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PM Ivanishvili speaks with Russian business elite in Davos

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, January 25
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili attended the World Economic Forum in Davos and held a series of meetings with political and business leaders.

“I think we have worked very fruitfully. I had numerous meetings within the short period of time. The meetings were both political and business,” Ivanishvili told the media, saying that foreign investments will increase in the country and the economic situation will drastically improve within the next two years.

Ivanishvili also “exchanged a few words” with the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, when the two accidentally met at the welcome reception hosted by the founder of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab. The Georgian PM commented later that he just shook hands with Medvedev and wished success to each other.

Ivanishvili expressed his hope that relations with Russia can be mended in the future; therefore, bilateral meetings should be planned and held with the Russian side. “I have a sense that there is a readiness from Russia too,” Ivanishvili said in Davos.

Along with the numerous meetings Georgian PM held in Davos, Ivanishvili also attended a breakfast hosted by the Russian state-controlled Sberbank, where the Russian business elite had gathered. Ivanishvili was warmly met at the breakfast and his appearance was followed with huge applause. The PM also had a meeting with the management of the RusHydro, the hydro company created under a Russian government decree back in 2004.

While attending the breakfast PM Ivanishvili was asked about the business environment in Georgia and particularly about the World Bank ranking, where Georgia holds 9th place in the ease of doing business index. Ivanishvili answered that the place on the index list cannot be decisive for attracting investment in the country. He also spoke about negative and positive aspects of the holding index and revealed his suspicion that the place might have been achieved artificially and it does not depict the real business environment currently established in Georgia.

The PM also emphasized that private property would be unwaveringly protected in his country. “I told them that we will possibly lose our place in the rankings, but investments will still flow into Georgia, because what matters is the protection of private property and a competitive market,” Ivanishvili told the media.

Ivanishvili’s statement about the World Bank ranking highly irritated President Mikheil Saakashvili. At a special briefing he said that the PM’s statement will have a negative impact on international businesspeople and they will refrain from investing in Georgia. “During the last several years, we have been trying to make Georgia attractive and it was our in enemies’ interest to present Georgia as an instable country,” Saakashvili said, asking the Georgian people to react accordingly on the PM’s statements made in Davos.

Economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger that the place Georgia holds on the list of the World Bank in ease of doing business index cannot be a decisive fact for the investors, as businessmen mostly look forward to long term stability and the insurance of business and also for the absence of political risks in the country. “It does not matter for the majority of the investors whether they are able to register a company within a day or a week,” said the analyst, adding that Georgia cannot benefit from the virtual environment which used to be promoted by President Saakashvili.

Khukhashvili said concrete results should not be expected from the Davos meetings, as the World Economic Forum is not the place for making particular decisions. However, the expert thinks that Ivanishvili’s presence at the forum can be assessed as a unique fact, as Davos is the place where politicians and the business elite gather and Ivanishvili represents both fields.

“He is capable of speaking the language that investors understand and they clearly realize that PM Ivanishvili has a very particular view and plan for attracting investments to the country,” Khukhashvili commented.