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Georgia Sells Itself

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Georgia parliament adverts.jpg

Strange scenes outside the Georgian parliament: the entire façade of the building seems to have been transformed into a giant advertising hoarding to promote various urban reconstruction projects and new luxury hotels. It’s part of a new billboard campaign (slogan: ‘I Love Georgia’) which appears to be intended to boost public confidence as the country’s economy goes through tough times. Foreign investment fell by more than three-quarters in the first half of 2009, and the Georgian economy could shrink by up to 4 per cent this year, according to the finance ministry. The war with Russia in August 2008, political turmoil, street protests and the global financial crisis have all had an effect on an economy which was growing rapidly just a couple of years ago.

With investor confidence damaged and the tourist trade suffering, the Georgian authorities have also spent big on another high-budget promotional project. They’ve commissioned ten photographers from the respected Magnum photo agency to shoot images which apparently “capture the country’s contemporary cultural mystique through a grand photographic lens” for an upscale coffee-table book entitled Georgian Spring (which, of course, includes photos of President Mikheil Saakashvili going about his business in his usual charismatic fashion). Is this a bold, creative response or just expensively-packaged hubris? Saakashvili insists that Georgia now has the chance to move towards a "very significant economic breakthrough", although the IMF believes that the country's financial woes will continue into 2010.

1 Comment

Matthew Collin | September 23, 2009 7:13 AM | Reply

Could the Georgian economy be back on the road towards growth in the second half of 2009? That's what the prime minister, Nika Gilauri, has suggested in a new interview with Reuters:

“The second quarter could be worse than the first quarter. We will compensate for it by the results of the third and fourth quarters, when we expect positive growth, or at least close to zero,” he said.

An economic revival can't come soon enough for some of the people who were asked by Georgia's Messenger newspaper if they were being affected by the financial crisis:

“Yeah, the economic situation has affected my family as we have a business, and I don't think the situation has improved, not very much.”
Sophie, student, 22

“Yes, the crisis has really influenced my life. I am a taxi driver and I cannot earn enough money for fuel in a day. My wife is unemployed so it is a very difficult time for our family. Unfortunately, I do not see any improvement yet.”
Giorgi, taxi driver, 52

“My family members have good jobs and our family has not been much influenced by the economic crisis. But there are a lot of people who are prejudiced.”
Nata, student, 20

“Of course the economic crisis has affected my family. My wife was relieved of her job because of a staff reduction. Our family income has decreased when our two daughters are students and we have to pay fees of 1,500 GEL a year for each one.”
Mamuka, engineer, 50

“Because of the economic crisis building has stopped and my husband, an architect, has lost his job. But I know a new wave of building is beginning so I hope the situation will improve.”
Eka, housewife, 35

“It has not influenced my family financially, but it definitely has influenced the conduct of my family. We are trying to spend less and cut down on clothing and other things, expecting that the crisis might touch us too. We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”
Tatia, student, 23

“I lost my job in summer, but fortunately I found a new one, although the salary is a bit less. Still I can’t complain. I don’t think the situation is improving so far. The crisis is still here.”
Beka, accountant, 25

“Everyone is talking about a crisis. However I have not felt it so far. I have the same job and same salary. I think the issue of crisis is a bit inflated by the media and politicians. The situation is not as bad in reality.”
Giorgi, distributor, 35

What do you think?