West Georgia Regional Business Forum Held in Kutaisi

Centralization is an ongoing challenge to Georgia’s economic growth and prosperity, and a variety of initiatives aimed at de­cent­ralizing the country’s economic, political, and social activity have been proposed and implemented. The West Georgia Regional Business Forum is one such initiative.

Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, George Kobulia, opened the forum’s inaugural year on Friday, February 15. The forum was hosted by the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) at its regional office in Kutaisi – an office which also houses the local DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Georgia and the European Union) information center.

Representatives from more than 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in western Georgia attended the forum. Also in attendance were the Head of the Cooperation Section of the EU Delegation to Georgia, Vincent Rey, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Genadi Arveladze, Project Manager Knut Berger, and the President of the GCCI, Nino Chikovani.

The forum gave attendees the opportunity to speak with Kobulia about challenges and specific issues affecting entrepreneurs in western Georgia. There were presentations and discussions on the implementation of the DCFTA and the challenges implementors face, and programs that support SMEs to adapt to and benefit from the DCFTA.

Chikovani welcomed the audience, saying, “We are delighted to host you in this renovated premises. It is our desire to see this office become a place where entrepreneurs from western Georgia meet. Thanks to the support and efforts of our international partners, all means are in place for the SMEs to receive most needed consultation services, attend trainings and be provided with a space for business meetings. These renovated premises will play a great role in terms of providing a venue for raising awareness in the regions about the government services and the services provided in the area of on-the-job training.” The office’s recent renovation was funded by the EU and German governments.

In his speech, Kobulia discussed ongoing economic reforms and initiatives, Georgia’s DCFTA progress, and prospects for small and medium-sized business development. He also explained the details of state programs aimed at export promotion, including Produce in Georgia, credit-guarantee mechanisms and vocational training, emphasizing vocational institutions in Georgia’s regions.

“One of the major obstacles to economic development in our country is the lack of a qualified workforce. This does not apply to higher education – we’re talking about the development of vocational careers. We should assist people willing to work in finding suitable jobs by giving them the opportunity to get a technical and professional education,” Kobulia explained.

He also described a new government-led job retraining program that will soon come into force in the regions, “including the Imereti Region, and I encourage everyone to share information about this program as much as possible. We want to attract people, give them professional education and help them find a proper job. In order to achieve one of the most important goals of creating new jobs, we need to have qualified workers and the government undertakes the responsibility of generating these qualifications in our country” said Kobulia.

The forum was jointly funded by the EU and the German International Cooperation Society (GIZ) project “Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development and the DCFTA in Georgia” and the Munich and Upper Bavaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry Academy (IHK).

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development

18 February 2019 19:51