Georgia, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, is a small but open market that derives benefits from international trade, tourism, and transportation. While it is susceptible to global and regional shocks, the country has made sweeping economic reforms since 1991 that have produced a relatively well-functioning and stable market economy. Average growth rate was over five percent from 2005 through 2019, and its rankings improved impressively in global business, governance, corruption, and other indexes. Georgia ranked twenty sixth in the Heritage Foundations’ 2022 Economic Freedom Index, and 45th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Fiscal and monetary policy are focused on low deficits, low inflation, and a floating real exchange rate, although the latter was affected by regional developments, including sanctions on Russia and other external factors, such as a stronger U.S. Dollar. The COVID-19 pandemic reversed some of the past gains and placed significant pressure on the domestic currency and local economy. Georgia’s economy contracted six percent in 2020 with particularly steep losses in the tourism sector. Although Georgia successfully managed the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, the infection rate surged in the second part of 2021, compelling the government to adopt a series of restrictions and shut-downs that negatively impacted economic activity. Despite this, Georgia’ economy picked up in 2021, demonstrating strong growth, 10.4 percent higher than 2020. While government and international financial partners forecasted an optimistic outlook for 2022, the economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war and sanctions on Russia have damaged growth prospects and led to lower growth expectations.
Overall, business and investment conditions are sound, and Georgia favorably compares to the regional peers. However, there is an increasing lack of confidence in the judicial sector’s ability to adjudicate commercial cases independently or in a timely, competent manner, with some business dispute cases languishing in the court system for years. Other companies complain of inefficient decision-making processes at the municipal level, shortcomings in the enforcement of intellectual property rights, lack of effective anti-trust policies, accusations of political meddling, selective enforcement of laws and regulations, including commercial laws, and difficulties resolving disputes over property rights. The Georgian government continues to work to address these issues, and despite these remaining challenges, Georgia ranks high in the region as a good place to do business.
The United States and Georgia work to increase bilateral trade and investment through a High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment and through the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission’s Economic, Energy, and Trade Working Group. Both countries signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994, and Georgia is eligible to export many products duty-free to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences program.
Georgia suffered considerable instability in the immediate post-Soviet period. After regaining independence in 1991, civil war and separatist conflicts flared up along the Russian border in the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In August 2008, tensions in the region of South Ossetia culminated in a brief war between Russia and Georgia. Russia invaded and occupied the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia continues to occupy these Georgian regions, and the central government in Tbilisi does not have effective control over these areas. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and does not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent. Tensions still exist both inside the occupied territories and near the administrative boundary lines, but other parts of Georgia, including Tbilisi, are not directly affected.
Transit and logistics are priority sectors as Georgia seeks to benefit from increased East/West trade through the country. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad has boosted Georgia’s transit prospects and the government has looked for ways to enhance trade. In 2016, the government awarded the contract to build a new port in Anaklia to a group of international investors, including a U.S. company. However, in 2020 the government terminated its contract with the group, resulting in a legal dispute with the investor. While the government has stated its commitment to the construction of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port Project, a tender has not yet been announced.
Separately, logistics and port management companies in Poti and Batumi have started to develop and expand the Batumi and Poti Ports. In 2020, the owner of Georgia’s largest port, Poti Port on the Black Sea, announced its plans to create a deep-water port. In 2021, logistics companies completed two new terminal projects in Batumi and Poti ports.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Georgia is open to foreign investment. Legislation establishes favorable conditions for foreign investment, but not preferential treatment for foreign investors. The Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity protects foreign investors from subsequent legislation that alters the condition of their investments for a period of ten years. Investment promotion authority is vested in the Investment Division of Enterprise Georgia, a legal entity of public law under the Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development. The Investment Division’s primary role is to attract, promote, and develop foreign direct investment in Georgia. For this purpose, it acts as the moderator between foreign investors and the Georgian government, ensures access to updated information, provides a means of communication with government bodies, and serves as a “one-stop-shop” to support investors throughout the investment process. ( http://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/about ). Enterprise Georgia also operated the website for foreign investors: www.investingeorgia.org .
Georgia’s Investors Council, an advisory body operating since 2015, aims to promote dialogue among the private business community, international organizations, donors, and the Georgian government for the development of a favorable, non-discriminatory, transparent, and fair business and investment climate in Georgia ( http://ics.ge ). The Business Ombudsman, who is a member of the Investors Council, is another tool for protecting investors’ rights in Georgia ( http://businessombudsman.ge ).
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Georgia does not have comprehensive mechanisms in place for screening foreign investment and Georgia does not have FDI thresholds. Governmental reviews of investment projects in Georgia are ad hoc. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development’s Investment Policy and Support Department is responsible for analyzing proposed foreign investment projects at the request of state agencies. Georgia’s State Security Service, National Security Council (NSC), Revenue Service, Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, National Bank, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Ministry of Defense all have potential equities and could play a role in reviewing a foreign transaction or investment proposal for national security concerns in certain circumstances. Georgia’s NSC is currently drafting critical infrastructure protection legislation that is linked to NSC’s investment screening efforts.
Foreign investors have participated in most major privatizations of state-owned property. Transparency of privatization has been an issue at times. No law or regulation authorizes private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Cross-shareholder or stable-shareholder arrangements are not used by private firms in Georgia. Georgian legislation does not protect private firms from takeovers. There are no regulations authorizing private firms to restrict foreign partners’ investment activity or limit foreign partners’ ability to gain control over domestic enterprises.
There are no specific licensing requirements for foreign investment other than those that apply to all companies. The government requires licenses for activities that affect public health, national security, and the financial sector: weapons and explosives production, narcotics, poisonous and pharmaceutical substances, exploration and exploitation of renewable or non-renewable substances, exploitation of natural resource deposits, establishment of casinos and gambling houses and the organization of games and lotteries, banking, insurance, securities trading, wireless communication services, and the establishment of radio and television channels. The law requires the state to retain a controlling interest in air traffic control, shipping traffic control, railroad control systems, defense and weapons industries, and nuclear energy. For investment projects requiring licenses or permits, the relevant government ministries and agencies have the right to review the project for national security concerns. By law, the government has 30 days to make a decision on licenses, and if the licensing authority does not state a reasonable ground for rejection within that period, the government must approve the license or permit for issuance. In the real estate sector, only Georgian nationals or companies, with some exceptions, may own agricultural land.
Per Georgian law, it is illegal to undertake any type of economic activity in Abkhazia or South Ossetia if such activities require permits, licenses, or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. Laws also ban mineral exploration, money transfers, and international transit via Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Only the state may issue currency, banknotes, and certificates for goods made from precious metals, import narcotics for medical purposes, and produce control systems for the energy sector.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an Investment Policy Review in December 2020 ( http://www.oecd.org/investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-georgia-0d33d7b7-en.htm ). The most recent WTO Investment Policy Review on Georgia was done in 2016 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp428_e.htm ), and by UNCTAD in 2014.
Registering a business in Georgia is relatively quick and streamlined. Registration takes one day to complete through Georgia’s single window registration process. The National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR) ( www.napr.gov.ge – webpage is in Georgian only), located in Public Service Halls (PSH) under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, carries out company registration. The PSH website (https://www.psh.gov.ge/https://www.psh.gov.ge/main/page/2/85) outlines procedures and requirements for business registration in English. For registration purposes, the law does not require a verification of the amount or existence of charter capital. A company is not required to complete a separate tax registration; the initial registration includes both the revenue service and national business registration. The following information is required to register a business in Georgia: bio data for the founder and principal officers, articles of incorporation, and the company’s area of business activity. Other required documents depend on the type of entity to be established.
To register a business, the potential owner must first pay the registration fee, register the company with the Entrepreneurial Register, and obtain an identification number and certificate of state and tax registration. Registration fees are GEL100 (around $30) for a regular registration and GEL200 (around $60) for an expedited registration, plus a GEL1 bank processing fee. The owner must also open a bank account (free).
Georgia’s business facilitation mechanism provides equitable treatment of women and men. There are a variety of state-run and donor-supported projects that aim to promote women entrepreneurs through specific training or other programs, including access to financing and business training.
The Georgian government does not have any specific policy on promoting or restricting domestic investors from investing abroad and Georgia’s outward investment is insignificant.
