Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:27

Today, ethnic Azerbaijanis play an important role in Georgia’s development, Shota Rekhviashvili

Caspian Energy (CE): In recent years, the size of both domestic and external investments have been increasing in various sectors of economy and infrastructure of Georgia. What are the needs of Kvemo Kartli region in terms of investments and in which sectors are investments being undertaken currently?
Shota Rekhviashvili, State Representative in Kvemo Kartli region (Georgia):  Implementing local as well as regional and inter-state infrastructural or other projects, conditioned by profitable strategic geographic location of Georgia and its economic policy, which is oriented on attracting investors and simplifying taxation system, is essential for developing the Georgian economy. 11.4% of total population of Georgia resides in Kvemo Kartli. The region borders Azerbaijan and Armenia, while the shortest route, from North to South, lies through Georgia. Besides, close location to the capital of the region is also noteworthy.
Industrial traditions, geographic location, and natural resources create an excellent environment for the development of business in the fields of agriculture, tourism and other fields of industry. Over 200 non-ferrous, ferrous and noble metals are quarried in Kvemo Kartli region, along with various types of construction and incrustation stones, including Basalt and Tufa. There are a number of thermal resources and hydro minerals in the region. All the fields of animal-breeding and fish-breeding are developed.
We should point out the resources for producing wind and solar energy, especially in Rustavi and Gardabani municipalities. As a result of surveys, it is possible to construct a wind station of 60 megawatts power in these regions, which can give 130 million kilowatt energy annually.
Also, there is a potential of obtaining bio gas in Dmanisi and Tsalka municipalities.
As for implemented investments, its amount increases annually and it covers almost all the fields. In recent years, foreign investments increased reasonably and exceeded several millions of USD in Kvemo Kartli region. Due to the needs and opportunities in the region, it is important for foreign investors to have ready-made business projects in which they can invest. In this term, researches are conducted and municipalities are taking relevant measures.
 
CE: How do you assess the role of the Azerbaijani population of Kvemo Kartli in social-economic development of the region?
Shota Rekhviashvili:  Ethnic Azerbaijanis of the region are distinguished by a special state mindset and they are full-fledged citizens of the country together with Georgians and other ethnic population. Their contribution to the history of developing Georgian statehood is high and even today, they play an important role in the country’s development.
Central and local governments are supporting the integration of the Azerbaijani population and their engagements in the state management. We could say that ethnic Azerbaijanis, who are extremely hard-working, make a big contribution to the economic enhancement of not only Kvemo Kartli region, but of the whole country as well. Their investments in the development of various fields of the region’s agriculture are important.

CE: Can the projects, which are being implemented in Kvemo Kartli, arouse interest among Azerbaijani businessmen? Which of the implemented or ongoing projects can be considered as successful?
Shota Rekhviashvili:  Within the framework of strategic cooperation and relations of our countries, a number of regional and world-scale projects have already been implemented. Construction of gas and oil pipelines, together with the cooperation with SOCAR Georgia and others are a vivid demonstration of this.
Azerbaijani businessmen are becoming more and more interested in investing in Georgia and Kvemo Kartli region. Administration of State Representative of Kvemo Kartli facilitates Georgian-Azerbaijani business forums or other informational meetings, which create steady bases solid foundation increase of Azerbaijani investments in our region.
With Georgian-Azerbaijani investment and through the support of state program “Produce in Georgia”, AG Microelectronics was constructed and is operating in Rustavi and is producing TV sets, computers, digital servers, energy efficient bulbs, and other electronic appliances.
Ilham Mustafayev, born and brought up in Georgia, constructed plant Geofeed in Gardabani within the frames of a state agricultural project, in the name of LTD Parid. The plant has been operating since 2015 and investments worth of 1 800 000 USD were implemented in it.
In the village of Jandara, Marneuli Municipality, Azerbaijani company, “Akkord Georgia”, invested 7 000 000 USD and as a result, a fridge complex equipped with the techniques of modern standards and aimed for 1000 tons of agricultural products and 2100 tons of various products is operating there.
We should also note the increasing amount of the investments implemented by ethnic Azerbaijanis. More precisely: construction of two multi-story blocks-of-flats is coming to an end in Rustavi; two local Azerbaijani businessmen are co-investors of the project. Investment exceeds 7 000 000 GEL.
Meat processing company “ShulaShulaveri” has been operating in the village of Shulaveri since 2015. The company was constructed with the investments of Azerbaijanis.
Within the frames of a state program “Plant the Future”, in 2015-2019, over 3000 hectares of land were cultivated and modern breeds of nuts, fruit, and other plants were planted.
Other foreign investors also invested in Kvemo Kartli region, namely: McDonald’s, two plants of sandwich panels, FIFA Football Academy were built in Rustavi, German “Henkel” plant was created in Gardabani, in which tens of millions of USD were invested. Investments, worth of 20 000 00 USD, were implemented in the construction of station “Marneuli 500”. With the Ukrainian investments, worth of 6 500 000 USD, large-scale pork producing complex is operating in Bolnisi.
Implementation of mega projects in Gardabani should be highlighted, such as the electric station, with the power of 230 megawatts, was constructed there and the investments exceeded 200 000 000 USD.
 
