Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia should Have Unity of Purpose: Interview with Georgian Minister of Economic Development

Kazakhstan,  Azerbaijan and   Georgia should Have Unity of Purpose: Interview with Georgian Minister of Economic Development

Kazakhstan, Astana, 30 April / corr. Trend K. Konirova/ The exclusive interview of the special correspondent of Trend in Astana with the minister of economic development of Georgia Ekaterina Sharashidze, who visited Kazakhstan recently.

Question: Association Head of Kazakhstan Exporters said that under such cut-throat competition among the routes, all depends on what Caucasus will suggest us. Were the transit tariffs for the export of Kazakhstan cargo through Georgia discussed during your meeting in Astana?

Answer: We did not discuss the tariffs. We discussed the possibility of Kazakh cargos transit, especially the oil and oil products through Georgia, through our ports in Batumi and Poti. Apart from this, we also discussed the various possibilities of the use of oil pipelines such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan. As you know, the capacity of BTC may be increased. There are rehabilitation works continuing in Baku-Supsa pipeline at present. By the way, a new port will be built in Poti, so the capacity of this port will increase in the future. We also discussed the transit of cargo via railway through Caucasus.

Question: There have been some problems concerning the transit of Kazakh strategic goods (oil, gas and grain) via Caucasus corridor. As I recall, a year and half ago, the Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze raised the issue of railway transit tariffs in Tbilisi during her meeting with Karim Masimov, Kazakh Premier...

Answer: As to the position of my country, Georgia strongly pursues open policy today. We do every effort so that the cargos passes through our country without any obstacles by eliminating all the tariff and administrative barriers, Today a lot of efforts are made to make the country more attractive for the transit purpose. The roads and related infrastructure have been built and we have begun investing into the development of Poti sea port. We have done that so that our regional transit tariffs would not be higher than the other countries and the cargos would not pass through Iran and Russia. We also make efforts to make the Caucasus corridor more attractive. There are high railway tariffs in Baku-Tbilisi section. We are holding talks with Azerbaijan in this regard and we know that Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are discussing it as well. Our chief goal is that Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia could have a unity of purpose. We believe that the development of a unified policy is a target of strategic importance for all these three countries today.

Question: What are your views about the implementation of project on construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway?

Answer: Works on the construction of Georgian section of the railway began at the end of 2007. Everything is being carried out in line with the schedule. As to the dividends expected from the project, they are very promising. This section will connect the Georgian railway infrastructure with Turkey, which is going to connect to the European railway infrastructure soon. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars will be one of the opportunities to expand the transit potential of the three countries, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, as it will connect Asia with Europe. The construction of the railway is expected to end in two years. We are sure that when the railway will be lunched, lot of cargos will come from China and Russia as well. Most important thing for today is that the processes are continuing dynamically and we are optimistic about the future of the Caucasus corridor.

Question: Todd Levy, the head of TSO, a large oil extracting company of Kazakhstan, stated recently that they plan to increase oil production from 2008 and part of it will be transported via BTC or via railway through Caucasus. Now the management of TSO is holding talks on transit of additional volumes of Tengiz oil via Caucasus route. Is Georgia ready for transit of such big volumes?

Answer: Yes. Baku-Supsa oil pipeline, which goes through our territory, is being reconstructed at present. As a matter of fact, there are two pipes. Their total capacity makes up to 10mln-15mln tons a year with a possible expansion of 27mln tons of oil a year. The oil pipeline is under the management of BP. As the representatives of the company said during the talks, the first stage of reconstruction will end by the end of May and early June 2008.

Question: How do you assess the participation of State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) in energy sphere of Georgia?

Answer: We have very good ties with Azerbaijan, especially with SOCAR. We purchase gas from the neighboring country's Shah Deniz field. The national oil company of Azerbaijan is developing gas network and distribution in our country. They have completed the construction of Kulevi terminal and have also been granted one-year license.

Question: During his meeting with the President of Georgia, the President of Kazakhstan has expressed his wish for Georgian mandarins and apples to be brought to Kazakhstan...

Answer: We discussed this topic in Astana with the Prime Minister Karim Masimov. Discussions were held on how to assist the entrepreneurs of the two countries in supplying fruits from Georgia already in this season. The harvesting is supposed to be rich. From our side, we are prepared to export our products to Kazakhstan. Three or four years ago, we had lack of roads and electricity in the rural regions. At present, everything has changed. Roads have been constructed, electricity has been supplied and there is a favorable climate. In short, we are ready. Now everything depends on the Kazakh side and on the volume of orders. I think that today this question was raised at the level of governments and there will be positive results.

Question: There is an opinion that the absence of direct flights between Tbilisi and Astana presents obstacles for the development of many business projects between the two countries. What is your view point on this?

Answer: Georgia pursues an open sky policy. Everything will depend on the range of business people demand for flights to Kazakhstan and to Georgia. We have two or three Georgian private air companies. Earlier the flight were carried out to Almaty and Astana, and to my knowledge, there are intentions to re-establish the flights soon.

Question: It is not a secret that over the recent period, the media paid much attention to the discussions on Georgia's entrance to NATO. One of the opposite arguments was that the membership to NATO envisages huge expenses for the country that joins the Alliance. Is Georgia prepared for that?

Answer: Georgia has implemented all the conditions and necessary expenses for its entrance to NATO. With regards to the military expenses, nearly 20% of the Public budget is being directed towards Georgian army. In my opinion, it is a normal case for a developing country. We began establishing our army from zero. Today our army has been trained well, physically and technically. Defence, social program and infrastructure projects are key articles of expenditures of Georgia today. We always look at the current situation. For instance, if we see that the development of economy will help in the development of infrastructure, we increase our expenses in this direction. But if the food crisis has been recorded in the recent period, we increase our expenses for the social programs.

Question: I heard that preference is given to the young people in labor establishment in Georgia, but there are difficulties for those under 50 years of age. Is that true?

Answer: Yes, there is such a problem. It deals with those who can not find their place in the realities of life. Today the Government carries out special job-trainings involving not only young generation, but also the old generation. In the beginning, the private companies make announcement on specialties they require, and the Government holds three months seminars where the people pass practice and receive $200 salary from the government. It is a huge help to the company and people. The firms gain additional workforce and people gets guaranteed salary and opportunity to test themselves.

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