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Insights
28.03.2022

In the light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, due to the geopolitical and economic challenges, it is becoming critical to assess the probability of provision of Georgian population with a sufficient food supply. It is important to use the existing agri-food supply potential, maximizing its effective use while accurately planning for the country’s food supply chains.


It is known that the National Statistics Office of Georgia determined the following basic food products to be of strategic importance and essential for the human organism: wheat, corn, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, meat (including beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry), milk, dairy products, and eggs. Analysis of existing data on the mentioned highly nutritious products, the current situation, and predictions enable us to answer the questions on whether the country has the potential to deal with the existing challenges and whether it should take steps to put a crisis plan in action.


The Self-sufficiency Ratio 2020


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security can be assessed by the self-sufficiency ratio, which measures whether to what extent is the country capable to meet the demand for the given product by relying on local production. Food security is influenced by the economic and natural resources of the country.


While food makes up the highest portion (30.23%) of Georgia’s consumer basket (Geostat; Consumer basket product category weights 2022), it is of most interest to know whether the local economy can meet the supply-demand of the population on food containing the essential nutrients? How much does the country rely on imports, and for which products?


The self-sufficiency ratio is calculated by the following formula: Local production divided by, local production plus import, minus export, multiplied by 100.

In the case of a positive trade balance (if the export value exceeds the import value), where other variables remain constant, the local production growth has a positive effect on the self-sufficiency ratio. In a configuration as such, an increase in imports causes a decrease in the self-sufficiency ratio, making us more dependent on other countries. As for the exports, the self-sufficiency ratio rises in line with the increase in export volumes.



As of data from 2020, in the list of the aforementioned highly nutritious products, grapes have the highest self-sufficiency ratio of 145%, as well as the highest export rate, which seems quite reasonable, as, in case of surplus production, the product can be exported abroad. Wheat takes the last position at the bottom of the list, with a self-sufficiency ratio of not more than 15%, compliant with the same 2020 data. While placing these data in a logical chain consisting of the following: (i) the raw material values and the frequency of their use; (ii) the negative expectations born by the war; (iii) the sanctions imposed on Russia being our main importer at this stage; and (iv) the new economic environment built in our country. Based on the aforementioned, it can be assumed that to avoid a sharp increase in bread price, it might be necessary to look for a new trading partner to compensate for the product shortfall.


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security can be assessed by the self-sufficiency ratio, which measures whether to what extent is the country capable to meet the demand for the given product by relying on local production. Food security is influenced by the economic and natural resources of the country.


While food makes up the highest portion (30.23%) of Georgia’s consumer basket (Geostat; Consumer basket product category weights 2022), it is of most interest to know whether the local economy can meet the supply-demand of the population on food containing the essential nutrients? How much does the country rely on imports, and for which products?


The self-sufficiency ratio is calculated by the following formula: Local production divided by, local production plus import, minus export, multiplied by 100.

In the case of a positive trade balance (if the export value exceeds the import value), where other variables remain constant, the local production growth has a positive effect on the self-sufficiency ratio. In a configuration as such, an increase in imports causes a decrease in the self-sufficiency ratio, making us more dependent on other countries. As for the exports, the self-sufficiency ratio rises in line with the increase in export volumes.


As of data from 2020, in the list of the aforementioned highly nutritious products, grapes have the highest self-sufficiency ratio of 145%, as well as the highest export rate, which seems quite reasonable, as, in case of surplus production, the product can be exported abroad. Wheat takes the last position at the bottom of the list, with a self-sufficiency ratio of not more than 15%, compliant with the same 2020 data. While placing these data in a logical chain consisting of the following: (i) the raw material values and the frequency of their use; (ii) the negative expectations born by the war; (iii) the sanctions imposed on Russia being our main importer at this stage; and (iv) the new economic environment built in our country. Based on the aforementioned, it can be assumed that to avoid a sharp increase in bread price, it might be necessary to look for a new trading partner to compensate for the product shortfall. 


Should We Re-evaluate the Major Consumer Products?


According to research conducted by ACT in 2021, the majority of Tbilisi residents consume bread and breadstuff, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and eggs on a regular basis (every day / multiple times a week). The consumer basket consisting of these products matches with most of the highly nutritious products on the list. The most significant factor here is the frequency of consumption of bread and breadstuff. Most individuals consume bread daily. Taking into account wheat’s low self-sufficiency ratio and the current scenario which makes the prospects related to wheat even more unpredictable, it is quite possible that individuals will either have to change their consumption patterns or pay a higher price for this essential consumer product.



The same applies to vegetables, which are the runner-ups in terms of frequency of consumption in the consumer basket. The self-sufficiency ratio does not get our hopes up either: according to 2020 data, the ratio is 63%, with imported goods making up one-third of all stocks.


