Friday, July 20, 2007, #137 (1404)

Business Roundup
Prepared by Christina Tashkevich

Kars–Akhalkalaki–Tbilisi–Baku Railway Project Council Held First Meeting on July 18-19
The Kars–Akhalkalaki–Tbilisi–Baku Railway Project Coordinating Council met for the first time on July 18-19, news agency reported. Council members will discuss funding of the construction of the Georgian section of the railway. At the meeting, the Georgian delegation is be headed by Deputy Georgian Economic Development Minister Davit Natroshvili. Azerbaijan will provide USD 200 million in a long-term loan for Georgia for the construction and repairs of the Georgian section.

Arveladze: Such Large-Scale Road Project Never Performed in Georgia
Minister of Economic Development of Georgia Giorgi Arveladze has reviewed the Road Department’s report regarding its activities in the six months of 2007.
The department says that a total of 165 km of roads have been repaired and twelve bridges have been renewed or repaired. Restoration and construction of new routes to Natakhtari–Aghaiani, Aghaiani–Igoeti, Chuberi–Sakeni is underway, along with repairs and winter preparation works to the roads.
Arveladze has positively evaluated the activities of the department, adding never has such large-scale road construction works ever been performed in Georgia.
He also added that construction of a road connecting upper Abkhazia and the Tbilisi–Rikoti highway is underway.
“The latter can be called ‘Project of the Century,’ because this will be the country’s core artery. This road will lead not only to Batumi, but Sokhumi as well. In several years, Georgia will have toll roads, having at the same time alternative free of charge detour highways,” Arveladze said.

Teliani Valley Presents New Wine, Kakhuri No. 8
The winery Teliani Valley held presentation of new Georgian wine Kakhuri No. 8 at restaurant Phaeton on July 19. Teliani Valley said this is a white, dry wine produced by classic method from Rkatsiteli and a green variety of grapes. Kakhuri No. 8 would become one of the 24 types of wines the company produces. The company plans to produce 30 000 bottles of this new wine annually.

US Judge Advices Georgian Legal System
US Circuit Judge John M. Walker, Jr. said without a proper legal education system, the Georgian judiciary system will be difficult to reform.
The American legal expert is visiting Georgia and spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce’s roundtable meeting on July 19. He added that while the Georgian government has the political will to reform the judiciary system, there is still a lot of work to be done. Walker said that it is important to push forward reforms while the political will exists.

Georgia assigned 'BB-' rating – Fitch
Fitch Ratings said it assigned Georgia a 'BB-' long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings, with a stable outlook.
Fitch said the rating reflects declining public debt burden, rapid GDP growth rate, an impressive record of structural reforms, buoyant FDI inflows and strong international financial support.
GDP growth will be propelled by ambitious structural reforms and foreign direct investment which could be around 18 percent of GDP, Fitch said, adding it sees real GDP growth at around 10 percent this year after averaging 9.5 percent in 2005 and 2006.
Fitch also noted the rise Georgia's tax revenues to 26 percent of GDP in 2006 from just 16 pct in 2003, aided by measures against corruption and an economic boom.
However, Georgia's short track record of economic performance, moderate income level, large current account deficit, narrow economic base constrain its rating, the release added.
The ratings agency pointed to the deterioration in Georgia's current account deficit to around 20 pct of GDP this year, from 15 percent in 2006.

Billing Center of Standard Bank Opens on Rustaveli Avenue
Standard Bank’s new billing center will opened on Rustaveli Avenue last week. At the center, consumers will be able to pay for public utilities instantly, without any commission fee, as well as enjoy other services of the bank. Standard Bank opened a new service center on Guramishvili Avenue last week.
Sale of Railway ‘Ruled Out’
The privatisation of the state-owned Georgian Railway Ltd is not an option, Economy Minister Giorgi Arveladze said on July 16.
Arveladze did not, however, rule out the possibility of handing over managerial control to a private company.
“It is untimely to speak about any specific plan or details at this point,” he told reporters after meeting with the chief of Georgian Railways, Irakli Ezugbaia.
Last week Parliament approved a proposal removing railway infrastructure from the list of state-owned facilities that cannot be privatized.

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