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Ivanishvili: 'No more monopoly in the business sector'

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, October 8
Over a hundred representatives of the business sector attended a meeting with Bidzina Ivanishvili. The meeting was held in hotel Courtyard Marriot, on October 5th. Businesspeople from across a wide range of industries had a chance to pose questions to the future candidate for the Prime Minister post.

Drastic changes to the Labor Code and healthier investment environment in the country; these are the issues Ivanishvili’s government is going to be addressed. “Labor rights of workers have to be protected” he says.

“The business sector needs to be set free… only truly free business can create jobs for our people.” Ivanishvili said in his greeting speech.

Changes need to be made in the legislation system, which the Georgian Dream leader finds very easy to be done; just consultations with businesspeople need to be arranged, so government can know what the main errors in the regulations are. Ivanishvili expects leading business groups to do their part in building up a strong economy in the country. Therefore everyone is welcomed to provide new ideas for forming a better legislation and taxation system.

A monopoly is not going to be tolerated by the new government. Large companies have been advised to make sure they give up their monopoly on the market; otherwise appropriate state institutions will have to interfere and address the issue accordingly, as it is essential to have a balanced market for having a healthy business environment in the country. The government will set-up a new anti-monopoly services that will monitor price-fixing schemes in order to finally end the allegations of cartel-type price fixing in various sectors of the economy.

One of the businessmen attending the meeting also directed Ivanishvili’s attention to the pharmaceutical market in Georgia, complaining that the import of the medicine has been monopolized by large companies. Paata Kurtanidze, who is the founder of one of three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country, tried to make a comment and say that his business sector was free from a monopoly and medicine export was not restricted in the country. Ivanishvili immediately interrupted him by bringing an example from his own experience and saying that even he was unable to import medicine for his own hospital.

“I do promise that none of the state officials will ever dare to illegally intervene into your property rights. However, please note that cartel agreements will be totally unacceptable for us.” Ivanishvili is going to totally change the ways of cooperation with the business sector. The new government shall make sure no state officials gets involved in the business sector unless it concerns legislation, the tax system or infrastructure development. No more pressure will be put on the business sector in the country, but Ivanishvili also calls on business leaders for co-operation; he wants to be sure that in the case of any illegal actions, company holders will speak up.

The tax system needs to be simplified in the future; however, Ivanishvili has not been specific about the possible changes in the system.

Also arbitration department will be established in the country, which shall be a dispute settlement body for the companies operating in Georgia.

“This was a meeting of a trust… we reminded them (businesspeople) that monopoly and cartel agreements will not be tolerated by us (new government)” Ivanishvili commented after the meeting.

Georgian Dream leader was asked about possible restoration of business relations with Russia. Ivanishvili expressed his hope that Russian market would be opened for Georgian products in the near future, but he was unable to provide any guarantees, as positive changes in the relations with Russia can be achieved only with long term mutual negotiations.

The meeting turned out to be significant, not only because business leaders could receive some guarantees from the future government, but also this was the first time some major companies were able to speak out about being under state pressure for the last several years, which has had a very negative impact on their sectors.

Mamukha Khazaradze, Chairman of TBC bank, commented to journalists that business in Georgia has been having many problems for the last several years, mainly because of political confrontations and he is looking forward to positive changes. Overall, both parties were satisfied and confirmed their willingness to co-operate in the future. “This is going to be a renaissance era in Georgian business,” Lasha Papashvili, founder and shareholder of Bank Republic, currently involved in real estate, agriculture and the winemaking businesses commented while leaving the meeting.