Georgia's Two Largest Trading Partners Are at War


The war between Russia and Ukraine brought to the table the importance of the role of the two warrior countries as our top food suppliers. As seen in the preceding data, Russia and Ukraine are often among the top importers and exporters of highly nutritious food products and appear as operating trade partners for Georgia. With economic activity plummeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, businesses and individuals have experienced steep economic plunges. Predictably, Georgia dealt with a few export countries. By 2021, businesses became capable of gradually adapting to the pandemic, responding to challenges, and increasing their economic activities as evidenced by the real GDP growth of 10.4% in 2021 (Geostat).


Russia still continues to be Georgia's primary wheat and corn supplier. In 2021, 94% of our wheat and 79% of our corn supply came from Russia.




Ukraine supplies Georgia mainly with dairy products (milk powder). Imports of these products from Ukraine and Belarus accounted for 37% in 2021. Ukraine is Georgia's third-largest importer of eggs and poultry and the second-largest importer of meat.




At this point, we have to consider the current state of both countries, as well as their potential as importer countries.


The major issue in Russia's case is the severe economic sanctions imposed on the country, the effects of which are already visible in Russia (disruption of the production chain, shortage of products, devaluation of national currency). Furthermore, a ban on other countries’ currency circulation in one of the trade partner countries creates a trade barrier. Here rises a question, which currency should we pay for the imported products?


Beyond the economic concerns lies the moral dilemma facing the country and pushing it to speed up the process of exploring alternative channels of import. The dilemma is obvious: the West believes that trading with Russia is what keeps the Russian army afloat, and it urges others to join the sanctions and cut off their economic ties with Russia to exclude dependency.


In the case of Ukraine, the nation being at war, it is logical that the chain of imports from the country can be interrupted, and in the long run, we could expect reduced volumes of supplied raw materials or increased prices. . In an interview with the BBC, the president of France Emmanuel Macron noted that a food crisis may be expected. According to him, "Ukraine and Russia are the two key players in food exports, but production has been hampered by the war. Because Ukrainian farmers may become disabled to sow new crops and the situation may deteriorate in 1-1.5 years." Particularly notable is the statement of Ukraine's Minister of Agriculture, Roman Leshchenko, who stated that the 2022 spring crop sowing area could be halved because of the Russian invasion.


A study by Galt & Taggart predicts that, in the worst-case scenario (considering the restrictions imposed by the US and the EU, including the cutting of Russia from the SWIFT system and the sanctions on Russian oil and gas, plus repercussions of the prolonged war situation), by 2022 in Georgia, imports may be reduced by 504 million dollars, with real GDP decrease (-1%) and inflation increase from its baseline of 4.9% to 9%.


Export Potential


Georgia's export activities face challenges of different scales, though with identical contexts. For example, grapes and grape products (including wine) are marked with high domestic production and export rates. Russia accounts for the majority of these products' total exports (up to 60%), while Ukraine and China claim significant shares (on average between 10% and 8%, respectively). It's worth noting that the share of other countries in the export of grapes and grape products, in general, is steadily increasing (from 21% in 2018 to 28% in 2021). Given current challenges, it becomes of utmost importance to look for more diversified export markets for grape products and move toward more intense trade patterns with other countries around the world.


The vegetables are also marked with a high level of export. The top exporter of vegetables (excluding potatoes), has been Russia (64%); Exports of potatoes (85%) and corn (39) have been heading to Russia as well.





When it comes to exports, based on the same study by Galt & Taggart, it is anticipated that in the worst-case scenario discussed earlier (restrictions imposed on Russia by the US and the EU, including the cutting off Russia from the SWIFT system and the sanctions on Russian oil and gas, plus repercussions of the prolonged war situation), Georgia may face a reduction in exports by 462 million US dollars by 2022 in comparison with 2021. At the same time, the current account deficit is expected to increase from a baseline of 7.9% to 10.9%. According to Galt & Taggart, the overall external flows from Russia and Ukraine (exports, remittances, tourism, and FDI) constituted 9.6% of Georgia's GDP in 2021. According to the assessment of these flows, exports and tourism may be exposed to the largest negative impact. As for the remittances, Russia's share of remittances has dropped drastically in recent years, while Russia and Ukraine's shares in foreign direct investment (FDI) in Georgia remain at an average annual low indicator.


Anticipated Threats and the Ways of Insurance


The fact is that, even in the case where the supply of the foreign product does not shrink, the prices will still undoubtedly increase, as it will be much more expensive to build an alternative supply chain. As a result, it is critical that the essential consumer basket, stocked with highly nutritious food, is somehow maintained.


