Issue 4, 2012. August-September

   

GIORGI PERTAIA: $4 BILLION IN FDI IN FOUR YEARS

Investor.ge spoke with Giorgi Pertaia, the newly appointed head of the Georgian National Investment Agency, about his transition from tax payer advocate to investment guru and how to attract $4 billion in foreign direct investment in just four years.

The newly independent Georgian National Investment Agency (GNIA) is on track to bring in an average of $4 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) over the next four years, according to Giorgi Pertaia, its new director.

Pertaia, previously the country's first business ombudsman, was tapped to lead the investment agency after former director Keti Bochorishvili was appointed as a deputy at the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Economy.

Years working with the business community - Pertaia worked as a customs expert at AmCham before becoming a Muskie Scholar- will help ease the transition from tax payer advocate to investment promotion, he said.

"The mission of GNIA is to attract FDI, in other words it is selling a product - Georgia. With its low taxes, special regimes, future trade deals with Europe...it is an attractive market for investors," he said in a phone interview.

"My advantage is that over the past years I have been working on the ground; I know this project very well. I know the exact strengths of the Georgian market - its strengths and its weaknesses."

One of his first moves as director belies Pertaia's close experience with businesses: he is creating a new service for investors once their new ventures get off the ground.

"The big businesses can hire consultants but our experience shows they still need help with communication with the government and they still need help answering the questions the consultant cannot answer as quickly," Pertaia said.

"This will be a function to serve a small group of special investors and investors starting out...some people say it is much easier to start than to conduct a business and that is what we want to help with."

In addition, the agency is forming closer ties with the government's equity fund, the Partnership Fund, to help streamline large investments. Newly appointed Prime Minister Vano Merabshvili announced a four year, $4 billion goal for FDI as part of his economic strategy.

Under Bochorishvili, GNIA brought in nearly $1 billion in FDI in 2011, according to official figures, and Pertaia is confident the agency can build on its previous successes.

"We both know how Georgia is developing right now. We believe we can do it," he said, noting that Bochorishvili was "very efficient" and will continue to have a role in investment promotion as one of three councils overseeing the agency under its new structure.

In July, along with Pertaia's appointment, GNIA was separated from the economy ministry and put under the stewardship of a three person council. Now, in addition to Pertaia, the agency is managed by three councils, lead by former Prime Minister Nika Gilauri (in his new role as head of the Partnership Fund), Bochorishvili, and Deputy Minister of Finance Kote Kintsurashvili.