The FINANCIAL -- The Georgian Government has decided not to listen to investors. An absence of qualified advisors is one of the main problems causing a rift between businesses and the Government, founder of Iran-Georgia Business Development Centre said. Iranian investors are investing over USD 20 billion annually in the UAE, a sum that could potentially be issued toGeorgia as well, if its policymakers were to have a different policy. A nuclear deal withIran was reached last week. This sparked optimism around the world, as it is believed that it will reviveIran’s economy. Meanwhile, it seems thatGeorgia has lost the opportunity to attract investors fromIran, the country with the fourth largest crude oil reserves in the world.
The Georgian Government has broken their promise. We see new rules appearing every day. One day they banned entering Georgia due to visa prohibitions. They later apologized and re-opened the door. Then, when Iranians came to Georgia and purchased land or a home here we were told that Iranians cannot do business in Georgia. So, in this situation who can we trust to?” Mahmoud Davari, Founder of the Iran - Georgia Business Development Centre, and Board Member of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), told The FINANCIAL.
Many different agreements were signed during the visit of the Minister of Economy of Georgia and his delegation to Iran. One of the agreements meant the starting of direct flights between Tehran and Tbilisi. “Mahan Air is one of the leading air companies in Iran. Hence, it was agreed that Mahan Air would start flights. The first flight was scheduled for 2 July. However, the flight was later cancelled. The Georgian side explained their decision as being due to security problems which Mahan was facing. However, if the company had some security problems it would never have scheduled flights running to European countries. Georgia is losing Iranian investors as well as Iranian tourists, and we see no response emerging from the Government”, said Davari.
“For Iranians it is very difficult to start a business in Georgia. We have tried to invest a lot here but we have lost a lot. We can see no reliable hand to take care of all investors. Iranians were ready to invest a great deal in Georgia. The reason for our interest in Georgia was its great potential in many fields, for example, agriculture, that needs appropriate finances to flourish but without safe and reliable investing atmosphere nothing can be interesting. Iranian investors are welcomed worldwide and it is surprising that Georgia has closed the door to them in such a rude way,” Davari told.
In Davaris words, Iranians are investing over USD 20 billion in the UAE. This is a sum that could, equally, be invested in Georgia.
“As ICC board member I can tell you that the problems Iranians are facing are common to other nationalities as well. For ex, Indian students have failed to be granted visas to study here. I have met with such students many times so I can confirm that the problems exist across the board, regardless of nationality. This is an issue that affects people from African countries, as well as Arabs, and even Americans”, he added.
Davari closely cooperates with some Iranian investment companies which, according to his words, have already chosen investing fields interesting to them and in case the right, reliable steps from officials side are ready to carry out a significant investment within the frames of stability.
Q. Why is there such big misunderstanding between business society and the Government?
A. They consider us to be the opposition. The only thing we are trying to do is to help build a more transparent and healthy business environment in Georgia. However, we could not achieve mutual understanding yet, but still I want to think we will. We are always open to them and are ready to give our hand by right advises in order not to damage Georgia’s business face, to help its economy develop and let the country remain attractive to investors.
Q. We recall how the PM apologized to foreigners after the new visa regulations were implemented, which means they recognized their mistake. So, why are they are continuing to make similar mistakes and causing problems for investors?
A. This is worldwide experience that all governments have high professional advisors in different fields and they exist in order to be listened to, not to be ignored. I think it would be great if Georgian government accepts advises from high-experienced and professional advisors or at least, discusses some subjects with them. Losing the ability of leading negotiations or discussions about doing right business could be harmful for the country’s economics.
I can say that in comparing with the present administration the previous one was much more disposed to such discussions with ICC and the result was vivid. Nobody is perfect and the only truth comes in discussions.
Q. Which government body is raising the most problems?
A. Our main job is related to the Ministry of Economy. I wish they were more attentive and available for communication. Yes, we have problem and this problem is named communication, lack of communication. Lots of letters sent to them have still remained without any response that is really surprising to me.
I am sure that relations between the Iran, West and the U.S. will soon be normalized and sanctions will be lifted. By that time the bridge between Iranian and Georgian businesses should not be damaged. I am ready to work hard to bring big investors to Georgia if only there were to be corresponding eagerness and support from officials at this end.
Q. When the EU and U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia Georgia did not join them. However, we remember that when Iranians were banned from opening bank accounts here, Georgian officials explained this as being down to a common international decision. How can you explain this decision?
A. Neither the EU nor the U.S. ever forced Georgia to do anything. It was free choice of this country. Saying no in a diplomatic way to joining the sanctions on Russia, which is your bordering neighbour, was, may be, the part of clever and careful diplomacy. The question is why they did not extend that sort of decision-making towards Iran. Sometimes I wonder whether the Georgian Government wants to have any business relations with Iran at all. Three years on and I cannot find an exact answer. If no, then why we invite them .But if we invite, then why we do not let them in or work? This looks as a kind of chess that serves as a sign of unreliability and unsafety for business.
Q. What is the main message that you would like to deliver to the Georgian Government?
I am sure that Georgia’s present officials are patriots of their country and are motivated to develop its economy as well as other fields .My message to them would be to be more constructive to businessmen and generally, to ICC in order to make investing atmosphere safe, reliable and transparent here in Georgia not only for Iranian, but generally, for investors of any nationality. Georgia needs them so much. Lets built this country together, lets flourish and develop it. Georgia and Georgian deserve all the best.
Q. What are the main external problems concerning businesses?
A. Any country faces external risks. However, when domestically officials do their job professionally, you start paying less attention to external factors. The problems with neighbours have always been and might remain active. However, the issues should be properly solved in a high professional way by sharing the experiences of other successful countries. I believe any ship should be run by the good captain.