Ivanishvili eliminating Turkish competitors23.01.2013 | 18:20
Ivanishvili's government is slowly but surely closing many projects launched under Saakashvili. Although the former government calls it the attempts to get rid of the legacy of Mikheil Nikolayevich, it is difficult to argue with the futility of most projects. This, for example, applies to the large by the standards of a small country number of airports, two of which are somehow managed by a Turkish company - a direct Georgia's competitor in the field of travel.
The building of the Tbilisi International Airport, the pride of the president Mikheil Saakashvili, was built in just six months. Such was the order from the top. This "record" later created serious problems for the builders: its roof appeared to be of very poor quality.
But this building, like other grandiose construction projects in the country, was not cheap. In the initial phase it was planned to spend $ 65 million, then the amount increased to 77 million, and eventually the construction required $ 100 million. The authorities called such projects "profitable investment" - attracting tourists, transit functions, increasing the flow of passengers and cargo.
Passengers arriving at Tbilisi airport immediately see an inscription TAV. This is a Turkish company owning the rights to manage the airport from October 2005. Under the contract with the Georgian side, the company will manage the Tbilisi airport till 2027. The company has the same rights on the Batumi airport.
In August 2012, Turkish company strengthened its position even more. TAV representatives said that in exchange for the reconstruction of the runway at Tbilisi airport, worth of $ 65 million, Georgian government would extend its right to manage the airport for another 10 years - till 2037. The company began construction in September 2011 and planned to complete it in two years.
However, in October the power in the country changed. The government of Ivanishvili has its own plans for the Turkish TAV. Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia has suspended reconstruction of the runway. It was decided not to extend the TAV's right to manage the airport after 2027. The government has stated they would fully compensate the losses and continue the reconstruction of the runway by its own.
"I consider this decision of the Government of Georgia absolutely right. The prices set at the Tbilisi airport by the Turkish company TAV are very high, and if we renounce the company's service it would be possible to reduce the tickets price", economic expert Alexander Tvalchrelidze said in an interview to GTimes. "Turkish company has long received more money than had invested in the construction of the airport, but the prices are not falling. The TAV also manages the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, while the Tbilisi and Istanbul airports are real competitors. Therefore it is unacceptable that both of them are controlled by the same company.
TAV reduced prices at the Istanbul airport and raised in Tbilisi airport, preventing our airport from development - increasing the number of flights, passengers, cargo, obtaining real transit function. I think that previous country's leadership did not understand what they were doing, while wanted to have international airports in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Poti and Zugdidi. I do not understand how an airport that serves only two flights a day can be repaid", says Tvalchrelidze.
Yes, Saakashvili's fantasy has no bounds. In addition to the Tbilisi airport president was going to build an international airport in Kutaisi, Poti and Zugdidi. Even in highland Mestia there was opened airport, serving a few flights a month, since the authors of the project have not considered severe weather in mountainous Georgia. Commenting on these ideas, experts say that even a country like Belgium, for example, has only one international airport - in Brussels. The country doesn't need more.
In turn, the Turkish company TAV, without waiting for the final decision of the Georgian government, has decided to suspend the project for the rehabilitation of the runway at Tbilisi airport. Currently, all repairs of the second runway are stopped. The Ministry of Economy of Georgia noted that the project is being considered and a decision on the future of the runway, as well as the contract with TAV, would be announced soon.