Caucasus Press Review

Caucasus Press Review

By Vestnik Kavkaza

Georgia is expected to sign an Association Agreement as well as a comprehensive agreement on free trade with the EU on June 27. The newspaper "Free Georgia" reports that this day is already being referred to as "historic" in Tbilisi. It reports that according to a recent public opinion poll conducted in Georgia at the request of the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), 58% of the population fully supports ​​Georgia's integration into the EU and NATO. Only 20 % of respondents are against this trend.

The Georgian President, Georgi Margvelashvili, speaking at a recent press conference after a meeting with the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, said that the European choice of the Georgian people is not directed against anyone's interests.

The economic part of the Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia will come into force after its ratification by the parliament of Georgia in the coming fall. The newspaper cites the opinion of the head of the Committee of Industrial Economics and Economic Policy of the Parliament of Georgia, Zurab Tkemaladze, who believes that after Georgian signs the agreement its economy will have to cope with a number of serious problems, such as the modernization of local enterprises in accordance with European standards and bringing production to the European level. Tkemaladze also stressed that Georgian products will have to maintain existing export markets, including the Russian market. "The whole world is interested in the Russian market and we cannot lose interest in it," he said.

Another expert, the head of the Institute for the Development of Georgia, a former adviser on foreign affairs to the Prime Minister, Gia Khukhashvili, sees some risks posed by the agreement in addition to benefits. He said that it is important to be prepared to become part of an association with high standards and civilized rules of the game. According to Khuhkashvili, first of all the European market will open to competitive Georgian products. However, there are not that many products of that kind: traditionally, there are wine and mineral water.

He reminded that today Georgia imports 80% of its products and exports only 20%. For the country's economy to develop, this balance needs to be changed. It is important to develop the real sector of economy, it is necessary to invest in and create an economy that will be competitive on the European market. "If we fail to do it now, we will become an appendage, a consumer country, a market which might not be that interesting to the European Union, with a rather sad domestic socio-economic sphere," the expert warned.

Commenting on a recent warning by the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, about a possible revision of bilateral relations in the financial and economic spheres if the association agreement between Georgia and the EU is signed, Khukhashvili pointed out that the degree of integration between Georgia and Russia is quite low and that problems which might arise in connection with signing the agreement will not be able to affect the Georgian economy in a systematic way, but will rather affect only certain areas. On the other hand, in his opinion, Russia, in case of proper investments in the Georgian economy, will be able to use Georgia as a window for entering the European market.

The Armenian weekly "Business Express" reports that the Central Bank has revised its forecast for a number of indicators of the country's economy. Thus, according to the program of monetary policy of the bank, a rise in nominal wages by 11% instead of 13% projected earlier is expected in 2014. The minimum wage will be raised from 45 to 50 thousand drams, and a growth of wages of state employees, which is expected to take place mainly in the second half of this year, will cause an increase in wages in the private sector, due to the tightening of inter-industry competition. The growth of wages in the public sector will continue also in the first half of 2015.

In addition, according to the program, the average unemployment rate for the end of 2014, will decline by 0.3 % instead of the previously projected 0.9% and will amount to 15.8%. The trend of decrease in the unemployment rate will continue in the next 2 years.

The Central Bank of Armenia has once again lowered the forecast for the growth of money transfers between individuals in 2014. The growth of private transfers in the current year will amount to 4.5-6.5%, against 7-9% projected earlier. The program of the Central Bank indicates that the decrease in the forecast of private transfers is due to the expected slowdown in the GDP growth of the Russian Federation in the current year. According to the Bank, the influx of private non-profit transfers to the country in 2013 amounted to $ 1.9 billion and showed an increase by 10.8% compared with 2012, while the outflow of transfers increased by 10.9%, up to 324.2 million dollars. The overwhelming majority of transfers sent to individuals of Armenia for non-commercial purposes originated from Russia (86%), the United States accounts for 4.4%, Kazakhstan for 1.3%, Ukraine for 0.9% and France and Germany for 0.8%. More than half of private transfers from Armenia abroad also falls on Russia (180.3 million dollars with an annual growth of 9.6%).

The Central Bank of Armenia has also lowered its growth forecast for the export of goods and services in 2014 down to 5.5-7.5%. An earlier forecast accounted for a growth in exports by 11-13% in the current year. The new forecast of the Central Bank is based on expectations of the Central Bank regarding the global economy, as well as on assumptions about the growth of mining and metallurgical industries as a result of exploitation of the Teghut deposit. The Central Bank forecast on the growth of the import of goods and services has also dropped sown to to 2-4% instead of 3-5% projected earlier.