According to Georgia’s central bank, the net international investment position of Georgia, which measures the difference between external financial assets and liabilities of a country, totaled negative $26.3 billion as of December 31, 2021.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
Bilateral Investment Treaties
Georgia has bilateral agreements on investment promotion and mutual protection with 32 countries , including the United States: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/77/georgia. Signed agreements awaiting ratification are with Egypt, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Negotiations are underway with the governments of Canada, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Qatar, and Slovenia. Additionally, in 2007, Georgia signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States.
On June 27, 2014, Georgia signed an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union. In 2016, the government signed a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Georgia’s free trade agreement with China entered into force in January 2018. A free trade agreement is also in force with the Commonwealth of Independent States (of 1994). Other free trade agreements exist bilaterally with Ukraine, Russia (though trade is restricted by the Russian government), Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey. Georgia is engaged in free trade agreement consultations with Kyrgyzstan, the Cooperation Council of Gulf Arab States, India, and Tajikistan. The free trade agreement between Georgia and Hong Kong entered into force in 2019.
The United States and Georgia established a High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment in 2012, a bilateral dialogue aimed at identifying measures to increase bilateral trade and investment. The United States and Georgia have shared a Bilateral Investment Treaty since 1997, and Georgia can export many of its products duty-free to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences program.
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
The United States and Georgia are beneficiaries of the U.S.-Georgia Bilateral Taxation Treaty, and Georgia is covered under the U.S. treaty with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Double taxation issues are covered under the Convention with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Matters of Taxation of 1973 ( http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/ussr.pdf ).
Georgia has concluded agreements for avoidance of double taxation with 57 countries. Respective list available at the Ministry of Finance’s website: https://www.mof.ge/en/5128. Georgia and Russia signed a double taxation avoidance treaty in 1999, which the Georgian Parliament ratified in 2000. Although the Russian Duma has not ratified it, Russia regards it as an active agreement.
In 2015, Georgia ratified the agreement on Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) between Georgia and the United States. In 2017, Georgia signed a “Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting”. See Georgia’s commitments under BEPS here: https://www.mof.ge/en/5132 .
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Georgia’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms, and the Georgian government has committed to achieving even greater transparency and simplicity of regulations for these systems.
In Georgia, the lawmaking process involves Parliament (drafting and consideration) and the President (signing). Under Georgia’s constitution, the following subjects have the right to initiate legislation: the President, the government, members of Parliament, a committee, faction, the representative bodies of the Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Adjara, and groups of at least 30,000 voters.
A subject who does not have the right to launch a legislative initiative does, however, has the right to submit a “legislative proposal,” which should be a well-reasoned address to Parliament advocating for the adoption of a new law or of changes/amendments to existing legislation. According to Article 150 of the Law on Parliament, the following can submit a legislative proposal: citizens of Georgia, state bodies (except the establishments of the executive branch of government), the representative and executive bodies of local self-government, political and public unions registered in Georgia according to the established rule, and other legal entities.
There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, except their entitlement for participating in the law-making process prescribed by the above law. Publicly listed companies are required to prepare financial statements in accordance with IFRS – International Financial Reporting Standards. Draft bills or regulations are available for public comment. NGOs, professional associations, and business chambers actively participate in public hearings on legislation. The government publishes laws and regulations in Georgian in the official online legislative herald gazette, the Legislative Messenger, ‘Matsne’ ( www.matsne.gov.ge ). Another online tool to research Georgian legislation is www.codex.ge or the webpage of the Parliament of Georgia, www.parliament.ge .
General oversight of the executive branch is vested in the parliament. The new Constitution, which entered into force in December 2018, and subsequently adopted new Parliamentary Rules and Procedures, aims to strengthen Parliament’s oversight role. Under their strengthened roles, public officials are obliged to respond to Parliament’s questions. Government institutions also submit annual reports. However, local watchdog organizations continue to raise concerns that one party controls all branches of government, undermining checks and balances. Independent agencies, such as the State Audit Office the Ombudsman’s office (including the Business Ombudsman), and business associations also provide an oversight function. Georgia maintains an active civil society that frequently reports on government activities.
Georgia has six types of taxes: corporate profit tax (0% or 15%; no corporate income tax on retained and reinvested profit; profit tax applies only to distributed earnings), value added tax (VAT; 18%), property tax (up to 1%), personal income tax (20%), excise (on few selected goods), and import tax (0%, 5% or 12%). Dividend income tax is five percent. There are no dividend or capital gains taxes for publicly traded equities (a free float in excess of 25 percent). Georgia imposes excise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, fuel, and mobile telecommunication. Most goods, except for some agricultural products, have no import tariffs. For goods with tariffs, the rates are five or 12 percent, unless excluded by an FTA.
Detailed information on the types and rates of taxes applicable to businesses and individuals, as well as a payment calendar, is available on the Georgia Revenue Service website: http://www.rs.ge/ .
In 2019, the Georgian government introduced new regulations to simplify the tax regime and streamline processes for small businesses. The new legislation decreased turnover tax from five percent to one percent for small businesses and defined small business as those with less than GEL 500,000 ($160,000) annual turnover, a fivefold increase from the previous GEL 100,000 ($30,000) threshold. In addition, the new regulations allow small businesses to pay taxes by the end of month, instead of requiring advance payments. For medium and large businesses, the reform introduced an automatic system of VAT returns and activated a special system whereby entrepreneurs can pay VAT returns in five to seven business days by filling out an electronic application.
Enterprise Georgia operates the Business Service Center in Tbilisi, which provides domestic and foreign businesses with information on doing business in Georgia. The Business Service Center facilitates an online chat tool for interested individuals ( http://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/SERVICE-CENTER ). Additionally, the Investor’s Council provides an opportunity for the private sector to discuss legislative reforms, economic development plans, and actions to spur economic growth with the government. Different commercial chambers, such as the American Chamber of Commerce ( www.amcham.ge ), International Chamber of Commerce ( www.icc.ge ), Business Association of Georgia ( www.bag.ge ), Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( www.gcci.ge ), and EU-Georgia Business Council ( http://eugbc.net ) remain important tools for facilitating ongoing dialogue between domestic and foreign business communities and the government.
International accounting standards are binding for joint stock companies, banks, insurance companies, companies operating in the insurance field, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, joint liability companies, and cooperatives. Private companies are required to perform accounting and financial reporting in accordance with international accounting standards. Sole entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-commercial legal entities perform accounting and financial reporting according to simplified interim standards approved by the Parliamentary Accounting Commission. Shortcomings in the use of international accounting standards persist, and qualified accounting personnel are in short supply.
The Law of Georgia on Free Trade and Competition provides for the establishment of an independent structure, the Competition Agency, to exercise effective state supervision over a free, fair, and competitive market environment. Nonetheless, certain companies have dominant positions in pharmaceutical, petroleum, and other sectors.
Public finances and debt obligations are transparent, and Georgia’s budget and information on debt obligations were widely and easily accessible to the public through government websites including the Ministry of Finance’s site ( www.mof.gov.ge ). Georgia’s State Audit Office ( www.sao.ge ) reviews the government’s accounts and makes its reports publicly available.
International Regulatory Considerations
Georgia’s Association Agreement of 2014 with the European Union introduced a preferential trade regime, the DCFTA, which increased market access between the EU and Georgia based on better-aligned regulations. The agreement is designed to introduce European standards gradually in all spheres of Georgia’s economy and sectoral policy: infrastructure, energy, the environment, agriculture, tourism, technological development, employment and social policy, health protection, education, culture, civil society, and regional development. It also provides for the approximation of Georgian laws with nearly 300 separate European legislative acts.
The DCFTA should promote a gradual approximation with European standards for food safety, establish a transparent and stable business environment in Georgia, increase Georgia’s potential to attract investment, introduce innovative approaches and new technologies, stimulate economic growth, and support the country’s economic development. The latest progress report, adopted by the European Parliament on September 17, 2020, confirmed Georgia’s continued progress on the implementation of the agreement.
Georgia has been a WTO member since 2000 and consistently meets requirements and obligations included in the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures. Since WTO accession, Georgia has not introduced any Technical Barriers to Trade. In January 2016, Georgia ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Georgia’s legal system is based on civil law and the country has a three-tiered court system. The first tier consists of 25 trial courts throughout the country that hear criminal, civil, and administrative cases. Two appellate courts, Tbilisi Appeal Court (East Georgia) and Kutaisi Appeal Court (West Georgia), represent the second tier. The Supreme Court of Georgia occupies the third, or the highest, instance and acts as the highest appellate court. In addition, there is a separate Constitutional Court for arbitrating constitutional disputes between branches of government and ruling on individual claims concerning human rights violations stemming from the Constitution.