This graph displays that the Self-sufficiency ratios of the key agri-food products, such as wheat and poultry rank below 50% representing the main challenge for Georgia in ensuring sustainable food security. In a pre-pandemic or pandemic context, observations in dynamics reveal that the Self-sufficiency ratio for the majority of products keeps floating around the same benchmark.


The choice is ours – (i) we can be optimistic and assume that food security and the Self-sufficiency ratio in 2022 will remain at least unchanged and the population will not have challenges related to their daily consumer basket due to product shortages or higher prices; or, (ii) we can be realistic and start insuring against the risks retroactively.


Please download the document:


The present material is prepared by ACT's team of economists:


Lika Goderdzishvili

Nestan Gaprindashvili

Akaki Mosakhlishvili

& Nino Kalandia
Strategic Communications Expert

17.03.2022

Ukraine has been defending its homeland and freedom for 22 days now, with the rest of the world virtually involved in the war. Activation of mass media enabled bringing more clarity about the ongoing war in Ukraine to all parts of the world. It is obvious that the world has already shaped out the winner of this war and this is Ukraine.


The world is descent and radical in its actions. Since the beginning of the war, Russia has been subjected to unprecedentedly high-ranking and large-scale sanctions, and the process has not yet stopped.


All the said above created an expectation that sanctions would have rapid and devastating effects and the war would stop immediately. However, the reality showed up differently – though the imposed sanctions are disastrous for Russia, the war is still going on.


Winged Sanctions Against Winged Missiles


As defined by experts, the purpose of the sanctions is twofold - in the short run, they would cause an economic shock to Russia and lead to the awakening of Russian citizens by exposing them to terrible discomfort, while the citizens in their turn are supposed to force their government to step back.


In the long run, the sanctions aim to derail the Russian economy in order to completely tip the economic balance for an extended period of time, through reducing Russia’s military strengths as its key priority – distracting Russia’s military reinforcement, and killing the ambition of rebuilding the Soviet Union.


Default at Russia's Doorstep


Let us see how did both of the above goals translate into the results: the Russian economy is already facing a technical default. According to Fitch (www.fitchratings.com), the risk of possible Russian default in 2022 constitutes 71%. Default is of technical nature as Russia cannot be able to meet its foreign liabilities promptly, not because of lack of finances (at this point) but because of its inability to manage its existing finances as the country's central bank accounts are frozen.


Russia has considered 175 billion of its reserve fund as a security cushion. Part of the money preserved in this fund is placed in the bonds of the countries that imposed sanctions on Russia, therefore, it is inaccessible. The rest part is kept in gold, while the current image of Russia makes finding its buyer in today's market almost unthinkable.


Russia, trying to maintain a spark of optimism at least within the country, started discussing the Ministry of Finance’s "smart plan", according to which certain new accounts will be set up to accumulate the sums required for the payment of debts in Rubles. Russia plans to address its "debtors" telling them that “the requested money is in place but it is in their national currency (though Rubles are not accepted anymore). The challenge is that if they want to receive it in other currency, then they need to unblock foreign currency accounts for Russia."


Experts of the Russian ‘Empire’ believe in this plan, while independent Russian experts, on the other hand, clearly realize that these tricks cannot help the country to avoid its nearing economic collapse. As the independent experts predict, the economic downturn is inevitable, where Russia's economic indicators may drop to that of the early 90s.


The Domino Principle


The sanctions have already born their short-term consequences in Russia - the production chains are broken; the manufacturers depending on imports of products from other countries have to stop or rush to find alternate suppliers. Reassembling the chain may take time but experts believe the sanctions will affect this process as well, and here’s why: If earlier, Russia could choose the most lucrative of several offers, now the reality has changed considering the new restrictions and the country is forced to choose whatever is accessible, while that option can be far more expensive. In supplement, each delayed or unsuccessful chain will lead to a drop in production and raise the unemployment in the country.


The long-term perspective looks even more hopeless for Russia. It is expected that after the end of the war, the sanctions will not be lifted for yet undetermined period of time though even in case they are lifted, the risks now exposed will be necessarily taken into account while planning any financial transactions. This, in turn, will hinder possible major investment or partnership opportunities.


Georgia – as an Economic Parking Zone


As a result of the sanctions, any economic activity in Russia will become more expensive, and people will face more and more poverty. Certainly, such a prospect does not look attractive to those already anticipating the effects of sanctions.


This is why some Russian citizens decided not to lose time and immediately flee from the country, some trying to escape poverty and others to maintain their financial status.


According to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia - Vakhtang Gomelauri, up to 25,000 Russian citizens crossed the Georgian border in the last two weeks, of which 3,000 are still staying in the country.


Shortly after the start of the war, Levan Kiladze, the founder of one of the largest real estate platforms in Georgia (ss.ge), presented data stating that "the number of website visitors from Russia increased sharply after the start of the war in Ukraine." Furthermore, more than 300 companies owned by Russian citizens have officially registered in the National Agency of Public Registry of Georgia.