CE: What activities are being carried out for developing business relations between Kvemo Kartli entrepreneurs and foreign businessmen?
Shota Rekhviashvili: The Georgian government has elaborated short and long-term projects of economic development, directly oriented on the welfare of Georgian population through creating jobs and honorable conditions for them. Along with this, it is also important to expand economic relations with neighboring and strategic countries, among which the Republic of Azerbaijan holds its place, indeed. Our aim is to develop the economy, taking into account the standards stipulated by the Association Agreement with the EU. Here, I should also underline that simple taxation system is used in Georgia (various exceptional privileges are also utilized, so-called “Estonian Model” is in force, etc.). Recognition of the World Bank is proof for this. According to the World Bank, the environment for starting and managing a business in the country is one of the best in the world. All the conditions are created to support foreign investors, which is also confirmed by the world recognition, regarding the fact that corruption-free investment is created in the country and the entrepreneur is completely protected from the state interference and pressure. State programs like “Produce in Georgia”, “Plant the Future”, “Cheap Agricultural Credit”, “Agricultural Insurance” and others are operating in the country to facilitate investors and this implies co-funding of business initiatives on the part of the state. In its turn, this creates additional safeguards for supporting the business. I should mention, that we plan to hold respective informational business forums and meetings, taking investors’ interests into account. In these terms, cooperation that has already been launched with “Caspian European Club” is of significant importance as well as business forums held in Georgia under its aegis. This will indeed have its results and will support further development of Georgian-Azerbaijani business partnership. It is noteworthy that the Association Agreement with the EU lives opportunity for the products produced by different investors in Georgia to be presented in the EU market under the brand “Produced in Georgia”.
Aforementioned economic policy, taxation system, and the state’s approach towards foreign investments are expressed in concrete figures.
For the past three years, direct investments, worth of 180 million GEL, were implemented in Kvemo Kartli, which is twice the value of investments made in the previous 3-years (93 million).
The increase in production conditioned reduction of unemployment, the rate of employment is increasing annually.