Georgia does not have an integrated commercial code. There are several different laws and codes (Tax Code, Law on Entrepreneurs, and Law on Insolvency) that regulate commercial activity in Georgia. There are no specialized courts, such as a commercial court, to handle commercial disputes; however, in Tbilisi there are specialized court panels that handle high value disputes, including some commercial disputes. The Ministry of Justice’s Public Service Halls provide property registration.
The lack of independence of Georgia’s judiciary and political inference in the judicial system, especially in high-profile cases, is troubling. Concerns regarding the integrity of the judicial appointment process and the capacity of the courts to deliver quality outcomes continue to affect investor confidence in the court system. The Government’s hesitance to conduct a full assessment of the judicial system to ensure full compliance with Venice Commission recommendations further undermines faith in the independence of the judiciary. OECD’s 2020 IPR notes the Georgian government’s efforts to strengthen the judiciary to improve the country’s business and investment environment under its Georgia 2020 strategy. However, the report highlights that “the existing framework for adjudication of civil disputes in Georgian courts nonetheless continues to suffer from several significant problems despite the reforms. Foremost of these are persisting concerns with the independence, accountability, and capacity of the High Council of Justice and the judiciary. Many investors perceive Georgia’s court processes as slow, inefficient, lacking in transparency, and hampered by a lack of technical expertise. All these issues affect public trust in the judicial system. They are among the most pressing concerns for investors in their assessments of the investment climate in Georgia.” The full OECD report is available at https://www.oecd.org/countries/georgia/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-georgia-0d33d7b7-en.htm. Regulations and enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The U.S.-Georgia Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) guarantees U.S. investors national treatment and most favored nation treatment. Exceptions to national treatment have been carved out for Georgia in certain sectors, such as maritime fisheries, air, and maritime transport and related activities, ownership of broadcast, common carrier, or aeronautical radio stations, communications satellites, government-supported loans, guarantees, and insurance, and landing of submarine cables.
Georgia’s legal system is based on civil law. Legislation governing foreign investment includes the Constitution, the Civil Code, the Tax Code, and the Customs Code. Other relevant legislation includes the Law on Entrepreneurs, the Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity, the Bankruptcy Law, the Law on Courts and General Jurisdiction, the Law on Limitation of Monopolistic Activity, the Accounting Law, and the Securities Market Law.
Ownership and privatization of property is governed by the following acts: the Civil Code, the Law on Ownership of Agricultural Land, the Law on Private Ownership of Non-Agricultural Land, the Law on Management of State-Owned Non-Agricultural Land, and the Law on Privatization of State Property. Property rights in extractive industries are governed by the Law on Concessions, the Law on Deposits, and the Law on Oil and Gas. Intellectual property rights are protected under the Civil Code and the Law on Patents and Trademarks. Financial sector legislation includes the Law on Commercial Banks, the Law on National Banks, and the Law on Insurance Activities.
Information about the procedures and requirements during the investment process is available in English Language at the Invest in Georgia (by Enterprise Georgia) website: https://investingeorgia.org/en/downloads/useful-guides
Competition and Antitrust Laws
The Georgian Law “On Free Trade and Competition” of 2005 that governs competition is in line with the Georgian Constitution and international agreements.
The agency in charge of reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns is the Competition Agency, an independent legal entity of public law, subordinated to the Prime Minister of Georgia. The agency aims to promote market liberalization, free trade, and competition ( www.competition.ge ). Competition Agency decisions can be appealed at court. Georgia has also signed several international agreements containing competition provisions, including the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (AA). The DCFTA within the AA goes further than most FTAs, with regulatory alignment, the elimination of non-tariff barriers, and binding rules on investments and services.
In July 2020, Georgia adopted the Law of Georgia on the Introduction of Anti-dumping Measures in Trade that became effective January 1, 2021. The aim of the law is to protect local industry from price dumping on imports. The Law establishes the basic conditions and rules for the introduction of anti-dumping measures to be implemented when importing goods via the customs territory of Georgia.
In 2022, the Georgian Parliament adopted a bill on Consumer Protection, which is an essential component among the obligations under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement; it establishes rules for consumer protection and prohibits “unfair commercial practices” that violate the values of “trust and good faith.” The National Competition Agency is responsible for executing the Consumer Protection law.
Expropriation and Compensation
The Georgian Constitution protects property ownership rights, including ownership, acquisition, disposal, and inheritance of property. Foreign citizens living in Georgia possess rights and obligations equal to those of the citizens of Georgia, except for certain property rights (see Section 5). The Constitution allows restriction or revocation of property rights only in cases of extreme public necessity, and then only as allowed by law.
The Law on Procedures for Forfeiture of Property for Public Needs establishes the rules for expropriation in Georgia. The law allows expropriation for certain enumerated public needs, establishes a mechanism for valuation and payment of compensation, and provides for court review of the valuation at the option of any party. The Georgian Law on Investment allows expropriation of foreign investments only with appropriate compensation. Amendments to the Law on Procedures for Forfeiture of Property for Public Needs allow payment of compensation with property of equal value as well as money. Compensation includes all expenses associated with the valuation and delivery of expropriated property. Compensation must be paid without delay and must include both the value of the expropriated property as well as the loss suffered by the foreign investor because of expropriation. The foreign investor has a right to review an expropriation in a Georgian court. In 2007, Parliament passed a law generally prohibiting the government from contesting the privatization of real estate sold by the government before August 2007. The law is not applicable, however, to certain enumerated properties.
The U.S.-Georgia BIT permits expropriation of covered investments only for a public purpose, in a non-discriminatory manner, upon payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation, and in accordance with due process of law and general principles of fair treatment.
Expropriation disputes are not common in Georgia, although under the previous government there were cases of property transfers that lacked transparency and allegedly were implemented under coercion.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Since 1992, Georgia has been a member of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). As a result of these international obligations, Georgia is bound to accept international arbitration and recognize arbitral awards. The Ministry of Justice oversees the government’s interests in arbitrations between the state and private investors. Georgia’s Law on Arbitration of 2010 provides for recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards rendered outside of Georgia.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Georgia has signed bilateral investments treaties (BITs) with 32 countries including the United States: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/77/georgia. Georgia signed four more bilateral investment treaties with Japan, UAE, Kyrgyzstan, and Egypt, but none have entered into force yet. Georgian investment law allows disputes between a foreign investor and a government body to be resolved in Georgian courts or at ICSID unless a different method of dispute settlement is agreed upon between the parties. If the dispute cannot be heard at ICSID, the foreign investor can also submit the dispute to ad-hoc international arbitration under United Nations Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL model law) rules. The right to use ICSID or UNCITRAL model law is guaranteed under the U.S.–Georgia BIT.
Although the constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, there remain indications of interference in judicial independence and impartiality. Judges are vulnerable to political pressure from within and outside of the judiciary. There are consistent reports of political interference and lack of respect for rule of law in a number of property rights cases.
Disputes over property rights at times have undermined confidence in the impartiality of the Georgian judicial system and rule of law and, by extension, Georgia’s investment climate. The government identified judicial reform as one of its top priorities, and Parliament has passed a series of reforms aimed at strengthening judicial independence. While many of these reforms have improved transparency, concerns regarding the independence and competency of the courts remain, and politically sensitive cases are still vulnerable to political pressure. In fact, by appointing Supreme Court Judges through legislative framework not fully in line with Venice Commission recommendations, the risks have increased in the last year. The Public Defender’s Office, the nongovernmental Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, and the international community continued to raise concerns regarding a lack of judicial independence. During the year they highlighted problems, including the influence of a group of judges primarily consisting of High Council of Justice (HCOJ) members and court chairs that allegedly stifled critical opinions within the judiciary and obstructed proposals to strengthen judicial independence. The HCOJ and leadership roles within the judiciary are dominated by a group of judges that oppose increased accountability and transparency within the judiciary. Civil society asserts this group applies pressure on judges in politically sensitive cases. The government recently adopted additional judicial reforms that appear to target independent judges by expanding the disciplinary rules and ensured current judicial leaders remain in power by extending the mandate periods for those running the High Council of Justice. Moreover, Parliament has failed for over a year to appoint non-judge members to the High Council of Justice, thereby further limiting the public’s ability to monitor the judiciary.