The following question arises: Why did Russian citizens decide to use Georgia as “an economic parking zone”, the country they are in a long-term conflict with (20% of Georgian territory is currently occupied by Russia). What is the reason? Could it be the effect of a position “not to join the sanctions” and the declared list of “non-friendly countries to Russia” (where Georgia is not listed)? With this in mind, could they get the impression that Georgia can serve as a cozy nest for Russian "migratory birds"?


We do not have a clear answer to this question, though we own the reliable data confirming that 7 out of 10 residents in Georgia assume that the flow of people wishing to move to Georgia from Russia will definitely increase.



According to the research, the biggest concern of the population is the possible prospects and plans of Russian citizens for staying in Georgia. In total, 70% of the population stands in favor of imposing at least one or more restrictions on Russian citizens with regard to entering the country.



When Caution is the Parent of Safety


The aforementioned cautious attitude seemingly formed within the country of Georgia is not accidental. Russia's actions push those civilized countries under the potential Russian threat, to be more cautious due to Russia’s habit to “track” Russian citizens living in other countries and, based on fake threats proposedly they are exposed to from the host country, invades the foreign country’s territory to “liberate” Russian citizens. Having said that, the authorities of many countries keep imposing cautious restrictions on Russian citizens, on one hand, for security reasons, and on the other hand, in order to avoid collaboration with the aggressor.


„At the moment, Russians are not much-desired guests here”, said the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration in Belgium – Sammy Mahdi, referring to the restriction of visas for Russian citizens, and called on the European Union to do the same.


Later on, the Baltic states - Estonia and Lithuania - also restricted tourist visas while as an exception, only those who travel to their relatives or for medical treatment are allowed.


Sanction - an Effective Weapon in Hybrid Warfare


The people of Georgia agree that the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Western countries are effective. According to ACT poll, 70% of citizens consider these sanctions to be very or somewhat effective.



Believing in the effectiveness of sanctions and taking into account the impending threats, the population of Georgia demands protective mechanisms, specifically those allowing to impose more control over the property issues and strict filtering of inflows from Russia. International demand is to impose sharing sanctions which could become a clear signal coming from a country standing at the doorstep to EU membership.


Those who believe in the effectiveness of sanctions, keep in mind the old Chinese proverb - If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by. Let us remind you what the ACT survey shows: 84% of the Georgian population is well aware of who is expected to show up in the river.


Strategic Communications Manager

Nino Kalandia


10.03.2022

The air had long been filled with the smell of gunpowder, and the whole world was anxiously waiting for what would happen, but in the morning of February 24, it came as a surprise - Russian troops invaded Ukraine and launched the large-scale hostilities. The last drop of hope that common sense would prevail over ambitions of "big-country", was lost. The "demilitarization and denationalization" of Ukraine, dubbed as a special operation, tuned out a ruthless and aggressive war against a sovereign country for two weeks now.


The war in Ukraine is of the highest interest and excitement in Georgia, where the protests in support of Ukraine, the organization of humanitarian aid, and various acts of solidarity keep continuing. On the one hand, the perception of sharing a similar fate and common threats and on the other hand, the unprecedented fighting spirit and heroism of individual people vastly demonstrated by the Ukrainians have brought this war very close even to ordinary Georgians and made it a part of everyday life.


ACT could not stay away from the hot topics in the country and polled the population with regards to the Russia-Ukraine war. The research aimed to find out how our fellow citizens see this war, what are their expectations like, and how can be valued the level of solidarity towards the parties involved in the war. The telephone survey was conducted on March 4-6, 2022 and it covered 809 respondents. The sampling error is 4.2%.


Though we are accustomed to the endless polarization of views of the population regarding current internal issues and events, The war of Russia with Ukraine revealed the unanimous and clear position of Georgians. The consensus regarding this war is being demonstrated in a way never seen before.


And yet, who is Russia?


The vast majority of the population - 84% - openly state that "Russia is the enemy." The number of those who do not share this opinion does not exceed 11%. Russia is perceived absolute unanimously in Georgia, which leaves no questions about its aggressive nature. A surprisingly large number of people sharing this attitude leads us to the thought that this issue overgrew the internal controversy and united the people having different views.  



The vast majority of the country's population (91%) has no doubt that the developments taking place in Ukraine are nothing but a war crime committed by Russia. It is clear, that the position of Georgians is unanimous and solid regarding where the truth rests.



How can things develop in Ukraine?


The survey shows that at least half of the country's population (49%) did not expect Russia to start a war and invade Ukrainian territory. 17% expected hostilities only on the territory earlier occupied by Russia or in their vicinity, and one out of three respondents expected that the war would extend to the entire territory of Ukraine, including Kyiv (31%).


