Caucasian Press Review (February 8-14th)
Georgia expects a lot from the development of bilateral relations with Iran after the lifting of the international sanctions against Tehran. First of all, we are talking about new energy projects, investments, increasing the flow of tourists. "Iran is ready to export gas to Georgia for domestic consumption and transportation to Europe," the Iranian Ambassador to Georgia Abbas Talebi-far said in his interview to the Rezonansi newspaper. He noted that preparatory technical work is being carried out and routes for transportation of Iranian gas to Georgia are being considered, including through Azerbaijan or Armenia.
The Georgian-Iranian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the prospects of cooperation between the two countries in Tbilisi stressed that now, after the lifting of the international sanctions against Iran, money transactions will be restored and, accordingly, there won’t be any problem with the arrival of large Iranian capital to Georgia. It will also contribute to the deepening of trade and economic relations.
Georgia-Online reports that the Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze will visit Iran to discuss the exchange of electricity, the topic of gas and exporting water resources from Georgia. Iran is waiting for the Prime Minister of Georgia in the coming months. Several important agreements will be signed during his visit.
The Foreign Ministers of Georgia and Iran, Mikheil Janelidze and Mohammad Javad Zarif, have met on the sidelines of the 52nd Munich Security Conference, the same edition reports. They discussed deepening of cooperation in the tourism, agriculture and transport spheres. Georgia's abolition of the visa regime for Iranian citizens from February 15 will also have a positive impact on the development of tourism. It was introduced unilaterally in 2013. The Georgian authorities explained their decision was because of UN recommendations.
Iran is considering the possibility of increasing gas exports to Armenia fivefold in the framework of the construction of a third power transmission line. According to the newspaper ‘Voice of Armenia’, this was stated by the director of the National Gas Export Company of Iran, Alireza Cameli. He noted that on the basis of the joint agreement between Iran and Armenia, it is possible to increase the supply of gas to 5 million cubic meters per day, and the construction of new power transmission lines may be a key factor in increasing the supply of Iranian gas to Armenia.
Agreement between the governments on the construction of a new power transmission line was signed in 2015. The project is estimated to be worth 117 million dollars, 90 million of which is invested by the Iranian side. Now the construction of the third power transmission line is half complete, it is planned that it will be completed in 2018.
The newspaper notes that the project is of key importance for the Armenian economy in general and for the energy sector in particular. First of all, it will allow to exploit fully the potential of the Yerevan thermal power plant and the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, which is designed for the barter system of 'gas for electricity'. That is, the Iranian gas is supplied to the Yerevan TPP, is transformed into electricity, which is returned back to Iran. But there is a weak link in such kind of natural barter – the limited capacity of the existing transmission lines connecting the energy systems of Armenia and Iran. At the same time, the capacity of the gas communication is sufficiently high. As a result of the years of operation of the Armenian-Iranian barter system of 'gas for electricity', its resources are not fully used. The Iranian side continues to experience electricity shortages, the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline operates at low capacity, the Yerevan TPP operates in the same mode.
Meanwhile, the newspaper argues that the Russian side, represented by Gazprom, is also interested in the full load of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline. This is explained by the fact that the operator of the gas pipeline is the Gazprom Armenia company and the pipe itself was built at the expense of Gazprom's investments. A return of Gazprom's investments was envisaged by payment according to the rate tied to the volume of Gazprom Armenia's gas transportation services. However, instead of the planned volume, 5 times less gas, about 300-400 million cubic meters per day, are supplied to Armenia through this pipeline. Accordingly, Gazprom Armenia gets a lot less money for its services and the process of return of investments is delayed.
The North Ossetia newspaper informs about a reduction of electricity tariffs for businesses and organizations. In the first and in the second half of the year the tariff will decrease by 20%.
First Deputy Prime Minister Teimuraz Touskaev stressed: "We speak about the need to develop domestic industry and the economy, but this process is not possible without the hard regulation of monopolies. It is necessary to reduce production costs. Declining prices will allow enterprises to manufacture products at lower costs and be more competitive in the market..."
The lower price of electricity will allow large enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses to reduce costs by 700 million rubles, and budget organizations will be able to save about 200 million.