Over the past 10 years, there have been over a dozen investment disputes involving U.S. citizens. As of the beginning of 2022, most of them were resolved through arbitral awards, out-of-court settlements, or a government decision, but at least two were outstanding. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. There is no substantial history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Georgia’s arbitration law went into force on January 1, 2010. Georgia has enacted legislation based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. Domestic private arbitration firms, such as the International Arbitration Center ( www.giec.ge ), operate in dispute resolution between two private parties.
On 1 April 2021, a new insolvency law, “On Rehabilitation and Collective Satisfaction of Creditors,” entered into force in Georgia. The main aim of the law is to protect the interests of the creditors, promote mechanisms for rehabilitation, strengthen the role of the courts during the insolvency proceedings, and separate and clarify the rights and responsibilities of individuals involved in the process and the creation of fair regulations. This law has eased the process for struggling businesses to return to growth.
The law defines two types of creditors: secured and non-secured. Creditors can file a court claim for opening an insolvency proceeding, given certain conditions are satisfied (conditions vary, depending on the outstanding debt amount and the delayed days of repayment). Creditor meetings are held in court and chaired by a judge. The creditor meeting can decide several issues, including the appointment of a supervisor of the bankruptcy or rehabilitation proceedings, and the appointment of a member of the facilitation council.
Secured creditors: Secured creditors must make unanimous decisions on approving a debtor’s new debts, the encumbrance of the debtor’s property, and suretyship. If there are no secured creditors, the creditor’s meeting is authorized to make the same decisions. The secured creditors, in a creditor’s meeting, may suspend enforcement of the material conditions of the agreement with the bankruptcy or rehabilitation supervisor or on the definition of the terms of the rehabilitation. After the debtor’s property is sold on auction, secured creditors have priority for being repaid. All secured creditors must approve the rehabilitation plan and plan amendments. New equity investment in the debtor’s company is only possible if there are prior consents from all secured creditors and the rehabilitation supervisor.
Non-secured creditors: Non-secured creditors are satisfied only after all secured creditors are satisfied (unless otherwise agreed by all creditors unanimously). Non-secured creditors do not have voting rights for the rehabilitation plan approval.
The priority system shall not apply to creditors whose claim is secured by financial collateral.
Foreign creditors: The law provides additional time for foreign creditors to file claims. Creditors may file claims to the court and request to declare the agreements made by the insolvent debtor voidable and/or request reimbursement of damages, if such agreements inflicted damages to the creditor.
The Debt Registry of the National Agency of the Public Register is Georgia’s credit monitoring authority.
4. Industrial Policies
The Georgian government has created several tools to support investment in Georgia’s economy. The JSC Partnership Fund is a state-owned investment fund, established in 2011. The fund owns the largest Georgian state-owned enterprises operating in the transportation, energy, and infrastructure sectors. The Fund’s main objective is to promote domestic and foreign investment in Georgia by providing co-financing (equity, mezzanine, etc.) in projects at their initial stage of development, with a focus on tourism, manufacturing, energy, and agriculture ( www.fund.ge ).
In 2013, the government launched the Georgian Co-Investment Fund (GCF) to promote foreign and domestic investments. According to the government, the GCF is a $6 billion private investment fund with a mandate of providing investors with unique access, through a private equity structure, to opportunities in Georgia’s fastest growing industries and sectors ( www.gcfund.ge ).
Due to the absence of customs and import tariffs in Georgia, investors can take advantage of access to over 2.3 billion potential customers without customs tariffs. In order to support Georgia’s position as a regional hub for trade and logistics, the government invests heavily to develop infrastructure. Some recent incentives that the Georgian Government has put in place include the following:
FDI Grant: The goal of the program is to promote the growth of foreign direct investments in Georgia, the inflow of technology, and the creation of new jobs. See more information and eligibility criteria at https://www.investingeorgia.org/en/agency/news-events/news/the-state-program-fdi-grant.page .
International Company Status: “International Company Status” grants IT sector companies a preferential tax regime, which qualifies them for reduced rates of Corporate Tax (5%), Dividends Tax (0%), and Personal Income Tax (5%). More information is available at https://www.rs.ge/LegalEntityPreferentialTax-en?cat=10&tab=1 .
Credit Guarantee Mechanism: This program aims at improving access to finance for small and medium size businesses, facilitates lending, and ensures inclusive economic growth. The program opens opportunity for small and medium size businesses which do not meet the requirements of the loan collateral. See more information at https://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/business-development/Credit-guarantee-mechanism .
The government’s “Produce in Georgia” program is another tool for jointly financing foreign investment under which investors establish limited liability companies in Georgia. This program includes co-financing of the annual interest rate on loans issued by commercial banks, as well as the transfer of state property (both land and buildings) to private ownership at a symbolic price – 1 GEL (approximately $0.30), with a certain investment commitment. The program aims to develop and support entrepreneurship, encourage creation of new enterprises, and increase export potential and investment in the country. Coordinated by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development through Enterprise Georgia, the National Agency of State Property, and the Agriculture and Rural Development Agency, the project provides access to finance, access to real property, and technical assistant to entrepreneurs.
The program “Produce in Georgia” unites several programs, such as Film in Georgia, Business Universal ( https://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/business-development/universal-industry ) – which in itself contains “Business Export” ( https://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/business-development/business-export ) and “Development of Agro and Eco-Tourism” ( https://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/business-development/tourism-development ). “Film in Georgia”- allows local and international producers and filmmakers to film or undertake video, audio, and other productions in Georgia, and reimburse between 20% to 25% of qualified expenses through a cashback mechanism ( https://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/business-development/filmingeorgia ). For more information please also visit http://enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/home .
The National Agency of State Property oversees the Physical Infrastructure Transfer Component, the free-of-charge transfer of government-owned real property to an entrepreneur under certain investment obligations.
In October 2018, Georgia’s Prime Minister introduced the concept of electronic residency, allowing citizens of 34 countries to register their companies electronically and open bank accounts in Georgia while not having a physical presence in the country.
Incentives for Construction of RES Capacities: Under Article 5 of the Energy Law, one of the general principles of organization, regulation and monitoring of energy activities is promotion of the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources and of the combined generation of electricity and heat. Moreover, Article 7 of the Energy Law states The State Energy Policy shall provide measures aimed at the use of renewable energy sources for the generation of electricity and consumption of electricity produced from such sources, as well as any incentives and support mechanisms applied for the promotion of the use of renewable energy sources.
The new energy legislation promotes domestic and foreign investment in rehabilitation and improving industries such as coal, natural gas, water supply, and using local hydropower and other sustainable and alternative tools. It also emphasizes the value of small power plants with an installed capacity of 15 megawatts (MW) for the effective and environmentally friendly use of renewable energy resources.
Resolution No 403 of the Government of Georgia, On the approval of Support Scheme (Hydroelectric Power Plants) of the Generation and Use energy from Renewable Energy Sources Energy Support and Use Scheme from Renewable Sources, was adopted in 2020 and amended in 2021 ( https://matsne.gov.ge/ka/document/view/4914589?publication=0, in Georgian). This resolution outlines support schemes for construction and operation of power plants which are initiated by the private developer and have installed capacity more than 5 MW. These schemes include the following:
- A 10-year support period, for eight months during each year after the commissioning starts, according to the applicable law;
- Premium tariff of up to 1.5 cents (in USD) per kilowatt-hour (kW/h);
- Premium tariff paid in the form of adding to the wholesale price recorded at the organized electricity market for the relevant hour, only in the cases when during the support period for the relevant hour generated by the Power Plant and at the organized electricity market sold wholesale electricity price is lower than 5.5 cents (in USD) per kW/h;
- In an organized electricity market, at the relevant hour, the difference between the wholesale price and 5.5 cents (in USD) is lower than 1.5 cents (in USD), the premium tariff is calculated in accordance with the difference.