Every 2 out of 3 respondents predict the victory of Ukraine in this war (63%), while 12% seem more pessimistic for Ukraine and expect that Russia may win. One out of five respondents is confused and has no decent answer to this question (20%). Some believe that there cannot be any winner in this war (5%).


9 out of 10 respondents strongly support Ukraine and wish to witness Ukraine‘s victory in this war (88%). The extremely small number of the country's population - 1% - is wishing Russia’s victory.




How may the Russian-Ukrainian war impact Georgia?


The results of the research prove that the war initiated by Russia on the territory of Ukraine is the most sensitive and painful topic for Georgians. Almost all respondents believe that the current developments taking place in Ukraine are completely or partially related to Georgia (96%). According to the research, it is difficult to argue that when answering this particular question, the respondents meant any political, economic, military, or another type of impact on the country, although it's clear, that for them this war is not a thing happening somewhere far distanced from their country having no links and echoes.



The more specified questions answered by the respondents with simply expressed agreements or disagreements showed that:

  • 87% of the country's population thinks that "the war in Ukraine is our war as well."
  • 72% of the country's population expects that "if Russia wins over Ukraine, then Georgia is the next target." In addition to human solidarity, the research plainly demonstrates the highest importance which the respondents attach to Ukraine's victory in this war.


Half of the surveyed respondents (51%) expect the forthcoming problems from Russia in any case. In their view, "regardless of how events unfold in Ukraine, Russia may still invade Georgia." Russia does not need any extraordinary reason or favorable environment to invade the country with tanks.


Georgian people are watching closely the hostilities being continued in Ukraine and are looking for glorious victory of Ukraine. Time will show to what extent the existing drive of the population may transform into adequate actions and attitudes, though the messages for decision-makers are completely clear and unambiguous.


Author: Mariam Sakevarishvili

Senior Consultant, ACT


30.09.2021

Covid Insurance - Luxury or Necessity?


An integral part of the trip, such as a passport, wallet and handbag, has already bevome the sanitizer and a mask. They will soon be joined by the COVID-19 insurance policy.


This is a new opportunity for insurance companies to create new customer-focused offerings as more and more countries demand mandatory reimbursement of health costs in the event that visitors become infected with the coronavirus.


Most important, however, is knowing how well the traveler is protected from being infected in a foreign country and whether there is a guarantee that he or she will receive proper attention.


ACT, a research and consulting company, inquired about the global epidemic situation, whether Tbilisians are planning a trip and how much they know about the travel insurance conditions in relation to Covid.


The ACT survey found that the majority of respondents (79%) have information that the cost of medical treatment for infection with covid19 is not covered by the usual travel insurance and epidemiological risk is in standard exceptions.


Taking into account the current situation, Georgian insurance companies have developed insurance packages, which specifically removed the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus from the exceptions and offered consumers to reimburse the costs incurred in case of accidental infection with the virus. The assumption of this exception, of course, also affected the cost of insurance due to the high risk, and the cost of one day of insurance increased by an average of 5 times.


"Covid-19 insurance has become mandatory for those entering European countries and the United States, there is a demand, and we, one of the first, offered a travel insurance package to Georgian consumers and partner travel companies, where Covid risk is included in a certain limit that meets international standards." - Tinatin Stambolishvili says, a member of the Vienna Insurance Group and director of communications for the insurance company GPI.


According to Irina Gorashvili, Director of Alternative Channels Development at Imedi L Insurance Company, they also responded quickly to the request and developed a travel insurance package to cover the risks of Covid. However, it is thought that this product is short-lived and soon, with the development of the vaccination process and the cure, the risk of covid19 will decrease and special insurance will no longer be necessary.


Abroad, with rare exceptions, as well as in Georgia, costs related to cash insurance are reimbursed by the state only for citizens and / or persons with permanent residence.


Tourist Covid-experience


Our first protagonist is a graduate of Business School Salome, she as a responsible citizen, has already been vaccinated twice in the summer. To celebrate graduation, before starting a new phase of life - the first job, the parents handed over a specially designed amount to celebrate this joyful event, and a special surprise - a tourist trip to America, in July 2021. Personally, he had no information about Covid insurance, it seems that no one asked for it and he did not have a problem entering the country at the destination. However, unfortunately, she became infected by Covid during her stay there. Thanks to the vaccination, she got sick with the virus easily and today feels completely healthy, although his travel plans have been turned upside down.


Salome had to stay in isolation for 10 days, where she was required to take a quick test once every 3 days ($ 40 per test), as well as a mandatory PCR test that cost $ 250 on the spot, at her own expense.


