Published on Eurasian Perspectives

What makes me proud as a Georgian working for the World Bank

Gergeti Trinity Church, silhouetted against Mt. Kazbegi, is set to become more accessible to tourists
Photo credit: John Mackedon/World Bank

I am Georgian and I have lived in this small country of about 70,000 square kilometers for almost 30 years. Sadly, I will confess that I have never been to the Gergeti Trinity Church. At an elevation of 2,170 meters, it sits near one of the highest and most beautiful peaks in the Caucasus Mountains - Kazbegi.
But Ahmed Eiweida, my Egyptian colleague, has been there.
If you’re thinking he is an enthusiastic hiker looking for mountains to scale, that isn’t true - although he truly is enthusiastic about supporting the improvement of Georgia's rural areas – having led a series of regional development projects in the country, including the Third Regional Development Project, financed by the World Bank.
The reason I mention the Gergeti Trinity Church is that you can find it on the list of thirteen cultural heritage sites that will be improved through this project. In the case of Gergeti, this area will benefit from improved site management, a new tourism facility, and a new access road.
This last improvement may not suit avid hikers, ready for a steep climb of about three hours. This option will remain. Other, less enthusiastic trekkers, will now have the opportunity to get to the top in less than thirty minutes.
No matter which region you are from, Georgians have always been known for being wonderful hosts. And it is not difficult to be a great host when you live in a country where you can take your guests to old historic sights - some of them on the UNESCO heritage list - offer them a big variety of wines and delicious cuisine, and then show them around an abundance of beautiful, natural areas.
But it is also no secret that infrastructure services and the institutional capacity in most of these regions are not good enough to attract a significant number of visitors. That’s why and where the Bank gets involved.
Supporting the local economy by carrying out an integrated approach to tourism development - focusing on infrastructure, urban regeneration, cultural heritage restoration, skills development and building an enabling the environment – are keys to attracting private sector investment.
World Bank projects in Kakheti and Imereti regions have already proved to be successful in this area. Just a few years ago, many Georgians would have found it hard to believe that Kakheti would become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The same is now happening in Imereti, where a number of small businesses are popping up, tourists are arriving in greater numbers, and locals are seeing more and better services.
The Third Regional Development Project is continuing to build on these successes – focusing on enhancing the tourism, agriculture, and trade potential of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region – in the southwest quadrant of the country – and the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region – a World Heritage city and former capital of the country, outside of Georgia’s new capital, Tbilisi.
Mskheta, the old capital of Georgia, lies at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers
Photo credit: Maia Duishvili/World Bank
Recently, during a team-building exercise between the World Bank and the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia - one of the Bank’s main implementing partners on the Regional Development Projects – many terms were used in the context of describing the Regional Development Project: innovative, providing a tangible transformation, great visibility, building a better Georgia, preserving cultural heritage, making people happy, bringing change to the poorest, etc… Collectively, all of these words and phrases led to a single idea, or a feeling if you wish – being proud of the work we are doing in this sphere.

It also feels good to meet people with hope and trust in their eyes. And if the pace is retained, many other regions could also benefit from this kind of development, no matter how challenging it might be.

As a Georgian, enjoying all the wonderful nature and cultural sites my country has to offer makes me happy. Having the opportunity to share these experiences with more and more people – who will have better access as a result of our work – makes me proud.
Participants at a recent World Bank-Municipal Development Fund of Georgia workshop pose for a 'selfie'
Photo credit: Tako Kobakhidze


Tako Kobakhidze

Online Communications Producer

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