Q. What do you consider to be the major highlights since the last Tbilisi Local Economic Development Forum in terms of foreign investment in Tbilisi?
A. To summarise the year, the main thing is that there are signs of recovery [from an] economic perspective. As you know, there is still a big problem in Europe and in many countries surrounding us so our main objective was to make the economy functionable, to maintain economic growth and to try and increase FDI as well as to keep up the growth, for example, in the number of visitors and tourists, etc...
If we look at the figures, they are, I think, quite amazing because we could achieve almost 7% economic growth in 2012. The number of tourists has been rising and reached 2,850,000 [in 2010], which is 40% more than [in 2009]. We are maintaining this growth [in 2012] as well, and if we compare the first three months to [the same period in] 2011, there has been growth of about 38% to 40%, and if we manage to maintain this [level of growth for] three years then we will have about 5 million to 6 million visitors, which is the same figure that we had [when Georgia was part of] the Soviet Union.
Q. Has there been any change in focus or evolution of your FDI strategy since last year, or are you just continuing on with the path that you set?
A. We have to continue [as planned]. You can fine-tune the strategy but the main line has to be kept because there are many things that have to be finished and finalised. Our biggest challenge now is to minimise the influence of politics on the economy. The last election, the local one, was the first one that didn’t have any impact, any tangible impact on the economic life of the country.
In 2012 we have parliamentary elections, so our strategy is to accelerate the work with the investors within various fields and also to show to our partner countries, partners from a political point of view as well as economic partners, that Georgia has grown and that the country has politics that do not have a negative effect on its economic development.
Q. Are you focused much on air transport links and trying to boost the number of direct flights to Tbilisi?
A. This is still one of our biggest challenges but we have made some progress in this regard. During 2012, five new companies have started to fly to Tbilisi and from Tbilisi to various directions.
Alitalia is going to start in June with a direct flight to Rome. Fly Dubai has started, and it has a direct flight to Dubai and other [destinations]. Qatar Airways has entered the Georgian market, now we have the flight to Doha and very good connections from Doha to various destinations. Air Estonia has also started with direct flights to Tallinn and in the coming months Air Greece [will start flying] to Athens. But we would still like to have [a direct route] to London, which is the main European harbour.