CE: Integration Center of Azerbaijanis has recently opened in Marneuli. What role and importance do you assign to this Center?
Shota Rekhviashvili: Kvemo Kartli region is distinguished by a high number of the Azerbaijanis. Our friendly co-existence dates back to many centuries. The tolerant environment in Kvemo Kartli region serves as the confirmation to this. The Azerbaijanis constantly have the opportunity to be engaged in all the important events aiming to reveal their possibilities along with the development of the region in general. The Azerbaijanis are represented in decision-making positions in all the municipalities. Civil and NGO sector is also active in this direction. With their engagement and through our active support, various cultural, educational, and sporting events are permanently held in KvemoKartli. For example, traditionally we host festivals “Under Georgian Sun”, United Caucasus” and annually we have a large-scale celebration of public holiday “Novruz Bairam”. It is especially noteworthy that the participants of the event – the youth of our region, perform traditional, folk and choreographical performances characterizing other cultures. 
With the support of the central and local governments, we constantly care for further enhancements of friendly and partnering relations between the two states. This process is irreversible and will have a positive impact on the political and economic environment in the country.
As you know, recently we opened Integration Center of the Azerbaijanis in Marneuli together with Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, and Fuad Muradov, Chairman of the Azerbaijan State Committee on Work with Diaspora.
Georgian, Azerbaijani, English and Historic courses, together with sports clubs, are functioning in a multi-profile educational institution.
The center, where state language is taught, creates an additional opportunity for local youth that does not master Georgian completely yet, however they have the desire to learn it and be actively engaged in all the important civil and cultural activities.
The fact that national minorities do not know the state language is one of the main challenges of civil integration which reasonably hampers their full-fledged participation in the country’s political, economic and civil life. However, we should also note that recently Georgian government has been actively implementing state programs based on innovative and diverse methods of teaching Georgian. Correspondingly, the number of school students with high academic attendance has increased reasonably, they know Georgian well and are winners of many interesting and international projects. 
I once again point out that our government’s major task is to achieve civil integration in the country which means that each citizen, despite their ethnicity or religion, is equal. I consider, that opening the aforementioned center is one more successful step towards this direction on the way to civil integration and the region of Kvemo Kartli is one of the best examples of tolerant, friendly and peaceful co-existence.

CE: What kind of infrastructure projects could be implemented in the border regions of Georgia and Azerbaijan to increase bilateral flow of tourists?
Shota Rekhviashvili: Administration of State Representative in Kvemo Kartli is intensively working in the direction of developing tourism and is participating in all the important events implemented in municipalities by the initiative of the state or private sector.
It is remarkable that in the direction of development of tourism, a number of important projects have already been launched in the region which imply arrangement and rehabilitation of touristic infrastructure.
By the initiative of Administration of State Representative in Kvemo Kartli, an informational tour was arranged in the municipality for tour guides and the representatives of media. Also, tourist forum and scientific-practical conference were held and a media tour was arranged. The process of signing a memorandum on cooperation with Universities is actively underway within the frames of which the Regional Administration provides realization of the practical component of higher educational programs. Universities promote development of the field of tourism by intellectual resource. Within the frames of activities planned with a view to developing tourism, a working meeting was held in the Regional Administration with the representatives of Ganja-Gazakh Region. At the meeting, the parties discussed the issue of developing border tourism in Kvemo Kartli Region and set the plans to be implemented in this course for the future. With the support of the Administration of State Representative, the region, namely Rustavi Municipality hosted the conclusive conference - “Civil Society for Development and Cooperation: Increasing Tourism Potential in the Border Regions of Azerbaijan and Georgia”.
A project was implemented through co-funding of the EU which aimed at drawing up international travel routes in Ganja-Gazakh and Kvemo Kartli in addition to supporting the enhancement of travel potential on both sides of the border. 
Thematic training was held and exchange visits were implemented between the delegations with a view to learning travel potential of the parties and further enhancement of relations. Within the framework of the project, 5 travel routes were drawn up including two routes between Kvemo Kartli and Ganja-Gazakh.
In terms of the project, special attention was paid to German heritage. Major activities of the program included: increasing travel potential on both sides of the border, developing cooperation in the field of economy, creating travel bureaus, operators, information centers, guides, and hotel networks and associations, elaborating international travel routes in Ganja-Gazakh and Kvemo Kartli.
Along with this, it also included development of cooperation between regional and local state bodies in Georgia and Azerbaijan, establishing contacts between the youth of the regions, joint activities in the direction of education and culture and initiatives with a view to increase employment.
Within the scope of the project, tourist centers were opened in Georgia and Azerbaijan and web pages MEGOTURI.GE and MEGOTURI.AZ were designed, which are linked to TravelGIZ tourist platform.
The web page contains information about cultural and archeological sites; wine and adventurous, internal tours or excursions. Also, information about hotels and the tariffs for enjoying abovementioned services. The web page allows interested people to obtain information about local public holidays and festivals as well.

Thank you for the interview

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