The newspaper cites data of the National Statistics Service of Armenia, which states that the volume of foreign trade turnover in 2013 amounted to $ 6 billion with an annual growth of 5.6%, with exports amounting to $ 1.5 billion with an annual growth of 7.2%.

The Newspaper "Dagenstani Truth" presents its readers with the progress of construction of the Gotsatlinskaya HPP in the republic, commissioned for this year.

The power plant is being built on the Avar Koisu River, near the village of Chalda in the Gergebilsky region. Its construction began in January 2007. The design capacity of the plant is 100 MW, it is expected to generate about 350 million kWh of electricity a year. The plant includes a ground pebble dam 68m high, a building with two hydraulic units, a dam outlet and a catchwater drain.

The article notes that currently 78% of the construction is completed. The assembly of the main equipment of the hydraulic unit, the rotor assembly of the hydraulic unit number 2 and a number of other tasks have already been accomplished. Thus, all the basic work on the assembly of the upper bracket of the hydraulic unit (the turbine and generator) has been accomplished. The plant is ready for the final stages of installation. All in all, two hydraulic units will be constructed at the plant, one of which is already almost ready.

The Gotsatlinskaya hydroelectric power plant will be the fourth most powerful power plant in Dagestan. Its commission is expected to significantly reduce the shortage of electricity in winter in the republic.

The newspaper "Ingushetia", citing the Deputy Minister of Construction, Architecture, Housing and Communal Services of the republic, Mustafa Buruzhev, informs that during the period from 2008 to 2014 more than 1.16 billion rubles have been allocated for the implementation of national targeted programs. Some of these funds had been allocated from the Fund of assistance to renovating housing and communal services. Almost 500 million rubles were spent on renovating apartment buildings. The remaining funds were spent on the resettlement of people from emergency buildings. All in all, 107 houses have been renovated, 30 out of 68 buildings unsuitable for living were demolished. Twenty new houses were built in the republic and comfortable living conditions were created for 19,542 people.

The article states that the republic's government has approved a new action plan for the resettlement of citizens still living in unsuitable housing conditions. The "Resettlement of people living in emergency housing in the Republic of Ingushetia for 2013-2015" program includes remaining 38 apartment buildings with the total footage of ​​35 958.6 sq. m. More than 3 thousand people will be resettled by the end of 2015, according to this program.

887.631 million rubles is provided for the realization of this program. The Fund of assistance to renovating housing and communal services has allocated about 160 million rubles for the implementation of the first phase of the program. More than 90 million rubles will be taken from the national budget of the country. All funds necessary for the completion of the first phase have already been transferred to local authorities.

On the initiative of the non-governmental association "Elm Chirag" ("Torch of Science") a research seminar dedicated to the topic "Azerbaijan and Italy in the light of science and spirituality" took place at the Hajibeyli Baku Musical Academy, local newspaper "Kaspiy" reports.

The "Elm Chirag" association is a non-profit NGO. Its mission is to increase interest in science and culture among the population through rendering support to governmental initiatives, research in this area, as well as educating the public by holding seminars in the field of culture and science.

Opening the seminar, the head of the association, the head of the Department of World Literature at Baku Slavic University, Professor Naida Mamedhanova, stressed that Azerbaijan, being a country at the crossroads of the East and West, provides an opportunity to other countries to get acquainted with the rich culture of "the country of lights" through such meetings. Azerbaijan is a country which has absorbed the best traditions of the two civilizations - the East and the West. 

The Italian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Giampaolo Cutillo, was present at the opening ceremony and said that he had found many similarities between the twin cities of Baku and Naples. He said that the mentality of the two peoples, the "oriental temperament" which is inherent to Azerbaijanis and Italians, make them very similar. He stressed that the true source of the similarities lies in the history and even geography of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has managed to preserve the unique identity of its ancient culture and establish traditions of understanding and good relations with other peoples. Cutillo also mentioned a number of other parallels linking the two countries, the newspaper reports. Italian culture, he said, and in particular painting, was always interesting not only to artists but also to scientists.

Farida Mir-Bagirzade, doctor in the history of art, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan presented a paper dedicated to the work of the three greatest minds of the Renaissance - Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo.

At the end of the seminar, students of the Baku Music Academy performed Italian and Azerbaijani composers. Their performance was praised highly by the Italian ambassador. He expressed his hope that the cooperation with the "Elm Chirag" organization will continue in the future, the article reads.