Low labor costs contribute to the attractiveness of Georgia as a foreign investment destination. Georgia is also increasingly recognized as a regional transportation hub that links Asia and Europe. Georgia’s free trade regimes provide easy access for companies to export goods produced in Georgia to foreign markets. In some cases, foreign investors can benefit from these agreements by producing goods that target these markets.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
In June 2007, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the Law on Free Industrial Zones, which defines the form and function of free industrial/economic zones. Financial operations in such zones may be performed in any currency. Foreign companies operating in free industrial zones are exempt from taxes on profit, property, and VAT. Currently, there are four free industrial zones (FIZ) in Georgia:
Poti Free Industrial Zone (FIZ): This is the first free industrial zone in the Caucasus region, established in 2008. UAE-based RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA) initially developed the zone, but in 2017, CEFC China Energy Company Limited purchased 75 percent of shares, with the Georgian government holding the remaining 25 percent. Poti FIZ ( www.potifreezone.ge ), a
300-hectare area, benefits from its proximity to the Poti Sea Port.
A 27-hectare plot in Kutaisi is home to the Egyptian company Fresh Electric, which constructed a kitchen appliances factory in 2009. The company has committed to building about one dozen textile, ceramics, and home appliances factories in the zone, and announced its intention to invest over $2 billion.
Chinese private corporation “Hualing Group,” based in Urumqi, China, developed another FIZ in Kutaisi in 2015. This FIZ is a 36-hectare area that houses businesses focused on sales of wood, furniture, stone, building materials, pharmaceuticals, auto spare parts, electric vehicles, and beverages ( www.hualingfiz.ge ).
The Tbilisi Free Zone (TFZ) in Tbilisi occupies 17 hectares divided into 28 plots. TFZ has access to the main cargo transportation highway, Tbilisi International Airport (30 km), and the Tbilisi city center (17 km). For more information, visit: https://www.tfz.ge/en/510/ .
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Performance requirements are not a condition of establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment, but the government has imposed requirements on a case-by-case basis in some privatizations of large state assets, such as commitments to maintain employment levels or to make additional investments within a specified time period. Performance requirements such as scope and time limit on licenses to extract natural resources or production sharing agreements have triggered complaints from some companies that transactions lacked transparency. Most types of performance requirements are prohibited by the U.S.-Georgia BIT.
Georgia’s Law on Promotion and Guarantees of Investment Activity prohibits setting the required minimum number of Georgian citizens to be elected or appointed in leading bodies of enterprises.
The government does not follow a forced localization policy though recent legislative changes have created difficulties in acquiring residence permits for foreign employees working for VAT exempt entities. Foreign investors have no obligation to use domestic content in goods or technology. In addition, there are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source codes and/or provide access to surveillance.
Customer and business-related data transfer is not restricted in Georgia, neither within nor outside the country, unless it concerns personal or national security matters, which are protected by the law.
The Data Exchange Agency (DEA), under the Ministry of Justice, coordinates e-governance development, data exchange infrastructure, unified governmental networks, informational and communication standards, and cybersecurity policy. The DEA requires any company managing critical data to implement a number of security protocols to protect that information ( www.data.gov.ge ).
5. Protection of Property Rights
Processes to register property are streamlined, transparent, and take one day to process at Public Service Halls. In June 2017, the Parliament adopted a legislative amendment that placed a moratorium on the sale of agricultural land to foreign citizens and stateless persons. Under the amendment, foreigners, legal entities registered abroad, and legal entities registered by foreigners in Georgia were not able to purchase agricultural land in Georgia. Furthermore, the new Constitution that came into force in December 2018 determined that agricultural land can only be owned by the state, self-governing entities, citizens of Georgia, or a group of Georgian citizens. The Constitution also states that exclusions may be specified in organic law, which requires votes from at least two-thirds of Parliament to pass.
Mortgages and liens are registered through the public registry, and information can be obtained from www.napr.gov.ge .
The government has taken multiple steps to regulate land titling, including facilitating simplified procedures, free registration campaigns, and mediation services. Unclear or unregistered titling, which persists, bears the potential to hamper investment projects.
Property ownership cannot revert to other owners when legally purchased property stays unoccupied.
Intellectual Property Rights
Georgia acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in 2000. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development is responsible for WTO compliance.
The legal framework for protection of intellectual property in Georgia is approximated to international standards. Six laws regulate intellectual property rights (IPR) in Georgia: the Law on Patents, the Law on Trademarks, the Law on Copyrights and Neighboring Rights, the Law on Appellation of Origin and Geographic Indication of Goods, the Law on Topographies of Integrated Circuits, and the Law on IP-Related Border Measures. Georgian law now provides protection for works of literature, art, science, and sound recordings for 50 years. The Georgian Parliament adopted amendments to the IP legislation in 2017, which entered into force in 2018. These new amendments were intended to further harmonize Georgia’s IP legislation with the EU.
The National Intellectual Property Center of Georgia (Sakpatenti) provides legal protection for intellectual property objects in Georgia: it issues protective documents on invention, utility model, trademark, design, geographical indication and appellation of origin, new animal breeds and plant varieties, and ensures the deposit of copyrighted work. Sakpatenti is an active and engaged partner of the United States in educating the public on IPR issues. Sakpatenti coordinates the government’s approach to IPR enforcement under the Interagency Coordination Council for IPR Enforcement. This Council is an efficient platform for government institutions to exchange their views on IPR enforcement issues. Georgia is improving enforcement, but some problems persist, including the widespread use of unlicensed software and the availability of pirated video and audio recordings and other unlicensed content available online. The U.S. government Commercial Law Development Program continues to provide assistance to Sakpatenti and other government entities to build capacity to deal with IPR-related issues effectively.
The Revenue Service, which is part of the Ministry of Finance, is responsible for enforcing the protection of IPR holders that are listed in the Register of Intellectual Property Subject-Matters of the relevant service. The Revenue Service is responsible for border control and can halt import or export of items based on the register data. After the registration procedure is completed, the Revenue Service is liable to suspend counterfeit goods. According to the law, the goods may be suspended for no longer than 10 working days, which may be extended by the Revenue Service for another 10 working days. The Law of Georgia on Border Measures Related to Intellectual Property provides for the possibility of destruction of counterfeit goods based on a court decision.
With the aim of further improving domestic legislation and its harmonization with international standards, Sakpatenti has engaged in adjusting laws or amendments to existing legislation regulating intellectual property. For example, in 2020, Sakpatenti prepared two draft laws – “On Amendments to the Law of Georgia on Appellations of Origin of Goods and Geographical Indications” and “On Amendments to the Patent Law of Georgia” to harmonize Georgian legislation with that of the EU.
Georgia participates in the EU-Georgia Intellectual Property Project, a 2020-2023 EU-funded project that supports Sakpatenti by focusing on specific capacity-building activities, training, technical and legal support, research and data collection, awareness raising, and information sharing.
Georgian legislation covers various types of liability for intellectual property right infringement. The Code of Civil Procedure of Georgia provides for the court’s authority to take provisional measures necessary for securing full and proper execution of the court’s decision.
In 2021, the Ministry of Finance’s Investigation Service initiated 13 cases due to violation of Articles 196 (Unlawful use of trademark or other commercial designations) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. As a result, 62,326 counterfeit items were seized, with the total value of around $80,000. In addition, the Customs Department issued 267 orders on the suspension of goods. Out of these, in 254 cases the right holder and the owner of the goods agreed on the destruction of the goods, with a combined value of approximately $18,300. In 2021, the Tax Monitoring Department of LEPL Revenue Service revealed 20 cases of trademark infringements. The government seized 412 counterfeit items, with the total value of $1,500.
Despite strong legal structure, enforcement of IP generally remains challenging. Civil cases on IPR infringement have not reflected the full extent of the situation regarding counterfeiting and piracy in Georgia, as the private sector has often not used available legal mechanisms for IPR enforcement. Infringement of industrial property rights, copyrights, performers’ rights, rights of makers of databases, trademarks or other illegal use of commercial indications can incur civil, criminal, and administrative penalties. Depending on the type and extent of the violation, penalties include fines, corrective labor, social work, or imprisonment.
The Criminal Code of Georgia regulates prosecution of IPR violations, in particular: Articles 189, 1891 and 196. More detailed information can be found at https://matsne.gov.ge/document/view/16426?publication=232 .
