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Georgia: Doning business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Georgia

Office Hours

Government office opening hours are usually 1000-1800. Private sector offices are usually open on Saturdays.

Economy

Georgia has experienced considerable economic difficulties during the last decade and is one of the poorest of the former Soviet republics. Disruption of the centrally organised Soviet trade and supply networks, plus civil war and political instability produced hyper-inflation and a slump in production.

Major structural reforms, centring on the transfer of almost all small-scale enterprises to private ownership and a parallel reduction in the economic role of the state, were instituted. The measures have since contributed to strong annual growth for most of the post-Soviet period (5.5% in 2010) and a manageable rate of inflation. Unemployment, however, remains high, as does widespread poverty.

The agricultural sector, which accounts for about one-third of total output, produces fruit, tobacco, grain and sugar beet; sheep and goats are widely farmed. There is some heavy industry, notably shipbuilding, but most of Georgia's industry is light and engaged in food processing and production of fertiliser. Coal and manganese are mined in commercial quantities.

The government aims to establish the main ports of Poti and Batumi as regional transport and re-export hubs, which will also be able to handle oil refining and transhipment. Part of this plan involved the laying of a set of pipelines running east-west across the entire country, linking the oil and gas fields of central Asia to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Further reforms, including the privatisation of major industries such as energy, are planned but the government has so far moved cautiously.

In 1992, Georgia joined the IMF, which has been centrally involved in the economic reform programme, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as a 'Country of Operation'. It has also acquired membership of the World Trade Organization.

GDP

US$11.23 billion (2010).

Main exports

Scrap metal, machinery, chemicals, fuel re-exports, citrus fruits, tea and wine.

Main imports

Fuel, machinery and parts, transport equipment, grain and other foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals.

Main trading partners

Russia, UK, Turkey, other EU, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Armenia.

Keeping in Touch in Georgia

Telephone

Some outgoing calls from Georgia, except to other parts of the CIS, must be made through the operator and long waits can occur. It is possible for visitors to set up an account with the local telecom company that enables them to make direct long-distance calls without the operator's assistance. Many businesspeople now use satellite links to overcome the considerable problems of ordinary telephone communication. The Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel (tel: (32) 772020; www.starwoodhotels.com) is equipped with its own satellite phones.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies. It is possible to hire mobile hand-sets from Geocell Ltd (www.geocell.com.ge). Coverage is good throughout the country, but there is limited coverage in the north west.

Internet

There are some Internet cafés in Tbilisi.

Media

Much of the Georgian media are considered to be free but there have been reports of journalists investigating corruption being harassed, and sometimes physically attacked. The outspoken private TV station Rustavi-2 has regularly angered the police and officials. The authorities operate the national state TV and radio networks.

Post

International postal services can be severely disrupted. Long delays may occur and parcels should be registered or delivered through courier services such as Air Express and DHL, based locally. It is advisable to post letters in central post offices rather than using the post boxes in the street.