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Saakashvili’s endless circle27.07.2011 | 20:52
Despite the efforts of Sakartvelo leader Mikheil Saakashvili to convince the population that the country's withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States was the right solution, members of this organization remain Georgia's key trade partners. Year after year imports and exports between Tbilisi and its former neighbors in the USSR are constantly growing, though Georgia tries to cooperate with China and the United States. GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed the reasons with Valery Homyakov, director general of the Council for National Strategy.
Sakartvelo was a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States for 15 years only. Being among the last ones to join the CIS, Georgia planned to solve problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia declaring their right to independence already in 1994. Things changed with the advent of Mikheil Saakashvili. The new Georgian leader became a puppet of the West proclaiming mythical euro-integration as his goal. Catching a good moment, i.e. Russia's recognition of independence of two Transcaucasian republics, Tbilisi announced cessation of Commonwealth membership.
Georgian leaders knew well what this decisive move can lead to with CIS countries being main markets for Sakartvelo's produce. Probably, that was the reason why Georgia decided not to depart from 75 CIS treaties and agreements, including important ones (on a free trade zone, for instance). Yet some experts believe that upon leaving the CIS, Georgia will not be able to return to the former level of cooperation with old partners.
In the meantime, Sakartvelo has not found new markets yet. Not long ago, deputy minister of economy and sustainable development Archil Kekelia stated that the republic plans to cooperate with China in energy, agriculture, pharmaceutical and transport spheres. "We try to attract part of investments to Georgia considering that our country has all good conditions for Chinese businesses. If things go the way we want, several hundred million dollars will be invested in Georgia", - he remarked adding that last year's demand for Georgian wines in China was over one million liters. In two years' time this indicator is expected to double. Yet, according to official statistics, Ukraine was the leader of wine shipments from Georgia in 2010 buying 7,5 mln bottles. Kazakhstan (nearly 2 mln bottles) is ranked second. Then come Belarus (1,2 mln), Poland (900 thousand bottles) and Latvia (600 thousand bottles).
Millions of dollars, millions of liters. This all is wonderful. But if Sakartvelo seems attractive to China, why is poverty and unemployment prosper in the country and why does Georgia depend on foreign monetary aid? As Sergey Demidenko, an expert of the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Evaluation says, there is a logical explanation of the fact. "It's unclear who will invest in Georgian economy because the yield is not clear", - he reflects. - Now Saakashvili is trying to stake on tourism throwing all efforts in this direction. Yet, the question is how friendly this environment is for foreign investments in this sphere. After all, Georgia remains part of the post-Soviet space - regardless of Saakashvili's desire. Investments and markets are there. No matter how hard he tried to leave the CIS, Georgia is so deeply cemented into the Commonwealth that only from there serious investments can come".
Yet, Mikheil Saakashvili keeps repeating that withdrawal from the CIS is useful to the country. "People realize that living independently is a reality, it is a sort of way out, an escape from another space. Better if nobody holds you by parts of your own body. It's better to have your own feet well on the ground. In a certain sense this is what withdrawal from the CIS means to us", - he says.
It is a question what Mishiko is independent from. Over six months of this year Georgia's foreign trade turnover with CIS countries rose to USD 1.419 mln, marking a 47% increase as compared to January-February 2010, with Azerbaijan and Ukraine topping the list of Tbilisi's key trade partners. So what's the point in leaving the CIS?
GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed that with a well-known Russian expert Valery Homyakov. According to him, Georgia's economy is in complete contradiction to politics. "What's the point in leaving a place where you can sell your products? Apparently, Tbilisi thought the West would help and the political elite would have fun drinking wines and cognacs", - our interlocutor says. - It didn't work out. Saakashvili left the CIS, fell out with Russia, found a new friend Lukashenko. But economy behaves with no regard to his political actions proving Saakashvili's weakness as the head of the state. Georgia's economy survives the way it was formed despite all presidential follies".
According to Valery Homyakov, hardly does anyone in Europe want Georgian goods. "Even wonderful wine that I adore will have problems making its way to the European market", - the expert believes. - France, Italy, Spain and Portugal dominate. What else can Georgia sell? Fruit. But who will want it in Europe or in the Middle East?"