Georgia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or in the Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The National Bank of Georgia regulates the securities market. All market participants submit their reports in line with international standards. All listed companies must make public filings, which are then uploaded to the National Bank’s website, allowing investors to evaluate a company’s financial standing. The Georgian securities market includes the following licensed participants: two Stock Exchanges, a Central Securities Depository, eight brokerage companies, and three independent securities registrars. ( https://www.nbg.gov.ge/index.php?m=487&lng=eng )
The Georgian Stock Exchange (GSE, https://gse.ge/en/ ) is the only organized securities market in Georgia. Designed and established with the help of USAID and operating under a legal framework drafted with the assistance of U.S. experts, the GSE complies with global best practices in securities trading and offers an efficient investment facility to both local and foreign investors. The GSE’s automated trading system can accommodate thousands of securities that can be traded by brokers from workstations on the GSE floor or remotely from their offices.
No law or regulation authorizes private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Cross-shareholder or stable-shareholder arrangements are not used by private firms in Georgia. Georgian legislation does not protect private firms from takeovers. There are no regulations authorizing private firms to restrict the investment activity of foreign partners or to limit the ability of foreign partners to gain control over domestic enterprises.
The government and Central Bank (National Bank of Georgia) follow IMF Article VIII and do not impose any restrictions on payments and transfers in current international transactions.
Credit from commercial banks is available to foreign investors as well as domestic clients, although interest rates are high. Banks offer business, consumer, and mortgage loans.
The government adopted a new law in 2018 that introduced an accumulative pension scheme, which became effective on January 1, 2019. The pension scheme is mandatory for legally employed people under 40. For the self-employed and those above the age of 40, enrolment in the program is voluntary. The pension savings system applies to Georgian citizens, foreign citizens living in Georgia with permanent residency in the country, and stateless persons who are employed or self-employed and receive an income.
Money and Banking System
Banking is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Georgian economy. As of March 1, 2022, Georgia’s banking sector consists of 14 commercial banks, including 13 foreign-controlled banks, with 154 commercial bank branches and 756 service centers throughout the country. In March 2022, Georgian commercial banks held GEL 61.7 billion (around $19.6 billion) in total assets. The private sector Credit-to-GDP ratio reached 78%, one of the highest among regional peers. As of early 2022, there were 18 insurance companies and 38 microfinance (MFI) organizations operating in Georgia. MFIs held GEL 1.6 billion ($528 million) in total assets as of January 1, 2022. The two largest Georgian banks are listed on the London Stock Exchange: TBC Bank (listed in 2014) and the Bank of Georgia (2006).
The banking system is stable, well capitalized, liquid, and profitable. The financial sector maintains solid capital and liquidity buffers against potential threats. The share of non-performing loans (5.2% as of January 1, 2022) is declining. As outlined by the 2021 IMF Financial System Stability Assessment (https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2021/09/17/Georgia-Financial-System-Stability-Assessment-465911), Georgia’s banking supervision practices and regulations have significantly progressed and are in line with Basel/EU directives. Despite substantial progress, dollarization remains the main challenge for the system, given that around half of the credit portfolio is disbursed in foreign currency, largely to unhedged borrowers.
The National Bank of Georgia (NBG, www.nbg.gov.ge ) is Georgia’s central bank, as defined by the Constitution. The rights and obligations of the NBG as the central bank, the principles of its activity, and the guarantee of its independence are defined in the Organic Law of Georgia on the National Bank of Georgia. The National Bank supervises the financial sector to facilitate the financial stability and transparency of the financial system, as well as to protect the rights of the sector’s consumers and investors. Through the Financial Monitoring Service of Georgia, a separate legal entity, the NBG undertakes measures against illicit income legalization and terrorism financing. In addition, the NBG is the government’s banker and fiscal agent.
The IMF, credit rating agencies, and other international organizations positively assess the NBG’s macroeconomic framework and inflation targeting regime. In June 2021, the NBG was awarded the Transparency Award by the international publisher Central Banking. The award highlighted the improved communications on monetary policy, financial stability, consumer protection and financial education. The NBG also was nominated for the Risk Manager Award of 2021 by the same group. In 2021, Global Finance named Koba Gvenetadze, Governor of the NBG, among the Best Central Bankers for the fourth time.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Asian Development Bank (ABD), and other international development agencies have a variety of lending programs making credit available to large and small businesses in Georgia. Georgia’s two largest banks – TBC and Bank of Georgia – have correspondent banking relationships with the United States through Citibank, and some other banks have a relationship with JP Morgan. However, correspondent banking remains a major challenge for small and medium size banks.
Georgia does not restrict foreigners from establishing a bank account in Georgia. Several local banks are subsidiaries of international banking groups and subject to the same regulations.
The NBG and Georgian financial institutions act fully in accordance with the financial sanctions imposed by the United States and others on the Russian Federation. Compliance with international financial sanctions is systematically checked during the onsite inspections of financial institutions.
In 2020, the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MoneyVal) approved the Fifth Round Evaluation Report of Georgia. The report assessed the NBG’s supervisory process and practices as having effective outcomes. The report also notes that financial institutions generally have a good understanding of risks and are part of large banking or other financial groups that have put in place sophisticated internal systems and controls which effectively mitigate money laundering and terrorism financing risks.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
The sole legal tender in Georgia is the lari (GEL), which is traded on the Tbilisi Interbank Currency Exchange and in the foreign exchange bureau market. The NBG publishes the official exchange rate daily on its website. The official exchange rate of the Georgian lari against other foreign currencies is determined according to the rate on international markets or the issuer country’s domestic interbank currency market (at 15:00) based on cross-currency exchange rates. The sources used for the acquisition of exchange rates are the Reuters and Bloomberg systems and the corresponding webpages of central banks. The information is received, calculated, and disseminated automatically.
Georgia has a floating exchange rate. The National Bank of Georgia does not intend to peg the exchange rate and does not generally intervene in the foreign exchange market, except under certain circumstances when the GEL’s fluctuation has a high magnitude, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgian law guarantees the right of an investor to convert and repatriate income after payment of all required taxes. The investor is also entitled to convert and repatriate any compensation received for expropriated property. Georgia has accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement, effective as of December 20, 1996, to refrain from imposing restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions and from engaging in discriminatory currency arrangements or multiple currency practices without IMF approval. Parliament’s 2011 adoption of the Act of Economic Freedom further reinforced this provision.
Under the U.S.-Georgia BIT, the Georgian government guarantees that all money transfers relating to a covered investment by a U.S. investor can be made freely and without delay into and out of Georgia.
Foreign investors have the right to hold foreign currency accounts with authorized local banks.
There are no restrictions, limitations, or delays involving remittances from overseas. Several Georgian banks participate in the SWIFT and Western Union interbank communication networks. Businesses report that it takes a maximum of three days for money transferred abroad from Georgia to reach a beneficiary’s account, unless otherwise provided by a customer’s order. There is no indication that remittance policies will be altered in the future. At the border, travelers must declare currency and securities in their possession valued at more than GEL 30,000 (around $9,000-$10,000).
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Georgia does not have a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Georgian government privatized most state-owned enterprises (SOEs). At the end of 2013, Georgian Railways (GRW), Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC), Georgian State Electrosystem (GSE), Electricity System Commercial Operator (ESCO), and Enguri Hydropower plant were the major remaining SOEs. The energy-related companies largely implement the government’s energy policies and help manage the electricity market. There are also a number of Legal Entities of Public Law (LEPLs), independent bodies that carry out government functions, such as the Public Service Halls.
During 2012, Georgian Railways, GOGC, GSE, and ESCO’s assets were placed under the Partnership Fund ( fund.ge ), a state-run fund to facilitate foreign investment into new projects. The fund also controlled 25 percent of shares in the TELASI Electricity Distribution Company, which it sold to private investors in 2020.
Despite state ownership, SOEs act under the general terms of the Entrepreneurial Law. Georgian Railways and GOGC have supervisory boards, while GSE and ESCO do not. The SOEs’ individual charters describe their procedures and policies. Georgia encourages its SOEs to adhere to the OECD’s Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.
The senior management of SOEs report to Supervisory Boards, where they exist (e.g., GRW, GOGC); in other cases, they report to line ministries. Governmental officials can be on the supervisory board of the SOEs, and the Partnership Fund has five key governmental officials on its board. SOEs explicitly are not obligated to consult with government officials before making business decisions, but informal consultations take place depending on the scale and importance of the issue.
