Eleven additional dairy enterprises have already applied to use the mark.

Billboards of the mark are on Tsereteli Avenue, in Vake Tbilisi; Rustavi; Kutaisi and Akhaltsikhe.

Information per enterprise is uploaded on a www.georgianmilk.ge. This allows consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique register number printed on the label.

GMA international marketing company has been conducting a national promotion campaign to introduce the mark to the public and retailers since the end of March. Facebook  of the mark is active with more than 3,000 subscribers/consumers.  

The Georgian Milk Mark is officially registered and serves to distinguish dairy products made from natural milk.

Follow the links on the Georgian Milk MarkFermaAgrinewsImedis DilaRadio MarneuliMarneuli TVGeorgiandairy.orgAgrokavkaz.geInterpressnews.geAmbebi.ge

       

02/04/2019
Masterclass for New Agri Journalism Students

Up to thirty students of the agri journalism course at the journalism department attended a lecture given by the ALCP programme Team Leader Helen Bradbury in the state university. Agriculture and tourism; environmental protection, preservation and biodiversity; the honey, sheep and dairy sectors; Georgia’s rich cultural heritage and its main treasure - people/farmers with their strong traditions were the main themes of the lecture.

All the students highlighted that the lecture was inspirational, they did not know many things, found different perspectives of agriculture and environment and they will report about the themes in the future.

Agriculture is about people and you should do your work with your heart if you want people to be opened to you. Try to understand the process and choose your own path. Be different and always find something new that no one else can see.’ - Helen Bradbury, Team Leader of the ALCP programme.

Since spring fifty-three students have been learning agri journalism as a selective module for two hours/week, during the whole semester at the state university. 

We see more and more reports about agriculture but it is not enough. Reporting about rural life, people and agriculture is very important and it is our and your responsibility to think about it and be more enthusiastic as you are future journalists or media managers.’ - Natia Kuprashvili, Head of the Journalism Resource Center.

Fourteen universities in Georgia, four in Armenia and one in Azerbaijan established or are establishing agri journalism module in their courses. 369 students have already studied the course.

20/03/2019
Spread of Honey Promotion Video

The ALCP facilitated the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) in development of the honey promotion video, depicting the story of Georgia as a land of the oldest honey discovered and unique biodiversity to support awareness raising and promote export potential of Georgian honey and Jara. The video was shared with different stakeholders and social networks.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared it with their internal networks of embassies in Georgia and foreign countries and it was uploaded in a Georgian production section. The video is on Facebook of the  Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia. The Georgian National Tourism Agency; The Department of Tourism and Resorts of Ajara; the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture; and The Agency of Protected Areas are sharing it with their network.

It has reached the highest views on the popular Facebook platforms Marketer.ge and Georgian WineTo date the video has 185,000 views and 6,000 shares. The majority of the viewers are emphasizing on interesting story mentioned in the video they did not know before and are sharing it for further promotion.

13/03/2019
'Georgian Milk Mark' now in Supermarkets

The products with 'Georgian Milk Mark' are now available in the supermarkets of Georgia.

The 'Georgian Milk Mark' is officially registered and serves to distinguish dairy products made from natural milk. 

01/03/2019
Jara is now available on Amazon

The documentary Jara is now available for sale on amazon

Jara is a fairy tale journey through one year in the mountains of Ajara. A story of the shifting boundary between human habitat and wild nature, portrays everyday lives in the changing seasons. The wooden jara in the forest and the bees living within it are the fixed point in the story.

The film was named as the best feature film at the Wolves Independent International Film Festival2018 in Lithuania, and won the Golden Green Award 2018 at the Deauville Green Awards International Film Festival in France for the best production in the category of Sustainable Agriculture; the cameramen of the movie received an award from International Festival of TV and Movie Cameramen the Golden Eye 2018 for Best TV Camera Work.

The main backer of Jara is the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) through the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented Alliances Lesser Caucasus Programme.

                                                   

21/02/2019
First Time: Packaged Jara Honey

Jara honey, collected from the local beekeepers in Ajara, has been officially branded and packaged for the first time. It is now ready to enter the international markets. 

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
The book will allow all VET colleges with beekeeping programmes to teach Jara as a subject from September 2022.
Bi Annual Report April 2021 to September 2021