For almost a year now, the activities of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business have been aimed at addressing the economic and investment challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As early as the spring, we prepared a multi-point recommendation to support areas that are leading the way in Israeli-Georgian economic relations, and for Georgia with other countries in the post-Corona period. During a pandemic, in fact, the world is at war. We have no right to lose this war, let alone run away, but everyone realizes that there are risks. The economy, and not just the economy, has become a hostage of the pandemic, and so we find ourselves in an extraordinary situation that has especially affected countries with weak economies. Finding a solution requires innovative approaches. We are a bilateral Chamber of Business with a 25-year history, and therefore, its recommendations include the use of all tools that are already internationally proven or effective depending on the situation. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to the President of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, Itsik Moshe.
WHAT ARE THE ABOVE-MENTIONED TOOLS, SPECIFICALLY?
First of all, I will touch upon the bilateral business forums widely used by the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business over the years. This is the best platform for business relations between Georgian and Israeli businesspersons to discover the country’s investment potential and to attract investment. We’ve held about 20 business forums in Georgia and Israel, and Georgia has received more than $500 million in personal investment from Israel and the world Jewry. We regularly meet potential investors with representatives of the government’s economic block, business law specialists. Our office also provides legal or financial advice to investors entering the country without any cost, as it is often no less a problem to complete a business project than to start one. At the end of this year, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business, we planned a summary business forum, but due to the pandemic, the delegation from Israel are not able to come. The forum has been postponed to February. A few days ago, we received a video address by the Minister of Economy of Israel, Amir Peretz, in which he named the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business an important and influential channel that works for the benefit of the two countries. According to Peretz, he was in Georgia and personally got acquainted with the activities of the Business Chamber, which has no analog elsewhere. It is a great honor to hear these words, so even during such times, we have no right to stop.
WHEN TOURISM STOPPED, THE ECONOMY BECAME A “HOSTAGE” OF THE PANDEMIC. WHAT OTHER POSSIBILITIES ARE THERE FOR THE COUNTRY TO ATTRACT FOREIGN, FOR EXAMPLE ISRAELI, INVESTORS?
Let us divide this issue into two parts. Israel / Jewish multimillion-dollar investments in various fields have already entered Georgia. In some already invested in business projects, certain issues need to be resolved with the state, otherwise, these projects will not be completed. In other words, the investor will make no additional investments. First of all, it is necessary to take care of already existing investors. In addition, they should be given the motivation to reinvest. All this will become an impetus for other businesspersons to make capital investments. We initiated the creation of a special commission with the Prime Minister, which will focus on solving the problems facing businesses. This will strengthen and stimulate the activities of investors, preparing the ground for the influx of investment that will enter the country in 2021, despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic in the world.
WHEN THE PANDEMIC HAS AFFECTED ALL COUNTRIES, HOW CAN THE FLOW OF INVESTMENT FROM THESE COUNTRIES BE RENEWED?
Of course, we’ve thought a lot about this issue. Yes, this problem exists, and we have offered the state a solution: to give a real function to the institution of Honorary Consul and to serve the state. Under the 1963 Vienna Convention, a state can appoint dozens of honorary consuls to a country. It should be their obligation to bring in an investor every two months, to create an enterprise of at least 100 people. One of the conditions for obtaining the status of Honorary Consul must be the establishment of at least one enterprise. Honorary Consuls have their doors open to the government, and therefore support. If the Honorary Consul fails to fulfill this obligation, they should have their status revoked. These are conditions of war and not that of luxury, compromise, and friendship. This method will bring 1 billion dollars to Georgia in 2021, which is a shocking stimulus for the economy in such a period. The Honorary Consul should take care of the image of the country along with attracting investment. This is essential in the light of the current crisis, when for investors, due to different circumstances, the country, the region, may be getting less and less interesting for investors. Our concept is that the Honorary Consul should, due to their status, financial situation and business connections, in the conditions of economic crisis, become the main bridge with foreign investors; The central link that will bring investment to the country, and new jobs. This topic should be raised at the national level. I think the resource of the leadership of diplomatic missions should be used to the maximum. The crisis sometimes requires nonstandard steps from the state. Ambassadors should also be instructed to attract investors, bringing in at least one investor in at least every two months. In a war-like situation, it is perfectly normal to perform such a function.
RECENTLY, YOU SPOKE ABOUT ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY: THE INVOLVEMENT OF THE GEORGIAN SIDE AT THE INITIATIVE OF THE ISRAEL-GEORGIA CHAMBER OF BUSINESS.
Yes. The IsraGeEmirates Chamber of Business was opened recently, another source for boosting investment. We, as a bilateral business chamber, are trying to connect Georgia with new international platforms. As I told you, a large investment has already come to Georgia from Israel and it needs development, overcoming the obstacles facing some business projects. Today, the Emirates are quite attractive to Israeli businessmen, and to prevent the outflow of existing capital from Georgia, we have created a scheme / triangle: Georgia-Israel-Emirates. Georgia should be one of the main participants, as the businesses of both countries know Georgia and find it attractive. It is necessary to use every platform. Ultimately, everything depends on coordinated work.
YOU’VE BEEN CHOSEN AS THE CHAIR OF TRADE & INVESTMENT COMMISSION OF ICC (INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE) IN GEORGIA. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES WILL THIS GIVE?
First of all, I want to thank ICC Georgia for this important opportunity. I feel responsibility and realize the difficulty of this challenge, especially during the pandemic. My job as the Chair of commission will be the natural continuation of the last 25-year activities, which includes the communication with investors, support of the investment environment and popularization. We will also help to deepen and simplify trade facilitation. International Chamber of Commerce is one of the most friendly organizations to Georgia and its activities bring multiple advantages to the country. Therefore, As the Chair of Trade & Investment Commission of ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) in Georgia, in the near future, I intend to publish a plan for next year. An integral part of it will be meeting with investors and studying the situation in more detail, and ultimately solving the problems and strengthening investors. This is the motto of our 25 years of activity. Investments and bilateral work are not just numbers. It’s also about investors lobbying the country and creating a credible image. It is also about new technologies and sharing world experiences. I believe that by working together, we will definitely achieve the desired result.