Issue 5, 2012. October-November

   

TBILISI: A REGIONAL CAPITAL

Tbilisi - home to over 30 percent of the population and 70 percent of the country's industry - is already an economic hub for the country. The city government, however, believes the city has the potential to become a hub for the entire region. Investor.ge spoke with Zviad Archuadze, the head of the economic policy agency at Tbilisi City Hall, about City Hall's plans to turn Tbilisi into a regional capital.

Maia Edilashvili

Tbilisi, according to Zviad Archuadze, the head of the economic policy agency at Tbilisi City Hall, is already an important economic, social and cultural actor in the Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region.

"Our goal is to make Tbilisi the main center for regional cooperation," Archuadze said, adding that the city already offers investors several business benefits. "The costs of running a business are lower in Georgia compared to Europe's big cities. In addition, we have a highly-qualified and cheaper workforce."

Studies have highlighted Tbilisi's growing potential for service, financial, industry and real-estate sectors. The government thinks that attracting more capital should stay a priority. The plan to increase Tbilisi's income and profile includes ambitious rehabilitation programs, plus huge infrastructure and construction plans. In 2010 the Asian Development Bank approved a $300 million loan to assist the mayor's office's transportation master plan.

"Projects are underway to revamp not only the facades of the buildings but also a total rehabilitation has been ongoing," Archuadze said. "We launched the revitalization of entire neighborhoods, and when the projects are over, these neighborhoods will have new economic and tourist functions."

To ease traffic, a long standing headache for residents in the capital, Tbilisi City Hall has invested heavily in new bridges and tunnels along the right bank of the River Mtkvari - a plan that should help traffic flow faster. Under this project, new bridges and tunnels have been constructed in five places along the bank, including a 248-meter bridge connecting traffic from Ortachala to Heroes Square, and a 100-meter tunnel at the entrance of Tbilisi linking Aghmashenebeli Alley with Gelovani Avenue in Saburtalo.

The creation of new attractions and recreational spots - like the continued development of Rike Park, a 10-hectare recreational zone in downtown Tbilisi - are also on the agenda. In June a new gondola route between Rike Park and Narikala fortress opened, allowing visitors to enjoy the marvelous views of the Old Town for just one lari for a one-way ticket.

More plans are coming. The city intends to restore some of the Soviet-era cable cars and add several new commuter routes to make aerial tramways part of the capital city's transport infrastructure - a system that has been defunct for nearly two decades. A new cable car system between the Rose Revolution Square and the Funicular in Mtatsminda will be opened by spring 2013, according to city officials.

Another major task has been to capitalize on Tbilisi's tourism potential, including a campaign to offer free WiFi on Tbilisi streets, squares and public transportation, starting from June. The system will use the Tbilisi Loves You server. The service is expected to be available in all city districts by the end of this year.