Economy Minister of Israel Visiting Georgia to ‘Strengthen Existing Economic Bridges’
As the balance of power changes throughout the world, new formations are made and strategic partnerships inside the region as well as between neighboring regions gain huge importance. In such times, it is crucial for two countries which have friendly connections with each other to deepen relations and widen cooperative spheres.
What initiatives should be made?
I am very proud that during the last 30 years, around 70% of initiatives have come from our side. At first, the process of connecting Georgia with Israel and with Jews in general was in the format of Jewish agency ‘Sochnut,’ then the process evolved through the framework of Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business and the Israeli House.
Over the past two years, we have introduced important initiatives, which have resulted in changing the format for relations between Georgia and Israel. We have more ambitious plans in 2018, including direct official visits, an economic agreement to sign, and the successful implementation of Israeli models, including within the high-tech industry.
The Minister of Economy and Industry of Israel, Mr. Eli Cohen, is now on an official visit to Georgia. Bilateral negotiations and achievements within the framework of his visit will strengthen the existing economic bridge which occupies a central position in Georgia-Israel relations.
Such initiatives, advice, recommendations and linkages are the daily activities of the Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business.
What should the role of the government be?
The intensity of the initiative depends on the knowledge of bilateral reality and we therefore consider it our job. Business depends on the private sector, not government and diplomats, but the role of the government is in commiting to promoting and protecting all of this.
The initiatives at times receive comments from skeptics. In 2002, we made a statement about daily flights and the irony was felt in the large-scale direct investments which followed right up until the global crisis. It was during that period that Israel’s business left Georgia. Some may also look ironically to our recent prediction that Georgia will become a startup country and that there is a huge potential for cooperation with Israel. We already have feedback on the latter.
For continuing the activities begun, the government should create a legislative base and intensively protect foreign investments.
I strongly believe that the most effective and qualitative measure is not to attract foreign investments, but to solve all the problems they may have.
We expressed an optimistic view about the potential of Georgian tourism in 2000, and opened the Georgian Tourism Representative building in Israel. We have been making very noticeable progress since then.
Last year, the number of tourists in Georgia rose to 60% and we think that it would be a great accomplishment if such growth was preserved and each day saw a minimum of two direct flights, not only in summer, but year-round. From Israeli tourists alone, Georgia receives more than $100 million dollars and, until 2020, the amount of money coming from Israeli tourists combined with previous years will exceed $1 billion.
This number is not enough, which is why conservative and traditional diplomacy, when not combined with public and business diplomacy and with lobbyist activities, will bring no positive impact. Now is the time for lobbyist activities and both sides should activate the working process. This needs a deep knowledge about the other side, its potentials and abilities, if a positive outcome is desired.
We are working on new initiatives which will be a great encouragement for the state sector. We think that economic relations between Georgia and Israel cannot be measured only in numbers. In fact, it is a well constructed economic bridge between the two countries.
By ITSIK MOSHE, President of Israel-Georgia Chamber of Business and Founder of Israeli House FSU
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