DCFTA Central Advisory Council provided an opportunity for regional entrepreneurs and civic actors to voice concerns to the central government officials

on 12 Jun : 18:49

On 12 June, 2018 implementers of the European Union funded and Lithuanian Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme co-funded project “Georgia on European Way: Creation of E­ffective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation” conducted the first DCFTA Central Advisory Council (CAC) in Tbilisi with the aim to deliver problems identified at DCFTA Local Advisory Councils (LACs) to the decision-making level. The Central Advisory Council included 20 representatives of the Local Advisory Councils – each of 10 Georgia’s regions were represented by one civil society representative and one local entrepreneur - and representatives of Georgian ministries responsible for the DCFTA implementation. 
The first part of the event was dedicated to presenting findings of the LACs held in all Georgia’s regions during May, 2018. The most common problems included the following: the lack of specialized education and qualified workforce in different economic sub-sectors; access to finance for small and medium enterprises (SMEs); problems with acquiring certification to be able to export products to the EU market; and the shortcomings of the state-run information and consultation services. Problems related to the general infrastructure - like condition of roads, the central irrigation systems, access to pastures and bee-nomadic areas were also raised. 
The meeting continued by government officials sharing the latest updates regarding the DCFTA implementation. Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia presented its strategy for development of the vocational education in Georgia which has been developed in consultation with the business sector. Under the new vocational education and training programs students will receive 50% of theoretical and 50% of practical experience in respective fields they are intended to work.The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia emphasized the importance of raising awareness of respective target groups to increase the benefits provided by the EU - Georgia cooperation, including the DCFTA. Representative of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia voiced that one of the main challenges, Georgia is facing today in terms of the DCFTA implementation, is the volume of production. Pastures of agricultural land are fragmented  which makes it difficult for single farmers to reach the volume of production sufficient for export. Continuous supply is essential for exporting Georgian products to the EU Market. In this regard, it is crucial to support cooperation of SMEs to develop large-scale productions. Representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture noted that Georgia has advanced on its path of harmonization of EU regulations, while additional work has to be done for an inclusive development of the sector. Representative of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure stressed the importance of local actors, be it the civil society or business representatives to raise existing problems to respective local officials and cooperate in search for solution.
The Central Advisory Council concluded by the lively discussion between regional participants and state officials. For example, an entrepreneur from Racha-Lechkhumi region, inquired about opportunities to receive funding under the Enterprise Georgia program, a bee-keeper from Guria region raised an issue to develop a law on bee-keeping in Georgia as there is none so far. 
Another key suggestions initiated by regional representatives included: development of state/donors’ funded special program for acquiring necessary quality certifications in prospective production sectors such as bee-keeping and honey production; production of fruits, berries and dried fruits, greens and herbs; provision of equal conditions of state-owned and private vocational education training colleges; development of sub-sector oriented loan products of private banks, strengthening campaigns and programs that promote Georgian products, both abroad, and also domestically; raising level of awareness about how to access the EU single market. 
All initiatives discussed at the CAC will be passed on the respective Ministries involved in the DCFTA implementation. Indicated problems to be further discussed during the second edition of the Local Advisory Councils in regions of Georgia in September. Respectively, representatives of the LACs once again are to meet decision-makers from the key ministries in October during the second Central Advisory Council meeting.