To ensure the transparency and accountability of state business decisions and operations, SOEs have regular outside audits and publish annual reports. SOEs with more than 50 percent state ownership are obliged to follow the State Procurement Law and make procurements via public tender. The Partnership Fund, GRW, and GOGC are subject to valuation by international rating agencies. There is no legal requirement for SOEs to publish annual report or to submit their books for independent audit, but this is done in practice. In addition, GRW and GOGC are Eurobond issuer companies and therefore are required to publish reports. SOEs are subject to the same domestic accounting standards and rules. These standards are comparable to international financial reporting standards. No SOEs exercise delegated governmental powers.
In early 2021, the government announced it would start reforming state-owned enterprises and create a new council to develop a strategy to be implemented in 2021-2024. The goal of the reform is to bring the management of SOEs closer to higher standards of corporate governance. The first state-owned enterprise to undergo reforms will be the Georgian State Electrosystem (GSE), an electricity transmission system operator.
According to a December 20, 2021 IMF report on Georgia ( https://www.imf.org/-/media/Files/Publications/CR/2021/English/1GEOEA2021009.ashx ), auditing, reporting, and disclosure practice in Georgia is largely consistent with international good practice. The IMF report contains concrete recommendations for further improving the financial accountability system of SOEs.
Georgia’s government has privatized most large SOEs. Successful privatization projects include major assets in energy generation and distribution, telecommunications, water utilities, port facilities, and real estate sectors. A list of entities available to be privatized can be found at eauction.ge . Foreign investors are welcome to participate in privatization programs. Additional information is also available the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia website: www.amcham.ge .
In 2019, the government offered mining deposits for privatization in addition to other state-owned assets through the 100 Investment Offers for Business initiative. Within the initiative, the government selected mineral resource deposits from various regions to sell at e-auctions . The mineral deposits include gold and copper-polymetallic, ore, bentonite clay, volcanic slag, peat, diatomite, tuff breccia, zeolite-containing tuff, basalt, marble, limestone, underground fresh water, and carbonated mineral water. Mining license prices vary and depend on the type of mineral resource and its price.
National Agency of State Property, a Legal Entity of Public Law under the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, manages the privatization of state property, the transfer of the right of use, and the management of SOEs. The agency’s website ( http://nasp.gov.ge/ ) contains links to electronic auctions, proposals for investments, and other relevant information.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
While the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a relatively new phenomenon in Georgia, it is growing. Most large companies engage in charity projects and public outreach as part of their marketing strategy. The American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia has a Corporate CSR committee that works with member companies on CSR issues. The Global Compact, a worldwide group of UN agencies, private businesses, and civil society groups promoting responsible corporate citizenship, is active in Georgia. The Eurasia Partnership Foundation launched a program on corporate social investment to promote greater private company engagement in addressing Georgia’s development needs.
The Georgian government undertook an OECD CSR policy review in 2016 based on the OECD Policy Framework for Investment. The OECD completed a follow-up Investment Policy Review assessment in 2020 and noted Georgia’s significant strides ( http://www.oecd.org/investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-georgia-0d33d7b7-en.htm ).
Georgia participates in the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Program, which works with countries in the region to unleash their economic and employment potential. Georgia participates in the OECD Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which provides a regional forum for promotion of anti-corruption activities, exchange of information on best practices, and donor coordination. Georgia is a member of the Task Force for the Implementation of the Environmental Action Program (EAP Task Force), which aims to address the heavy environmental legacy of the Soviet development model. Additionally, the Support for Improvement in Governance and Management (SIGMA) program, a joint initiative of the EU and the OECD, has assisted Georgia since 2008, to strengthen public governance systems and public administration capacities. Georgia participates in the OECD Committee on Fiscal Affairs’ Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) Project.
Georgia’s civil society and workers associations are active in responding to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protection, and other concerns, as well as new laws and regulations that intend to protect or have potential adverse effects on citizens.
Georgia is not a party to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and/or Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights despite extractive manganese, gold, and copper ore industries operating in Georgia. Among the local tools promoting CSR principles and policies in such industries are commercial chambers, the Public Defender’s office, the Business Ombudsman under the Prime Minister’s Office, sectoral trade unions, and Georgia’s Trade Union Confederation.
Georgia has ratified The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
Georgia is committed to reducing its domestic total greenhouse gas emissions by 35% below its 1990 level by 2030. According to Georgian law on the generation and consumption of energy from renewable sources, Georgia’s renewable energy consumption should reach 35% of its total energy consumption by 2030. There are currently no sector- or technology-specific renewable energy targets.
Georgia’s 2030 Climate Change Strategy and 2021-2023 Action Plan includes the following:
By 2030, total greenhouse gas emissions should be lower than 29.25 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent; and
Target reduction of emissions in the energy generation and transmission sector is 15%, industry sector is 5%, and transportation sector is 15% by 2030, compared to business-as-usual.
The Law on Public Private Partnerships was enacted in August 2018 in Georgia and provides a legal framework for cooperation between public and private partners, providing flexibility and exemptions for the energy sector.
Support for renewable energy measures include the following:
- A Feed-In Premium (FiP) support scheme for all renewable energy installations higher than 5MW. Initially, the policy support scheme only applied to hydropower plants. An amendment at the beginning of 2021 made the FiP support scheme applicable to all renewable energy projects higher than 5 MW, not just hydropower plants.
- A net-metering mechanism for self-consumption has been implemented in Georgia since 2016. In summer 2020, the installation limit of the net metering mechanism for micro wind, solar, hydro and/or other renewable energy generators increased from 100 kW to 500 kW.
- Policy support for electric vehicles through tax reliefs and provision of free charging.
There is currently no policy support for renewable energy in heating and cooling. Additional information about renewable energy in Georgia is available at https://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Factsheet_Georgia-HardTalk-2021.pdf .
Georgia has laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption. Georgia criminalizes bribery under the Criminal Code of Georgia. Chapter XXXIX of the Criminal Code, titled as Official Misconduct, among other crime, covers many corruption-related offenses committed by public servants including bribery, abuse of official powers, accepting a prohibited gift, forgery of official documentation, etc. Senior public officials must file financial disclosure forms, which are publicly available online, and Georgian legislation provides for the civil forfeiture of undocumented assets of public officials who are charged with corruption-related offenses.
Penalties for accepting a bribe start at six years in prison and can extend to 15 years, depending on the circumstances. Penalties for giving a bribe can include a fine, correctional labor, house arrest, or prison sentence up to three years. In aggravated circumstances, when a bribe is given to commit an illegal act, the penalty is from four to seven years. When bribe-giving is committed by the organized group, the sentence is imprisonment for 5 to 8 years. Abuse of authority by public servants are criminal acts under Articles 332 of the criminal code and carry a maximum penalty of eight years imprisonment. The definition of a public official includes foreign public officials and employees of international organizations and courts. White collar crimes, such as bribery, fall under the investigative jurisdiction of the Prosecutor’s Office. The laws extend to family members of officials.
Georgia is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Georgia has, however, ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. Georgia cooperates with the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the OECD’s Anti-Corruption Network for Transition Economies.
Following its assessment of Georgia in June 2016, the OECD released a report concluding that Georgia had achieved remarkable progress in eliminating petty corruption in public administration and should now focus on combating high-level and complex corruption. The report commends Georgia’s mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of its Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan, as well as the role given to civil society in this process. It also welcomes the adoption of a new Law on Civil Service and recommends that the remaining legislation to implement civil service reforms is adopted without delay. The report notes that the Civil Service Bureau and Human Resources units in state entities should be strengthened to ensure the implementation of the required reforms. The report highlights Georgia’s good track record in prosecuting corruption crimes and in using modern methods to confiscate criminal proceeds. It recommends that Georgia increase enforcement of corporate liability and the prosecution of foreign bribery to address the perception of corruption among local government officials. The full report is available at: http://www.oecd.org/corruption/anti-bribery/Georgia-Round-4-Monitoring-Report-ENG.pdf .
In April 2021, GRECO released its Second Compliance Report of Fourth Evaluation Round on Georgia, which deals with corruption prevention with regards to members of parliament (MPs), judges, and prosecutors. According to the report, since 2019 Georgia implemented two additional recommendations – totaling seven of 16 recommendations – for preventing corruption among MPs, judges, and prosecutors. The Compliance Report said Georgia satisfactorily implemented measures to enforce objective criteria for the recruitment and promotion of prosecutors, ensured further updates of the “Code of Ethics for Employees of the Prosecution Service of Georgia,” and introduced measures for enforcing the rules. Out of the nine outstanding recommendations, two remain unaddressed while seven have been partly implemented. The sixteen recommendations were adopted in 2016, in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report on Georgia, by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body.
