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Factba.se: Australia DFAT Country Briefs - Georgia
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COUNTRY BRIEFS


INTRODUCTION

Georgia is a relatively small country covering 70,000 square kilometres, lying on the southern foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, and on the south-eastern shores of the Black Sea. It is bordered by Russia to the north, Turkey to the south-west, Armenia to the south and Azerbaijan to the south-east. Georgia has a population of 4.4 million (2009 est).

Georgia's national day, known as Independence Day, is celebrated on 26 May.

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POLITICAL OVERVIEW

Georgia declared independence on 9 April 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Georgian political system is a presidential republic. The Parliament consists of a unicameral Republican Council (commonly referred to as Parliament) with 235 seats. Members are elected by popular vote for a four-year term. The last parliamentary election was held in May 2008 and resulted in an overall majority for the United National Movement Party led by Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr Mikheil Saakashvili, the current President, won a second term by direct popular vote on 5 January 2008 with 53.5 per cent of ballots cast. The current Prime Minister, Mr Nika Gilauri is a former Energy Minister, Finance Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia. Mr Gilauri was appointed on 6 February 2009.

Municipal elections held on 30 May 2010 saw Mr Saakashvili's United National Movement Party win 66 per cent of the votes and its candidate, incumbent Gigi Ugulava, win the first-ever election for mayor of the capital, Tbilisi. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) election observer mission said in a statement on 31 May 2010 that the election was "transparent" and marked "evident progress towards meeting OSCE and Council of Europe commitments", but added that "significant shortcomings", including "deficiencies in the legal framework, its implementation, an uneven playing field, and isolated cases of election-day fraud", remain to be addressed.

Shortly after independence, Georgia became a member of the United Nations (UN) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1992 and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 1994. Georgia joined the Council of Europe in 1999 and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2000.

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ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Georgia's economy has traditionally revolved around Black Sea tourism; cultivation of citrus fruits, tea, and grapes; mining of manganese and copper; and the output of a small industrial sector producing wine, metals, machinery, chemicals and textiles.

Turkey is currently Georgia's largest trading partner, but Russia is still critically important for Georgia's energy needs (natural gas and oil). Despite this, Georgia is well-positioned on the route of new energy pipelines taking Caspian Sea oil and gas resources from Azerbaijan into Western Europe. Georgia's economy has been slowed by the global economic crisis and its August 2008 conflict with neighbouring Russia. Real GDP growth contracted to minus 4.0 per cent in 2009 and is forecast to grow to just 2 per cent in 2010, down from growth averaging 10 per cent annually in 2005-07.

The World Bank's 'Doing Business 2010' report regards Georgia as the 11th easiest economy in which to do business throughout the world, up from 16th in 2009. The report notes Georgia's commitment to economic reform over the last few years.

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BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

Although Australia immediately recognised the independence of the eleven founding members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Australia's recognition of Georgia was slightly delayed due to the outbreak of civil war in Georgia. Australia recognised Georgia's independence on 29 March 1992.

On 14 August 2008, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, announced Australia would provide A$1 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Georgia through the UNHCR and ICRC following Georgia's conflict with Russia.

Georgia maintains a Consulate-General in New South Wales. The Consulate-General has jurisdiction throughout Australia. The Australian Embassy in Turkey provides consular assistance to Australians in Georgia and Australia's Ambassador in Ankara has non-resident accreditation to Georgia.

According to the 2006 census, 385 people identifying themselves as Georgian live in Australia. The majority of the Australian-Georgian community lives in New South Wales, followed by Victoria.

Georgia's then deputy Minister for Agriculture led a delegation visit to Australia in February 2007. In early 2004, the Georgian State Dance Company toured Australia, giving performances in more than 30 metropolitan and regional centres. In October 2003, the Georgian national rugby team visited Australia to participate in the Rugby World Cup 2003 tournament.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

Australia's merchandise trade and investment relationship with Georgia is modest. In 2009, total two-way merchandise trade was worth A$24.22 million. Australian exports were worth A$22.80 million, while imports totalled around A$1.42 million.

Trade successes

A small number of Australian mining companies have pursued exploration opportunities in Georgia, but to date results have been modest.

Several Australian suppliers of mining technology and services are doing business in Georgia.

A continuing opportunity exists for Australian companies to supply software and services for mapping geological surveys and resource holdings, including providing infrastructure for public management and tendering of these resources.

Australian companies have explored (with varying success) opportunities in Georgia as diverse as architecture and technology and services for Georgia's renowned wine industry.

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Last Updated: August 2010

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