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Speculation over Poti tender

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, March 24
Part of the government’s efforts to make Georgia a “financial center” in the South Caucasus is the plan to turn the Black Sea port of Poti into a Free Economic Zone (FEZ).

Last summer, a tender was announced for management rights to the port and 400 hectares of adjacent land for a 49-year term. The competition has since been narrowed down to four companies, with the final winner expected to be announced soon.

However, some independent analysts have criticized the Poti FEZ project, most vocal among them independent MP Lado Papava, a former economy minister.

Papava says that creating a FEZ in Poti may encourage investment there, but at the expense of the rest of the country.

“While Georgia suffers from a lack of investment, it is a bad idea to create FEZs…even local entrepreneurs would invest only in FEZ areas, meaning Poti will flourish but at the expense of Rustavi, Kutaisi, Akhalkalaki and so on,” he told local business newspaper Georgian Business Week.

He also says that giving regions special economic status may only isolate them, worrisome for a country that is already dealing with two separatist regions.