Georgia building “bridge to the future”, “gaining momentum” as country prepares to host ADB’s largest int’l event offers an exclusive interview with Ekaterine Guntsadze, the Deputy Finance Minister of Georgia, about the upcoming ADB annual meeting. Photo: Ministry of Finance, Apr 30, 2024, Tbilisi, Georgia

Georgia is hosting the 57th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank next month under the slogan “The Bridge to the Future”, to reflect its stance as a country with a long history of serving as a natural bridge between Europe and Asia. It is also set to host the major event with a status as a candidate for membership in the European Union, as the country aims to showcase its potential as a vital link between the two continents and encourage building bridges. explored the upcoming international event in an exclusive interview with Ekaterine Guntsadze, the Deputy Finance Minister of the country, who shared insights into the domestic economic and strategic development and a commitment to showcasing Georgia’s deep roots as a strategic partner. She also revealed efforts to make this year's annual meeting a “memorable experience” for all participants.

Q. How do you view the importance of Georgia hosting an event of this scale?
A. Obviously, this is the largest international event hosted by Georgia. Although we hosted the 2015 meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the scale of the ADB event is larger.

Masatsugu Asakawa, the President of the Asian Development Bank and Ekaterine Guntsadze. Photo: Ministry of Finance 

This event is a great opportunity to showcase Georgia's position, strategic location and importance to the world. Although we are a small country, our strategic geographical location is significant, and we play an important role in the regional economic development. With the Middle Corridor – as a logistics route connecting Asia to Europe via the South Caucasus – this corridor is regaining its momentum, that we have been promoting it for quite long time now. Our investments in the East-West Highway and other road and transit infrastructure, and connectivity via Black Sea transportation demonstrate our commitment to the Middle Corridor.

We believe this is an excellent year to host the event in Tbilisi as we have just received the European Union membership candidate status. This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our deep roots, connections, and strategic goals to be part of the European family while still valuing our role as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Actually, there are several connotations as to why we chose the ‘bridge’ to be the focal point of the slogan. We wanted to emphasise that we are a very ancient country with a unique history, but also a vibrant and modern society striving for further development

Georgian Finance Minister Lasha Khutsishvili and Masatsugu Asakawa, the President of the Asian Development Bank. Photo: Ministry of Finance

Additionally, we are in a post-pandemic period and are still dealing with the crisis of Russia's war in Ukraine. We believe that this period should be a bridge between the crisis and post-crisis, leading to more prosperity and development in the future. This is why we came up with the slogan - “The Bridge to the Future” - last year.

Q. There will be many investors among visitors of the event who will have the opportunity to explore Georgia’s investment potential on site. Please discuss the importance of the event from this perspective.
A. The commercial, business, tourism sectors would experience a positive impact from this event. By bringing investors to the country, we can showcase its potential and encourage more interest in investing here.

From the outside perspective - we are could be perceived by some as  too close to the war region, with the occupied territories and still ongoing Russia's military presence in the country - so showcasing the stable economic development to far away investors who might think this region is riskier for inverstments, is very important.  

Hosting different sectors in here and showcasing how we are achieving the stability in our economic development, two-digit growth in crisis years and robust fiscal discipline by safely reducing our debt to gross domestic product ratio and deficit levels, we will boost further the confidence in safe investments.

Q. What topics will be covered in the various seminars hosted during the ADB’s annual meeting, and how many people will attend the event? 
A. We will be hosting the event between May 2-5. We are thrilled to host over 3,000 participants. I can assure you, there is a great expectation, everybody is willing to come and enjoy Georgia's hospitality.

The most important part of the meetings is the business session, in which governors from all members meet to discuss development issues and handle procedural, administrative and financial matters related to the Bank's performance.

In addition to the business session, the ADB offers a variety of side events. There will be around 70 different events during the week.

I would like to highlight that there is a designated day for Georgia - the Georgia Seminar Day - which will be held on May 2. There will be four different seminars throughout the day, including an opening seminar, where the ADB President himself will offers his opening remars. The opening seminar will focus on enhancing connectivity, Georgia's geopolitical, geographical and economic role in the region, and specific projects like the Black Sea submarine electricity cable that aims to enhance European connectivity and the Middle Corridor that connects Asia to Europe through Georgia. The seminars will also include topics such as Fintech, Local Currency Security Markets and Investment opportunities.

Q. Could you also inform us about the cultural programmes Georgia will offer at this year’s event?
A. Georgia is the most western borrowing country for ADB. This region is not very typical for ADB annual meetings, which are mostly hosted by Asian countries. We are proud to showcase our hospitality and allow participants to see Tbilisi's cultural heritage while enjoying the May weather, hopefully.

The opening session, which is the biggest part of the event and is open to everyone, will take place on May 4 at the Philharmonic Concert Hall.

In addition to the official events, we are organising a cultural event at the Opera and Ballet State Theatre in Tbilisi. The concert will showcase our traditional folklore music, as well as our classical and modern music, all with a Georgian themed.

Q. Could you please clarify what stage of preparation the organisers are currently in?
A. We are currently in an active phase of preparation. You have already  noticed the branding around the major venues.

We are in the final stage of preparing the content of the Georgian Seminar Day and other important events. It is important to note that hosting the annual meeting means that we chair the ADB Governors’ meeting, and Lasha Khutsishvili, the Minister of Finance of Georgia, will be the Chair for the Business Session. He will also participate in the President's Seminar and other important events during the week as the Governor for Georgia and Chair of the Board of Governors.

Photo: Ministry of Finance

The last part of the week will be the ceremony of transferring the chairmanship as well as Host Country status from Georgia to Italy. Milan will be the next host city for the ADB's 58th annual meeting. We are confident that Italy will also provide an excellent event by the end of the week as the future Host Country.

We have been working very closely with the ADB’s organisational mission. They have already visited several times over the past year.

I think overall the preparations are going quite smoothly, and we are almost in final stages on every part of the logistics.

Q. Please briefly summarise cooperation between the ADB and Georgia and the importance of the Bank’s support to the country. 
A. We have excellent relationships with the ADB, and their portfolio in Georgia is one of the largest and most diversified. They have been investing a lot in the priority areas that the Government identifies, as well as in private sector.

Photo: Ministry of Finance

We have just recently approved the new strategic framework for the cooperation, which also includes the pipeline in the future to work with the ADB. The current portfolio, including the private sector, is around $4.5 billion and is quite significant for George's scale.

The partnership with the ADB is very diverse and very important, and now we are already in a stage where we can actually see the progress that has been made with our partnership. We are looking forward to continuing this close partnership which is very important for economic development, for the Middle Corridor, for transit, logistics, tourism, and obviously, most importantly for Georgian citizens.