The director of Economic Policy Research Center, Nino Evgenidze has worked in the center from 2004-2010 on different positions, whilst deepening her knowledge and gaining international experience to contribute to the country’s development. Since 2010, Nino with her team has been actively involved in the country’s economic policy making.
The story of EPRC
“The Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) was established in 2002 and was designed to bring together young economists, financial experts and analysts who had received education abroad. This is the period when corruption is raging in the country and the world refers to us as a “Failed state”. Therefore, the purpose of the organization was to produce economic policy recommendations based on world experience, based on objective research and tailored to the realities of the country.
The organization was founded by young economists Davit Chkadua, Kakha Ugulava and Giorgi Chiladze, who received their education at leading Western universities. Previously, we worked for the Anti-Corruption Council, an independent organization funded by the US Department of Justice and other donors, working to eliminate systemic corruption. Since 2003, following the election of the new government who declared fight against corruption a priority, the council exhausted its recommendation function. The new authorities used quite effectively the various recommendations made by the Anti-Corruption Council to formulate and implement reforms. Thus, we continued our work at the Economic Policy Research Center. In any prosperous and developed country, such centers and in general, the NGO sector is the bridge between knowledge and power, and that is what we were and still are today.
In 2005, a new wave of economic liberalization began. It was at this time that active discussions were underway on what were the negative or positive effects of these reforms and what impact these processes would have on economic growth. The overwhelming majority then painted an apocalyptic picture, saying that these reforms would destroy the country. We have been able to prove the opposite by working on economic forecasting models, we concluded that these reforms would push for further economic growth and development.
EPRC’s current projects and their importance for the country’s development
EPRC implements many projects, some of which are very large, One such project that I would like to emphasize, is a program supported by the Swedish government, which aims to internationalize SMEs in the service sector, especially in the intellectual business sector. More specifically, the aim of this project is to facilitate the internationalization of 100 Georgian companies in the selected fields (Architecture & Design; Business Consulting and Computer Technologies) in the European markets, as we believe that it is the SMEs that create the middle class – critical group of the country that questions and is actively involved in shaping the country’s economic and political agenda. By encouraging small and medium-sized businesses, a strong civil society is created that holds the government accountable for how, why and where the taxpayers’ money goes. It is this middle class that guarantees democracy in any developed country.
One of our new initiatives is the Fukuyama Democracy Front Center, which opened in Tbilisi this year. The center will be headed by Stanford University professor Francis Fukuyama and former Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer. The aim of the center is to support democracy in Transcaucasia, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. Georgia has always set the tone for these countries – if Russia does not win here in Georgia – that means that democratic processes will also be promoted in these countries.
EPRC is creating something new every day and contributes to the country’s development. It should be noted that our work would not be successful nor effective if we did not participate in resolving key issues of our country and if we did not have a value-based strategic approach. The center has been involved in many projects, in which our team members volunteer. They do so because each of them has motivation, determination and purpose – our goal is to develop Georgia as a democratic country. It is imperative that each of us contribute to building strong institutions that ensure a high degree of democracy. All staff and the entire team at the center are constantly striving to set a high standard and motivate others to show that it is possible to achieve concrete results through hard work and purpose.
Tbilisi International Conference celebrates five years – achievements and challenges
The idea for this conference was born in communication with David Kramer, who was one of the directors of the McCain Institute. We introduced the idea of the conference to Kurt Walker, the Executive Director of the McCain Institute. As you know, Georgia was a special place for John McCain. A freedom-loving country that is ready to fight for that freedom. None of his visits to Georgia were made without crossing the occupation line and meeting with the population of Georgia, which suffered from the war. He loved Georgia and his love for the values, dignity and the freedom of nations was so strong that we wanted to work together to create a permanent platform that could bring Georgia into the forefront of international politics, a platform that would keep Georgian politics global.Our goal was to get the attention of the international community on key issues in our country such as Russian occupation and its attempts to impede democratic processes in Georgia. We wanted to generate a large-scale discussion on how to survive as a small country in global cataclysms, and also to provide the rest of the world with a clear example of how, even in wartime, continued reforms could gain international support and how to stay on the foreign policy agenda. This conference is a celebration of the intellectual genius that generates discussions on political issues that are crucial for the future of this country.
It must be said that the support of the McCain Institute and other loyal friends of Georgia have been and still are vital. The support the local business sector without which this conference could not have taken place is also crucial; Support from companies such as Adjara Group, Bank of Georgia, TBC Bank and other companies that understand why Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration is important.
The number of people attending and participating in the conference is growing every year. The conference was attended by NATO secretaries-general, presidents of different countries and important political figures.
This year’s conference, as always, was a direct reflection of the political processes around the world and in our country. I think the conference accurately reflected the growing threat of Russian aggression against our country.
Georgia’s economic development and its challenges
A democratic environment is one of the most important preconditions for economic development. The problem is informal governance. The problem is the decline in investment that has so many preconditions such as the low pace of infrastructure projects, and so on. A hindrance is a system that cannot and does not work. Of course, obstacles to the country’s development are also external factors, global cataclysms and economic crisis. I think the most important factor is total uncertainty – the fear of the public and of the investors of not knowing what the future holds. Although Russian occupation is an obstacle to attracting investment, the other obstacles and risks largely depend on us.
We must remember that Western investors are looking at all the indicators they need when doing business – from the level of corruption to the proper functioning of the legal system. Consequently, without the existence of an independent court, the country’s problems cannot be eliminated. The Georgian government should be able to prove to international business circles that Georgia is an attractive country for long-term foreign investment.
Nino Evgenidze believes that Georgia’s economic development and, consequently, the quality of democracy depend on reforms. Continuing fast reforms is the only way to convince Western investors that bringing knowledge, experience and new technologies to this country is truly worthwhile. The EPRC will continue to actively participate in building a liberal, democratic society.
Nino Evgenidze, executive director of the organization, urges younger generations to be politically more engaged: “Since June 20, I have once again been convinced that the idea that can unite this generation is freedom, for which they will never stop fighting. I would tell them to continue this fight, which will make Georgia inevitably a democratic country where state governance will be based on the main principles of democracy and the rule of law. “