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April deadlock for Georgian business2009-04-15 16:01
In the first couple of days of this fiery week in Georgia, serious passions have become enflamed. Thank goodness, excesses have managed to be avoided. Businessmen have also got involved in the confrontation between the authorities and opposition. Some have joined one side of the barricades, and others have appeared on the opposite side. The chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia (ICC Georgia), Fadi Asli, has added fuel to the fire by saying that "the opposition is killing business in Georgia".
Now the head of the ICC is in stormy correspondence with Georgian businessmen, and is openly answering their allegations. Fadi Asli has become embroiled in his own clash with a section of the Georgian political and business elite. It all started with a seemingly innocuous appeal by the Lebanese businessman to the opposition shortly before the start of the protest actions. Fadi Asli warned that unlimited protest actions were dangerous for the economy. Potential investors could turn down cooperation with Georgia.
Opposition politicians were quick to respond. The leader of the New Right party, David Gamkrelidze, declared that Fadi Asli and certain Georgian businessmen were carrying out a task set by the authorities. "The protest actions taking place in Tbilisi are preventing them from doing business. It is awkward when Fadi Asli says that obstacles are being created to his business. As we know, for years Fadi Asli has earned money from the Georgian people by selling chicken thighs. It is not the protest action before parliament that is the problem, rather the domestic, foreign and security policies of Merabishvili and Saakashvili," Gamkrelidze exclaimed indignantly at the rally on 11th April.
On 13th April Lado Papava, a former economics minister and now expert in this field, sent an open letter to Fadi Asli, as well as Georgian and foreign businessmen. According to Papava, it is primarily the regime that is responsible for the country's stability. "If there were not a mass mood of protest in society, the opposition would not have been able to bring thousands of people onto the streets. Everyone knows that the protest actions are damaging to the economy, but the businessmen have targeted the wrong people - you should have addressed the authorities, whose ill-considered policies have brought people out onto the streets," thinks the expert.
It appeared that they could have drawn a line under it all there. Ultimately, the domestic political problems are a matter for those living in this country, and Georgian businessmen will sort everything out themselves: both in terms of continuing to do business in these difficult conditions, and deciding what they should defend. However, Georgia wouldn't be Georgia if a spirit of contradiction did not spread like a flu virus. Fadi Asli decided to seek revenge and replied to the Georgian businessmen and politicians. As "Business Georgia" reports, the head of the ICC addressed a special declaration to David Gamkrelidze. In it Fadi Asli argues that a series of opposition statements were made in a threatening tone. Asli also laid into Lado Papava. While the Lebanese businessman did express personal respect for him, he declared that since Papava is part of the opposition, his opinion as an expert should not be taken into consideration. At the same time Asli praises the decisions taken by the authorities, and calls the activities of the opposition, starting with the actions of November 2007 and culminating in the 9th April protest actions, "hostile" to business.