Sakartvelo’s businessmen now have their defender01.02.2011 | 20:52
Georgia's intricate economic policy welcomes a new player represented by former PM advisor Georgi Pertaya recently assigned to the role of a business ombudsman to become a mediator between the government and business community bringing the latter's problems to the attention of Georgian leaders. According to economic expert Soso Tsiskarishvili, this position became indispensible a long time ago but he doubts that Mr. Pertaya's activity will be efficient.
The position of a business ombudsman that represents interests of business circles in the country's government agencies was established under the new Tax Code of Georgia in force since January 1, 2011. There were three candidates: director of Georgian Railways Irakli Ezugbaya, head of the country's Chamber of Commerce Jemal Inaishvili and finally, Nika Gilauri's advisor - Georgia Pertaya, 33 who was selected to take up the post.
"Introducing the business ombudsman's institute is part of the government's new economic course aimed at building a bridge between businesses and government and restoring trust", - Georgia's first business ombudsman said at a press conference last Friday. - Business needs stability. I will pay special attention to problems of small and medium businesses".
Pertaya singles out improvement of the Tax Code and creation of conditions for consistent business development without radical changes as his primary responsibilities. "A businessman must have a possibility of planning a business on the basis of existing Codes. I'm doing my best to improve the Tax Code and solve this issue completely for the business community", - Georgi Pertaya added.
Even President of the US Chamber of Commerce David Lee acknowledges that the business ombudsman's institute has become a vital necessity in Georgian government. "I think this is a good idea since today's economic situation in Georgia is not good", - the US official remarked.
Nonetheless, appearance of this position aroused a wave of criticism in Georgian opposition with the "New Rights" protesting against the procedure of appointing a business ombudsman.
"Now, at the time of the economic crisis and growing inflation, assistance to businesses and mitigation of the state's pressure is very important. In this situation it is crucial that a business ombudsman be an entirely independent and unbiased arbiter. It is known that high pressure is put on businesses mainly by state structures with government and business community being two sides of the conflict", - David Saganelidze, a New Rights leader stated.
Soso Tsiskarishvili, an expert on economic issues, agrees with the opposition as he told GeorgiaTimes correspondent.
"Georgian authorities force the society to have ombudsmen for all activities. The latest appointment is the government's attempt to falsify the mission of a business ombudsman with prime minister suggesting a candidate and appointing a person instead of inviting him from NGOs or professional circles or a business milieu. Even if this person is an angel of good sense and integrity he will not be free anyway. Particularly when this is PM's advisor. Unfortunately, here PM is one of top 10 politicians who take decisions in Georgian politics. So a business ombudsman will be absolute zero", - the Georgian expert is sure.
Besides, the expert considers unjustified reduction in powers as one of the reasons why business ombudsman's activities won't be efficient in Georgia's reality.
"A business ombudsman is a wide notion and the law under which this position has been established, stipulates that he will deal only with taxes. Except for taxes there are lots of hidden agendas in Georgia's economic life. So the government has made another blank shot. On the whole it is absurd to convert an official into an independent ombudsman. I know Georgi Pertaya as a good person. But people must have an answer: who is he? His only advantage over other candidates is that he has no business of his own.
Business protection must be entrusted to a person indemnified from external pressure. And Mr. Pertaya has never demonstrated individual independence", - Soso Tsiskarishvili summed up.