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Workshop seeks ways to combat poverty

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 17
Care International in the Caucasus, in partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, the European Union Delegation to Georgia, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the U.S Agency for International Development hosted a workshop entitled 'Poverty in Georgia: Features, Causes and Responses', on June 16 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel at which organisations, NGOs and independent analysts discussed the current state of poverty and its underlying causes, presented the findings of surveys and developed recommendations for policymakers.

“We need to look at understanding the causes of poverty and not just the symptoms. We need development thinking, not just humanitarian action. Above all, the Government, donors, business and civil society need to talk the same language and share the same vision. We each need to work towards the same goal of a Georgia without poverty, with a clear understanding of how that is going to happen and where each of us can play a part,” Jonathan Puddifoot, Director of Care International in Caucasus, stated.

Care International representatives identified four underlying causes of poverty in Georgia. Poverty in Georgia is concentrated in rural areas, where a combination of tiny land plots, the constant threat of disease and drought and the unavailability of affordable credit combine to make efficient production fraught with difficulties. Farmers lack the money and incentive to purchase machinery, fertiliser or veterinary services. They also have little information about modern technological means and methods, which consequently creates market problems, as they face huge difficulties in bringing their products to market. 55% of Georgian people totally rely on agriculture, thus forcing them to live within the confines of this depressed market.

“Economic growth does not automatically mean that poverty is reduced. The creation of some kind of insurance mechanism for farmers, as this is a risk group as their income significantly depends on the productivity of the land, and other poor residents of Georgia is most important. Different bodies should try to introduce this, from the authorities to different humanitarian and foreign organisations,” Programme Manager of Care International Giorgi Ghlonti said.

Independent analyst George Velton recommended that, "The agricultural sector should be one of the priorities for the authorities, both in terms of education and in making sure farmers can use the services of different financial organisations. There are few community-based financial organisations in the country and this hinders the fight against poverty. Banks in Georgia are not prepared to use land as a guarantee,” Velton stated.

The workshop also acknowledged that one of the main causes of poverty in the country was healthcare expenses. Healthcare costs push families with middle or low income into poverty, and all parties should pay attention to this.

Deputy Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs Davit Lomidze said that such kinds of meetings are significant as they enable the Government to examine more closely what causes problems and help it take appropriate action. "Fighting poverty is one of the main priorities of the present Government as this can be considered one of the most serious problems in the country. We are doing our best, together with international and humanitarian organisations, to undertake significant projects which will decrease the number poor people in Georgia,” the Deputy Minister stated.