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Tbilisi restless over investments to Abkhazia2011-01-20 14:44
Abkhazia is an interesting country for investments: low taxes, special treatment for foreign companies, and the sea of opportunities. The market is definitely not overloaded with the offer - both in the sphere of production or services. However, only Russian businesses have been well at ease here so far while entrepreneurs from the so-called far-abroad countries are making first timid steps. But the process is underway. For instance, it is highly probable that Israeli businesses will settle down in the republic very soon.
In the near future this country may be added to the list of Abkhazia's business partners. Two Israeli entrepreneurs have made several visits to the country and now they are ready to discuss serious investment projects.
Elia Juda and Mark Burle were here two times last year. Their last journey that started on December 23 was very promising. The partners brought medical specialists experienced in creating diagnostic centers around the world. The guests from Israel visited a number of the republic's medical institutions to get an idea of health care system in Abkhazia.
The Israelites turned out highly active. They had time to twin the Abkhaz city of Novy Afon with Israel's Tveria and initiate a visit of the Abkhaz foreign ministry delegation to Israel last summer when meetings with Knesseth deputies and businessmen were held.
Early this year the republic welcomed entrepreneurs from Jordan, a country with a large Abkhaz diaspora. A number of treaties were signed with a treaty on creation of Abkhaz-Jordan business council and a cooperation agreement between chambers of commerce of Abkhazia and Jordan among them.
In the near future Syria is expected to join the list of Abkhazia's foreign partners.
But Georgia is wide awake watching that foreign companies not invest money in Abkhaz economy (God forbid!). There is a whole section in the law "On Occupied Territories" prohibiting all economic activity in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In fact, this is the toughest obstacle for foreign investments. Some companies, mostly small Turkish firms don't care about Georgia's opinion on their activities in Abkhazia. But large companies that often have subsidiaries in Georgia can't always act as a caravan that goes on when the dog barks.
Here is a telling example of a Benetton store, a world-known brand that was opened in Sukhum two years ago. The company made a mistake posting store information on their site. It stirred a scandal in Georgia with parliament stating that the store operation "on the occupied territories" is inadmissible. Benetton employees in Georgia staged a strike demanding closure of the store in Sukhum. As a result Benetton removed the store information from the site.
Yet, Georgia was not satisfied. Responsible bloggers went through heaps of photos belonging to travelers who visited Abkhazia to find evidence that the store was still operating. And there it came again. Statements, claims, strikes. The store of the world's well-known brand operates quietly in Sukhum without any special advertising. Still, other popular brands will think twice before entering the Abkhaz market suffocated with abundance of expensive low-quality consumer goods.
Israel is now in a better position. Presently two Israeli entrepreneurs are facing trial after being lured to Georgia to be paid back old debts.
Instead of their money they got a prison term. Hardly will the Jews listen to Georgia's protests now.