It is well known, that while Covid is positively, it's prohibited to travel, than Salome had to extend her travel period, what meant the additional hotel expenses. Also, she had to re-purchase the return ticket as it was impossible to exchange the purchased ticket. In total, the expenses of Salome due to Covid was close to $ 5,000.

The second story is about Sopho, who was also infected in America, found out that he had information from local acquaintances that in case of infection, by calling a special hotline number, the US government would finance the costs related to Covid, and therefore the unpleasant moment during his trip was relatively alleviated. Sopho's fairly comfortable transportation to and from the Covid Hotel, three meals a day during the isolation period, doctor and nurse services, rapid, PCR tests, and other treatment costs were reimbursed by the U.S. government itself. However, America, in this particular case of New York State, is a rare exception that bears the costs of treating and managing a tourist infected with Covid19 on the spot. The main part of other countries of the world imposes the mentioned expenses on the tourist himself.


World, Covid and Travel


For the second year in a row, the Covid infection has been raging in the world, and states are fighting it more or less successfully, although the fact is that we are still far from winning over the new virus.


The field of international tourism is one that has suffered the most from the Covid pandemic and is still the most difficult to rehabilitate.


According to the website of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), according to official data, in January-March 2021, compared to 2020, international tourist traffic decreased by 83% due to high travel restrictions and the caution of tourists to protect themselves from infection.


According to a recent survey by a panel of experts organized by the UNWTO, with the intensification of the vaccination process, industry confidence has slowly increased in the May-August 2021 period. Particularly noteworthy is the EU Digital Green Certificate, which provides a common electronic database on coronavirus vaccination and immunity, which aims to promote free and safe travel to the EU during a pandemic. The certificate will operate successfully in 27 EU member states and 16 non-member countries, including Ukraine, Israel, Turkey, etc.


At this stage, Georgia is still in the red zone, which is a specific obstacle for visitors, however, for Georgian tourists who want to travel and are fully vaccinated, a Covid card is issued, on the basis of which the so-called travel abroad is made - "Apostille", which confirms the authenticity and validity of the document. For this, it is necessary for the interested person to apply to the House of Justice with a relevant request.


However, it should also be noted that due to the current pandemic and the rise of new strains, uncertainty is still high, travel restrictions still exist and this is facilitated by the uneven pace of vaccination in different countries.


According to the ACT survey, given the current situation, every fifth Tbilisian still plans to travel abroad, although the share of those wishing to travel abroad decreases with age. This trend is explained by the fact that relatively old people are a risk group for Covid-19 and therefore refrain from traveling, while young people who traveled more actively before the pandemic are now planning to become tourists despite the high risk.



When traveling, to enjoy the news and adventures, health and financial security are paramount. That is why coveted insurance is no longer a luxury and it is a necessary item for travel and a guarantee of peace of mind.



Author: Ana Ivanishvili

Leadership in Marketing and Communications, ACT


06.08.2021

About the transformed higher learning process


Adapting to covid-reality has become a necessity of the present. People have to learn to live with it, and countries have to determine the consequences of a pandemic and work actively on it. The sphere of education did not lag behind this covid chaos. This sphere received a rather strong blow. First the learning process was stopped everywhere and then, all over the world had to continue the learning path in a new format.


The World Bank released a special report in 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education. As a result of the situational analysis of Europe and Asia, the report identified several important problems that affected the higher education institutions of these two continents as a result of the pandemic. It has been found that the problem of internet delivery is equally troubling to people on different continents - low speeds fail to provide a dynamic online learning process, and better quality service is an expensive pleasure for many of them. In addition, access to personal computers was a problem. Added to all this was the fact that the higher education institutions themselves did not have the necessary infrastructure for online teaching, which would have been targeted at a large number of users, nor were members of the academic team ready to fully digitize the lectures. In addition, the World Bank report also states that distance learning is not always effective, especially during activities such as discussions, interactive group work, and more. That is, everything that helps the student to develop the necessary skills. The report also noted that the focus on cognitive skills was often at the expense of socio-emotional skills, which is also a significant challenge.

 

According to international studies, the pandemic has affected the lives of more than 200 million people worldwide, including more than 157,000 Georgian students. Along with the main actors in the field of higher education - students, members of the academic and administrative teams of universities also found themselves in this whirlpool of uncertainty. Following in the footsteps of the transformed learning process, at ACT we decided to find out how ordinary Tbilisians value online learning and what they consider to be the biggest problem. As the results of the survey conducted in June show, in general, taking into account all the factors, the surveyed Tbilisians evaluate negatively online learning [out of a maximum of 10 points, this impact is assessed at 4.1 points]. Assessing the specific impact it has had on our country's higher education, the answer is even more negative [3.3 points out of a maximum of 10 points].


