Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia participated in a Panel Discussion on Eurasia Middle Corridor: From Pathway to Highway, held within the scope of 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.
“First of all, thank you very much for organizing this panel. This is very important. You mentioned the war in Ukraine. It is catastrophic for the entire region. Of course, it affects us as well. I think this war has shown us that countries and nations need to diversify their economies. I think before the war less countries paid less attention to the Middle Corridor, but after the war the attention is growing. It is increasing. So, therefore, as President Aliyev has mentioned, I also want to repeat that we have an excellent relationship with Azerbaijan, with Kazakhstan; with Turkey we have a strategic partnership. And, I think, the chemistry is here and we have a strong foundation to work together” it was stated by Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia at a Panel Discussion on Eurasia Middle Corridor: From Pathway to Highway, held within the scope of 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos today.
As the Head of Government of Georgia noted, the country is investing heavily in its infrastructure.
“We in Georgia are investing heavily in infrastructure right now. First of all, I want to mention that we are building highways, which will be completed by the end of 2024. We are spending 2 or 3 BLN USD to complete this highway. Of course, this will facilitate transportation. Secondly, I want to mention the ports.
Port capacity of the Black Sea of Georgia is quite big, but we need to increase it. Therefore, I want to mention one particular project, which is Anaklia Deep Sea Port. We have decided that the Government of Georgia will start the construction of this port. 51% of this port or consortium we want to build will be owned by Georgia – by the Government of Georgia. The rest – 49% – will be put on an international tender. We are talking with many potential investors about this. Now, why are we doing this? Why do we want to build this port? President Aliyev mentioned about the increase of capacity of Azerbaijani ports. I think Kazakhstan has the same intention. So, Georgia now has a capacity of about 550 000 TU in Poti Port, around 200 000 in Batumi Port. This is not enough. So, that is why we want to implement this project” added the Prime Minister of Georgia.
The Head of Government of Georgia focused on the Black Sea Submarine Electricity Cable, as an ambitious project, thereby referring to it as a very interesting initiative.
“Thirdly, I want to mention that we are together with Azerbaijan in developing different initiatives. For example, I want to mention the Black Sea Submarine Electric Cable, which is also very interesting. We are doing this together with Azerbaijan, Romania and Hungary. This initiative is backed by the European Union. In fact, we were in Bucharest in September, where we signed a Memorandum. All 4 countries will implement and invest in this – I would say – ambitious project. But this is very interesting. And, therefore, we must be ready for the increased flow of goods. I also want to mention that this corridor and this route is the shortest to connect Asia with Europe. For example, trains from China can come to Georgia within 15 days, maximum 20 days. Compared to transportation by sea, it takes 45 days, right? So, therefore, this is a very interesting, very important corridor. Of course, all these countries are definitely motivated and determined to develop this corridor” noted Irakli Garibashvili.
The Head of Government of Georgia, similar to other panel participants, responded to the questions posed by Mirek Dušek, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
According to the Prime Minister of Georgia, the country is modernizing its railway. Besides, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Project is underway.
“We are talking about the highways and railways. Right now our railway capacity in Georgia is 25 million tons. We are now implementing the modernization of our railway. It will be completed by the end of 2024. Capacity will be about 48 million tons. Besides that, together with Azerbaijan, we are now building a Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. In fact, several months ago, Azerbaijan provided additional funds to complete this project. So it will also be ready by 2024. This is another 5 million tons of cargo. So, these are strategically very important projects.
I also want to mention the relationship between Azerbaijan and Georgia. This relationship is tested and reliable. We have implemented very important, historic projects together, such as the oil and gas pipelines. Now comes this railway project and many others which will come in the future” noted the Prime Minister of Georgia.
According to the Head of Government of Georgia, the country has one of the best business climates and ranks seventh in the Top 10 of Ease of Doing Business.
“Georgia has one of the best investment climates. Right now we are ranked 7th in the world in terms of doing business. Besides that, we are in Top 10 – Top 20 in terms of Economic Freedom or many rankings. Therefore, there is a big potential to invest and do business in Georgia. I also want to mention that we also have 4 Free Industrial Zones. As President Aliyev has mentioned, this is a great opportunity for foreign companies to bring factories, industries and investments to Azerbaijan and Georgia – in this corridor. Plus, I also want to mention that we want to link opportunity to renewables, because Georgia has rich hydro resources. Right now we only use 27% of hydro. We have developed a strategy and want to invest a lot in renewables: in hydro, solar, wind. So, therefore, investors and businesses will be able to use this cheap energy and location, which is very strategic and very important. And ports. Of course, these will altogether facilitate doing business for investors.
In terms of governance, I also want to mention that as President Aliyev has mentioned, I think it is a great initiative. We had a working meeting in Kazakhstan at the ministerial level and we signed a Roadmap on how to develop and facilitate it, and how to lift the barriers. I think we will agree on further steps and move forward. The initial Roadmap we agreed upon is from 2022 to 2027. In this timeframe we should prepare the corridor” noted the Prime Minister of Georgia.
Irakli Garibashvili focused on the current situation in the region as well.
“Regarding the relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia, I wish to say that Georgia is truly a neutral, unbiased and objective mediator. What President Aliyev mentioned, this is truly our interest to organize such a meeting – a trilateral meeting – because this region belongs to us – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia. We can really transform it into a region of opportunities: peace, stability and prosperity.
I also want to mention one thing. During the Soviet time and Cold War, there was a famous saying: Trust, but Verify! In Davos I heard an interesting formula: Distrust, but Cooperate! I believe in cooperation!” concluded the Prime Minister of Georgia.
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