The government's position was supported by the heads of industrial enterprises. The director of the Vladikavkaz plant of Ketone, which produces ultra-thin polyethylene film, Salamov Rashid, complained that last year power engineers spent 15 million rubles to produce goods worth 55 million rubles. The production costs of the Yes meat company reach 18% of the prime cost. According to business leaders, these funds will become an essential tool for development during the severe economic conditions.
Categorical disagreement with the government's estimation and the tariff service were expressed by representatives of the North Ossetian branch of the IDGC of the North Caucasus. In their view, after reducing of the tariff, work on modernization of depreciated networks will become impossible and it may lead to disruptions in energy supply. It will be impossible to ensure the construction of new substations or the repair of existing ones, or to replace worn-out networks in Vladikavkaz, the majority of which went out of date a long time ago. The absence of funds for modernization, taking into account the preparation of the tariff, will lead to the impossibility of guaranteeing uninterrupted power supply to the city. The current work of the organization and the payment of wages to employees are put at risk.
Arguments about power engineering were heard, but the decision of the authorities remains unchanged.
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The commercial director of the company-operator system Plato LLC RT-Invest Transport Systems, Anton Zamkov, and the head of the federal state institution (PKU) Roads of Russia, Ivan Grigorovich, visited Makhachkala. The Dagestani Pravda newspaper informs that only a small number of heavy vehicles from Dagestan were registered in the system. According to the republican branch of Platon, local drivers prefer to issue one-off route maps.
According to them, this is the most comfortable and beneficial way for the carrier. The registered freighter gets easy access to all services of the system – it can quickly replenish a personal account on the website or with the help of a mobile application, as well as arrange, pay, reserve or cancel a route map with a single click. The user can also look through details of invoices and the route up to the nearest second exit and the exit from the federal highway, as well as register vehicles and send appeals to the operator. In addition, registered users receive another major privilege – the ability to carry out post-pay. This mode will be available from April 15th this year.
The question of how the money gathered in Plato would be spent was raised at the meeting. "According to recent data, the system has collected more than 3 billion rubles to be put into the road fund. It is planned to collect about 40 billion rubles during the year. Now we are discussing the mechanism of spending the collected funds for the construction and repair of roads. The director of the republican branch of Plato Ramadan Yarakhmedov said that there are two offices in the republic where drivers can register and get the necessary information. Trained personnel work there, who are ready to answer any questions related to the functioning of the system.
However, the newspaper reports that many of the carriers didn't change their skeptical attitudes towards Plato after the meeting. Thus, according to estimates of the head of one of the transport companies, costs for one vehicle will increase by about 300,000 rubles a year. "This work is operating at a loss,'' he said. According to the truckers, new protest actions against the introduction of the Plato system are being prepared for spring.
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In the summer of 2016, Abkhazia's beaches will be rented, Abkhazia-Inform reports. Above all, private individuals will rent beaches near cities and major resort centers. At the same time, the bathing areas will remain publicly available for everyone. Leaseholders will be able to charge only for additional services, such as the use of sunbeds and umbrellas. At the same time, they will be responsible for cleaning their territories, including cleaning the territories of debris and organizing rescue services. According to the authorities, such a measure will make the country's beaches not only cleaner and safer, but also more modern.
The Deputy Minister of Resorts and Tourism of the Republic Astamur Ahban, explained to the Internet portal Sputnik-Abkhazia that the beach zones of Abkhazia are not in the best condition now. The state has no possibility to establish a safe and comfortable environment for guests and residents of the country. The idea of renting has been tested on some beaches in the past year. According to entrepreneurs engaged in this business, the rent for the use of beach areas was from 3000 to 5000 rubles a month, depending on the season. As a rule, leaseholders manage to earn with the help of rental services for beach equipment and marine activities.
The tourism industry is the engine of the economy of Abkhazia, the newspaper notes. According to the Border Service of Abkhazia, about 7 million Russians visited the republic in 2015. Trains started operating from Adler to Gagra, and catamarans from Sochi to Pitsunda. The development of transport communication with Russia will continue in 2016.