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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
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.
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MONITORING, EVALUATION, AND LEARNING POLICY
A Gendered National Honey Sector Survey in Georgia
GENDER EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND SOCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY (2020-2023)