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Guest Editorial

Monday, May 5
This speech was delivered at the International Chamber of Commerce-Georgia’s Inaugural Dinner on May 1 by the chairman of the business chamber, Fady Asly.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister, Ms. Sharashidze, Your Excellencies, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

In the name of the Georgian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, I would like to welcome you this evening.

Do not be misled by the name—ICC Georgia is not another foreign chamber of commerce. ICC Georgia is the Georgian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, working—first and foremost—for Georgian businesses. And of course, ICC Georgia is open to any foreign company in the country.

Georgia is in a time of profound progress, but also of certain challenges. And so ICC Georgia is ready to work, both to strengthen our member businesses and to build the country’s economy.

Georgia has come a very long way since the Rose Revolution. Five years ago, no one could have believed what we see today.

Five years ago, who could work around power outages and potholes? Today, strong infrastructure is a base for strong businesses.

Five years ago, who could ignore the kidnappings and violence? Today, well-equipped police keep the streets safe and businesses secure.

Five years ago, no one could have imagined what we see today: Georgia is a highly-demanded destination for investors from all over the world.

I would like to remind every businessmen and every Georgian citizen of those dark days: Don’t let your memory fade; don’t forget where we all were just a few years ago!

But those days of a failing state and frustrated businesses are gone. What we see now is thanks to the vision and the political will of the President of Georgia.

Of course, this did not come easily. And there are more gains ahead, which we must work for.

The International Chamber of Commerce, established nearly 90 years ago, is made up of hundreds of thousands of businesses in 130 countries.

ICC works closely with the World Trade Organization, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations and the G8.

ICC drafts business policy around the world, in the interest of the world’s economic prosperity.

Now it will also work in the interest of Georgia’s economic prosperity.

I am proud to inform you that along with respected businesspeople, several leading business organizations sit on ICC Georgia’s Board of Directors: the Georgian Chamber of Commerce; the Federation of Georgian Businessmen, the Bankers Association; the Insurance Association; the Bar Association; the International Association of Business and Parliament; and the French Business Council.

With these esteemed organizations, ICC Georgia now stands as the most widely representative business organization in the country. Together, we will focus on four ways to strengthen our members and build our economy.

The first is establishing an ICC court of arbitration in Georgia, under the auspices of the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.

I would like to particularly thank two people for their active support in making this happen: Georgia’s Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, who jump-started the contact with Paris, and especially Kakha Bendukidze, who followed the negotiation process step-by-step. We strongly believe that the ICC Court of Arbitration will very soon become a reality.

Our second priority is spreading ICC rules and regulations within the Georgian business community. This standardization will improve the performance of Georgian businesses, both locally and internationally.

Our third task is to work closely, through our professional commissions, with both the Georgian Government and the ICC headquarters in Paris. We will work on all business issues, internationally and locally: On trade and transport; customs and banking, insurance and taxes; business ethics, arbitration and anti-corruption.

For the first time in the history of Georgia, Georgian businesspeople will be involved in business and economic policymaking at a global level.

ICC Georgia’s fourth and most urgent priority is bringing small and medium size enterprises into our organization. Until now, SMEs have been the abandoned children of the Georgian business landscape—at a time when they should become the backbone of our economy.

In an unprecedented step, 15 small and medium size businesses joined ICC Georgia recently.

We can proudly say now that in Georgia there is a business organization for SMEs to troubleshoot their problems, iron out their difficulties and help them grow into stronger and wealthier businesses.

In the name of my colleagues from the business community, I would like to congratulate the Government of Georgia for the unbelievable successes of the past four years. We are all proud of this.

Of course, there is more work to do, and we are fully ready to join the Government finishing the construction of a proud, modern State.

I would like to salute Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze and assure him of our full trust and support. Prime Minister, you have the full confidence of the business community and all our resources are mobilized to help you achieve your goals, which are ours as well.

I would like to express special appreciation to Mrs. Burjanadze, Speaker of Parliament, who from the very beginning had her doors wide-open to the business community and provided advice and assistance.

We do this not for politics, but for progress. Businesses are apolitical by nature. Businesses are only pro-business, and will support any party that helps maintain a stable and prosperous business environment.

We strongly condemn the calls to boycott certain businesses on the ground of their political inclination. Democracy means freedom of choice, and no business should be punished by anyone on the basis of its political inclination.

Foreign investment in Georgia is vital for the stability of the national currency and for the creation of jobs. Without political stability in this country, there will be no foreign investment. Therefore, from this podium, I call on all political parties to spare the business environment—to keep it out of political games.

It is totally unacceptable to have the business and investment climates taken hostage by political parties seeking to score cheap political points.

In closing, I would like to thank you all for attending this dinner. ICC Georgia is now up and running and looks forward to working closely with the Government, Parliament, foreign diplomatic missions in Georgia and certainly with all our colleagues in the business community.

Our vision is clear: We see Georgia as a financial and economic hub for the region. We see Georgia wealthy and prosperous. We see Georgia without poverty.

We know that we can achieve this. The Government of Georgia has the vision, and we will make it happen!

Thank you.

Fady Asly is chairman of ICC-Georgia, president of Agritechnics Holding and an investor in this newspaper.