Since 2003, Georgia has significantly improved its ranking in Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report. TI ranked Georgia 45th out of 180 countries in the 2021 edition of its CPI.
While Georgia has been successful in fighting visible, low-level corruption, Georgia remains vulnerable to what TI calls “elite” corruption: high-level officials exploiting legal loopholes for personal enrichment, status, or retribution. Although the evidence is mostly anecdotal, this form of corruption, or the perception of its existence, has the potential to erode public and investor confidence in Georgia’s institutions and the investment environment. Corruption remains a potential problem in public procurement processes, public administration practices, and the judicial system due to unclear laws and ethical standards.
Resources to Report Corruption
Government agencies responsible for combating corruption:
Anti-Corruption Agency at the State Security Service of Georgia
Address: 72, Vazha Pshavela Ave.
Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia
Mr. Giorgi Gochashvili, Head of Division of Criminal Prosecution of Corruption Crimes
Address: 24, Gorgasali Street, Tbilisi
Government’s Administration of Georgia
Secretariat of the Anti-Corruption Council
Address: 7 Ingorokva Street, Tbilisi
Tel: +995-32-299-09-00 (27 00)
Business Ombudsman’s Office
Mr. Otar Danelia Ombudsman
Address: 7, Ingorokva street
Hotline: +995 32 2 282828
Ms. Eka Gigauri, Director
26, Rustaveli Ave, 0108, Tbilisi, Georgia
10. Political and Security Environment
The United States established diplomatic relations with Georgia in 1992, following Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since independence, Georgia has made impressive progress fighting corruption, developing modern state institutions, and enhancing global security. The United States is committed to helping Georgia deepen Euro-Atlantic ties and strengthen its democratic institutions.
In August 2008, tensions in the Georgian region of South Ossetia culminated in a brief war between Russia and Georgia. Russia invaded and occupied the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia continues to occupy these regions – nearly 20 percent of Georgia’s territory – and the central government in Tbilisi does not have effective control over these areas. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and does not recognize the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia as independent. Only Russia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Syria, and Venezuela recognize them as independent states. Tensions still exist both inside the occupied territories and near the administrative boundary lines (ABLs). A Russian military build-up along the South Ossetia ABL dramatically escalated tensions in August 2019. In addition, Russian “border” guards regularly patrol the ABLs and have increasingly detained people trying to cross the ABLs. Several attacks, criminal incidents, and kidnappings have occurred near the ABLs as well. While none of the activity has been anti-American in nature, there is a high risk of travelers finding themselves in a wrong place, at the wrong time, situation. In addition, unexploded ordnance from previous conflicts poses a danger near the South Ossetia ABL. However, other parts of Georgia, including Tbilisi, are not directly affected.
Per Georgian law, it is illegal to undertake any type of economic activity in Abkhazia or South Ossetia if such activities require permits, licenses, or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. Laws also ban mineral exploration, money transfers, and international transit via Abkhazia or South Ossetia.
While violent street protests are generally uncommon, there have been some recent episodes of politically motivated violence and civil disturbance. In July 2021 far-right groups violently rioted throughout Tbilisi against a planned Tbilisi Pride parade, destroying the offices of two NGOs and attacking over 50 journalists and individuals thought to be members of the LGBTQI+ community. In June 2019, when protesters attempted to enter Parliament during an anti-Russian and anti-government protest, some people were injured with some suffering severe eye injuries due to police use of rubber bullets. Generally, police have fulfilled their duty to maintain order even in cases of unannounced protests. However, in some instances the police have allowed a permissive environment for far-right violence.
In 2021, Turkish company ENKA cancelled its $800 million Namakhvani hydropower plant (HPP), citing violation of the terms of the contract by the Georgian government and force majeure. The decision was preceded by months-long protests – including blocking access to the construction area – by local activists claiming the project was launched without sufficient research and thorough consideration of the risks. Following a series of protests, Georgian authorities started renegotiating with ENKA to improve the terms of the contract and involved protestors in these conversations. However, the protesting groups withdrew from the process, finally leading to the Namakhvani HPP cancelation.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Georgia offers skilled and unskilled labor at attractive costs compared not only to Western European and American standards, but also to Eastern European standards. Skilled labor availability in the engineering field remains underdeveloped. The official unemployment rate was 19 percent by the end of 2021. Georgia’s National Statistics Agency changed its methodology of calculating unemployment in 2020, and subsistence farmers are no longer categorized as employed. The change considerably increased the official unemployment rate. Some investment agreements between the Georgian government and private parties have included mandates for the contracting of local labor for positions below the management or executive level.
Georgia’s Labor Code defines the minimum age for employment (16), standard work hours (40 per week), and annual leave (24 calendar days). The law allows for other wage and hour issues to be agreed between the employer and employee. The law defines the grounds for termination and severance pay for an employee at the time of termination, including the payment term. An employer is obliged to give compensation of not less than one month’s salary to an employee within thirty (30) days. Additionally, an employer is obliged to give the dismissed employee a written description of the grounds for termination within seven days after an employee’s request.
The Labor Code also prescribes rules for paying overtime labor (over 40 hours), which must be paid at an increased hourly rate.
The Labor Code specifies essential terms for labor contracts, including the start date and the duration of labor relations, working hours and holiday time, location of workplace, position and type of work, amount of salary and its payment, overtime work and its payment, the duration of paid and unpaid vacation and leave, and rules for granting leave. The code states that the duration of a business day for an underage person (ages 16 to 18) should not exceed 36 hours per week. Regulations prohibit interference in union activities and discrimination of an employee due to union membership. The Labor Code amendments mandate the government to reestablish a labor inspectorate to ensure adherence to labor safety standards. In 2018, Parliament passed the Occupational Safety, and Health Law, giving the government power to make unannounced inspections, in some circumstances, at companies operating among “hard, harmful, hazardous, and increased danger” occupations. Subsequent amendments that passed in September 2020 and came into force January 1, 2021, allowed unannounced inspections across all sectors of the economy.
Employees are entitled to up to 183 days (six months) of paid maternity leave, which can last up to 24 months when combined with unpaid leave. The state subsidizes leave taken for pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and adoption of a newborn. An employer and employee may agree on additional compensation. The Labor Code permits non-competition clauses in contracts; this provision may remain in force even after the termination of employment.
The government adopted a new law in 2018 establishing an accumulative pension scheme, which came into effect as of January 1, 2019. The pension is mandatory for legally employed persons under 40, while for the self-employed and those above the age of 40 enrollment in the program is voluntary. Each employee, employer, and the government must each contribute two percent of the employee’s gross income to an individual retirement account. As for the self-employed, they will make a deposit of four percent of their income, and the state will match another two per cent. Employees pay a flat 20 percent income tax. The state social security system provides a modest pension and maternity benefits. The minimum monthly pension is GEL 250 ($80). The average monthly salary across the economy by the end of 2021 was GEL 1,464 (around $470).
The law generally provides for the right of most workers, including government employees, to form and join independent unions, to legally strike, and to bargain collectively. Employers are not obliged, however, to engage in collective bargaining, even if a trade union or a group of employees wishes to do so. While strikes are not limited in length, the law limits lockouts to 90 days. A court may determine the legality of a strike, and violators of strike rules can face up to two years in prison. Although the law prohibits employers from discriminating against union members or union-organizing activities in general terms, it does not explicitly require reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. Certain categories of workers related to “human life and health,” as defined by the government, were not allowed to strike. The International Labor Organization noted the government’s list of such services included some it did not believe constituted essential services directly related to human life and health. Workers generally exercised their right to strike in accordance with the law.
Georgia has ratified some ILO conventions, including the Forced Labor Convention of 1930, the Paid Holiday Convention of 1936, the Anti-Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention of 1951, the Human Resources Development Convention of 1975, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention of 1949, the Equal Remuneration Convention of 1951, the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention of 1957, the Employment Policy Convention of 1964, and the Minimum Age Convention of 1973.
Information on labor related issues is also available in the State Department’s annual reports: Human Right Report: http://georgia.usembassy.gov/officialreports/hrr.html. Child Labor Report: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/georgia.htm .