Speech of Akakiy Sagirashvilli, deputy minister for economy and sustainable development of Georgia at the Lapis Lazuli Conference at Awaza in November 2018
Dear Ministers, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
• I am greatly honored to be present at the International Conference of Ministers of Transport and Cooperation (LapisLazuli) and to participate in such a high-level event. I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to convey particular gratitude to the Republic of Turkmenistan for hosting and organization of the Ministerial.
• Georgia’s location at the intersection of Asia and Europe puts the country in a very favorable position to acquire an important transit function in light of globalized and increasingly interlinked economies. To strengthen this role of Georgia, we constantly strive to improve our infrastructure and set higher standards in transport in line with international norms. At the same time, Georgia is committed to fostering international cooperation to enhance regional connectivity and facilitate international transport and trade.
• We are engaged in development of different routes and corridors. The Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement signed in November 2017 that envisages development of a new transit route through the territories of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey will further facilitate trade and transport between our countries.
• Moreover, Georgia since 2016 is a member of Central Asia Regional Cooperation Programme (CAREC). The extension of CAREC corridors to Georgia makes it possible to develop one of the shortest routes from the CAREC countries to Europe. Importantly, Georgia can contribute to”unlocking” Central Asian landlocked countries by providing access to Black Sea. Central Asian countries are already actively using Georgia’s corridor to connect with Europe. In total, Georgian rail transported around 2,7 mln tons of cargo from/to 5 countries of Central Asia in 2017 out of which around 2.3 min tons was in transit regime.
• I would also like to note that since December 2015 railway transportations from China towards Georgia have been carried out on 36 occasions in close cooperation between the, railways of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and China. The corridor has been intensified over last years well demonstrated by increased freight I \ 11 eh. 198 TEUs were transported in 2017 whereas 967 TEUs within January) September 2018. Compared to maritime transportation, the Middle Corridor connecting with Europe significantly reduces transportation time from 40-45 days to about 10-1 days. Noteworthy, through tariffs are introduced along the mentioned route.
• Development of the Middle Corridor enhances transport links between the participating countries and provides access to huge markets of Europe, Central Asia and China. We believe the Corridor will serve as a viable, fast and safe route in the years to come.
• Increasing competitiveness of the transport routes passing through Georgia is hardly achievable unless proper infrastructure is there. Acknowledging that we are currently undertaking a number of large scale in projects. Construction of Anaklia Deep Sea Port with the annual capacity of 8 mln tons at the first stage in addition to the currently operating Sea Ports of Poti and Battumi shall contribute to increasing freight turnover through Georgia in the years to come. Besides we are working on improvement of road and railway by implementing such projects as East-West Highway Construction which will serve 50 thousand vehicles per day at most sections and Railway Modernization that shall increase the annual capacity of main rail line from the existing 28 mln tons up to 48 mln tons initially. After introduction on automatic blocking system the capacity shall reach 100 mln tons per year. Construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway connection line is also of great importance as it fills missing rail link between Georgia and Turkey and create alternative direction for freight transportation. Moreover, particular attention is attached to the development of modem logistics centres in Kutaisi and Tbilisi that we believe will improve the country’s overall logistics performance.
• It should be also underlined that, the issues of interoperability remain high on our agenda as technical and operational compatibility in addition to the streamlined customs procedures for smooth and uninterrupted transportation. We believe that implementation of the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement shall contribute to eradication of the existing bottlenecks in this regard and enhancement of the corridor performance between our countries.
• I would like to underscore that Georgia binds itself in taking, all the necessary efforts to further enhance and consolidate the existing partnership and collaboration with all Lapis Lazuli members to bolster the creation of new opportunities to strengthen and deepen regional connectedness in a view of boosting economic growth and development.
• In conclusion, let me once again express my sincere gratitude to Turkmenistan for very warm welcome and hospitality and express hope for the fruitful gatherings and cooperation for the successful implementation of the Lapis Lazuli Agreement. Thank you! /// nCa, 14 December 2018
To be continued . . .