Difficulties of online learning


We asked our respondents what the difficulties were / are related to the transition of universities to online education due to the pandemic. 18% said that not everyone had / does not have access to the Internet; The other 18% cited the lack of the necessary material and technical base for online learning as the main difficulty, which combines the lack of a personal computer, lack of workspace and other technical problems. Among these difficulties, unequal access to the Internet was named as the "most problematic" for 19%.


Chart # 1. Difficulties Faced with Higher Education Institutions Switching to Online Education Due to Pandemic




At the end of last year, we conducted a survey for the United Nations Population Fund to assess the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on young people, and it is interesting to note that similar views and problems were identified with young people directly related to online learning. Young people living in Tbilisi, Imereti, Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti participated in the study. Difficulties with online learning were cited as low readiness and technical problems for students and academic staff in online learning: low access to the Internet and lack of the necessary material and technical base for online learning. The latter problem was particularly acute in families with several members having to study and work online.


Another result of our survey is interesting - according to one in ten Tbilisians surveyed, the transition to online education has turned out to be quite negative for a certain group of society, which is associated with asociality and related stress. 11% of respondents named the lack of socialization as a serious problem, which in the future may create mental health problems for both young people and people of different generations. Incidentally, this challenge was also named as one of the topical problems in the above-mentioned survey conducted for the UN Population Fund.



About the positive effects of online learning


It is true that online learning has been and still is associated with many difficulties, however, this method also has its advantages. We asked Tbilisians what they think is the positive effect of online learning. One in ten respondents found it difficult to assess this (12%), and 21% do not think that switching to online learning can have any positive effect at all. However, when talking about the benefits of online learning, the majority of respondents identified two important factors - saving time by 21% and protecting against the spread of the virus in a pandemic, or safety by 20%.


Graph # 2. Positive effects of online learning



As it turns out, online learning directly for young people also has its positive effects - in addition to saving time and financial resources, it allows students to easily combine learning for other jobs. These positive aspects of online learning were revealed by a survey of young people at the end of last year. The same study then also showed that because of the advantages listed, the transition to a hybrid learning model was considered important by young people.


Talking about the positive aspects of online learning, young people mentioned one more thing - the introduction of this new format has increased the opportunity and made it accessible to both Georgian and international online training courses. This is an important and strong argument for those who want to learn and develop.



Teaching format in post pandemic reality


Respondents were also asked what they thought the university teaching format should look like after the pandemic ended. It was found that the majority of Tbilisians surveyed (57%) support the idea of only offline (audit) teaching. However, the hybrid learning format also has enough proponents - 39%.


Graph # 3. What should be the format of university teaching after the end of the pandemic




Despite the difficulties associated with online learning, the idea of hybrid learning is uniquely welcomed by young people. Because the main positive effect - "combining learning with other things" turned out to be quite a weighty argument for them. That is why it is quite natural that young people will be happy to meet the existence of a hybrid learning format in the post-covid reality.


However, despite the positive attitudes of young people towards hybrid education, the transition to such a model of the Georgian university system may be premature. At this stage, the mixed model of teaching in universities is a forced response to the challenge and not a new format of teaching, which was developed to create an effective university education system.



And finally - what will happen tomorrow?


According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic will not only be defeated, but will regain strength by the fall, and there is a high probability that distance learning and work will become an inevitable reality in the near future. That is why, with regard to the future prospects of online learning, the European Commission has developed the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) for the coming years, which outlines the priorities to be focused on outcome-oriented learning. Conducting more digital specialists, as well as creating user-friendly mechanisms and secure platforms that adhere to e-privacy and ethical standards.


Naturally, all these issues will be relevant for Georgia as well, and we can confidently assume that distance learning will become an essential component of higher education. Only time will tell how our country will be able to cope with this challenge and provide quality education for future generations. However, one thing is clear - the need to switch to forced online learning will at least help increase the digital competencies of both students and academics, enhance digital capabilities by universities, improve software, and create quality content for e-learning. It undoubtedly has the advantages that can be used effectively and boldly in the post-pandemic reality of education.



[1] COVID-19 Impact on Tertiary Education in Europe and Central Asia

[2] საქსტატი

[3] Farnell, T., et al., 2021. The impact of COVID-19 on higher education: a review of emerging evidence. Analytical report. European Commission. EU Publications.

[4] Assessing the Socio-economic Impact of COVID-19 on Young People in Georgia

[5] Assessing the Socio-economic Impact of COVID-19 on Young People in Georgia

[6] European Commission Digital Education Action Plan



Author: Keso Esebua

Senior Consultant, Development Consulting






27.07.2021

You have probably asked yourself this question many times for yourself and those gathered with friends, you have often talked to yourself - when will we be able to travel? We check the list of co-safe countries on the Internet and read, "Are we on the list of countries with red or orange status now?" On the street we are watching for a small groups of tourists and we surprised of their courage.


Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, everyday life around the world has changed radically. Among the affected sectors, tourism has been named as one of the most "dangerous" activities, and if we borrow the OECD study, in 2020, even about 80% decline in international tourism worldwide was expected. But tourism is one of the important sources of economic growth in Georgia. If we look at the numbers, we will see that the revenues from this sector increased from 5% to 18% of GDP during 2010-2019, which significantly increased the budget. One is the budget, and the other is the people, who have found a source of income in this sector.


The tourism during Covid 19 like swinging on the waves - a reduction in regulations is often followed by an increase in the number of flights, overcrowded hotels, which seems to revive it. However, each new wave of pandemics detected from time to time makes today's fragile environment even more unreliable and puts the country back in a state of uncertainty. What solution remains when the environment is so volatile and the tourism sector is completely dependent on it?


The general answer to this question might be to adapt, to adapt tourism to the existing reality. However, today, traveling as a tourist does not sound very attractive. The reason for this is the feeling of insecurity, the constantly changing rate of the covid-infected, the risks of closing the borders again in a foreign country, and so on. It is at this time that domestic tourism becomes relatively promising, which avoids certain risks and allows for short-term travel.


Based on the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia in recent years (2016-2020), it can be said that about half of the residents aged 15 and older travel within the country primarily to visit friends and relatives. It lags far behind the number of travelers for other reasons (shopping, treatment, etc.). And even 10% of our citizens do not travel locally for leisure and entertainment. It is true that this number almost doubles during the summer, but the fact is that travel in own country for leisure and fun remains a very unpopular topic. Anyway, it was like that before the pandemic and it is like that now, even in the first quarter of 2021. As expected, Tbilisi, Imereti and Adjara A / R are among the most actively visited places. By the way, in the conditions of the pandemic, compared to previous years, the number of people wishing to spend their vacation in cottages has almost doubled (up to 16%).





"I remember being proud and enjoying my lifestyle, constant travels and adventures: Berlin, Paris, Dhaka, New Delhi, Kerala ... different countries, cultures and news," said Salome, who traveled abroad quite often before the pandemic. - "Once, a friend came from Bangladesh and called me to meet him for a while. The whole evening, he was talking about Racha, Svaneti and even some lakes in astonishment. He was asking me with round eyes - what? You don't know it?. A few months after the start of the pandemic, I realized that now was the time for me to get to know my country. I have a plan - I have to visit all the national parks of Georgia this year! Reserves, see lakes. I have already been to Tskaltubo, to Kazbegi. In Samtskhe-Javakheti I also saw birds of strange beauty sitting on the lakes and I know, that now I am planning go at Chiatura. "


ACT wondered how ready Tbilisi vacationers like Salome are to travel inside the country or abroad this year? Where are they going to rest and how much did the pandemic affect their decision?


The survey showed that 28% of the population aged 18+ have no plans to leave the capital at all in the summer. 9% of them refused to leave Tbilisi this year because of the pandemic, citing the risks of safe vacations and declining incomes as the main reasons. 12% of respondents have not yet decided whether to rest, which is mainly attributed to the job or lack of finances.

Most of the respondents, at least 60%, consider traveling in the summer, although very few of them plan to spend the summer abroad (6%). The research showed that those who want to leave the city in summer are mostly under 54-year-olds from Tbilisi. Among them, young people under the age of 34 are mainly going to spend the holidays at the sea or in the mountains, while the population aged 35-54 is equally desirable to spend the holidays at the sea and at the family / relative's cottage.


It should come as no surprise that due to the pandemic, more than half of the population is quite confused about summer plans, which is related to the selected vacation spot, duration and, most of all, budget. One-fifth (20%) of the respondents had to change their vacation location, mostly people who had visited both sea and mountain resorts before the pandemic and / or were actively traveling abroad. It was also revealed that due to the complicated economic situation due to the pandemic and the lack of desire to stay in a foreign environment for a long time, a large proportion of travelers prefer short-term travel to long-term vacation.


Although the creation of the vaccine has raised positive expectations in the society, the problem in the tourism sector is still relevant for Georgia and the world. Moreover, the OECD predicts that in 2021 we will have to live in "survival mode" again and return to the usual mode of tourism, will remain a matter of the future. Against this background, the importance of such factors as the availability of vaccines, the increase in the number of vaccinated people, the removal of restrictions in the face of mitigated pandemic waves, etc. is becoming increasingly important. All this is directly related to the activation of tourism processes, which is vital for a country like Georgia. For a country for which tourism is one of the most important ways to deal with unemployment.



* A survey was conducted in June 2021, by random sampling, with 411 adult residents of Tbilisi. Method used - telephone interview. The statistical error of the data does not exceed 4.9%.


Author: Keti Mamadashvili

Analyst, ACT Research

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