Georgia Seminar Day (Session 1)

Enhancing Connectivity: European Connectivity (Renewable Energy and Digital Connectivity) Middle Corridor (Reshaping Euro-Asia Connectivity)

Thursday, 2 May 2024, 9:00 am - 10:30 am (Asia/Tbilisi)
Biltmore Hotel, Ballroom

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This session delved into Georgia's pivotal role in connectivity, focusing on European connectivity and the Middle Corridor. It explored the Middle Corridor's potential to drive economic growth and regional integration by revitalizing historic trade routes and offering strategic alternatives for trade between Europe and Asia.

Opening Remarks

Lasha KhutsishviliChair of the Board of Governors and Governor for Georgia, ADB; and Minister of Finance, Georgia

Lasha Khutsishvili has been the minister of finance of Georgia since April 2021. Beginning his career as a member of the Council of Tax Resolution at the Ministry of Finance in 2007, he then moved to Ernst&Young where he worked for 5 years in the Tax and Legal Division. Mr. Khutsishvili rejoined the civil service in 2013 as a director general of the Revenue Service and in 2014 became deputy minister of finance. From 2014 to 2020 he supervised the Ministry of Finance Tax Dispute Council. Mr. Khutsishvili is a graduate of the Free University Business School and the University of Preston in the field of business administration.

Levan DavitashviliFirst Vice Prime Minister/Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Georgia

Levan Davitashvili coordinates the activities of the government’s economic team and guides the development of the country’s economic policy and ongoing reforms. He also supervises such areas as foreign trade and investment, promotion of local production and services, tourism, management and disposal of the state property, transport and logistics, construction sector, electronic communications, development and promotion of innovative ecosystem and information technologies, energy, and management of mines, among others. Prior his current position, Mr. Davitashvili has occupied such positions as minister of agriculture, deputy minister of agriculture, and head of the national wine agency, where he successfully led the diversification of wine export markets and the growth of wine exports. Mr. Davitashvili is an economist with a master’s degree in international business management from Tbilisi State University and the Polytechnic University of Milan. He also has extensive experience in the NGO sector, international organizations, and the private sector. He worked for many years on a USAID agricultural development project and was a business consultant for the World Bank.

Masatsugu AsakawaPresident and Chairperson of the Board of Directors, ADB

Masatsugu Asakawa was elected ADB President by ADB’s Board of Governors and assumed office on 17 January 2020. Prior to joining ADB, he served as Special Advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and has a close-to four decades’ career at the Ministry of Finance with diverse professional experience that cuts across both domestic and international fronts. Mr. Asakawa also worked for international organizations as the Chief Advisor to the ADB President between 1989 and 1992, senior staff at the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF (1996–2000), and Chair for the Committee on Fiscal Affairs at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2011–2016).

Keynote Speaker

Gert Jan KoopmanDirector-General, Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission

As of January 2023 Gert Jan Koopman is the director-general of the Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. Between 2018 and December 2022, he was the director-general of the European Commission’s budget department. In this role, he contributed to putting in place the European Union’s €800 billion NextGenerationEU recovery plan as well as the €18 billion MFA+ for Ukraine. He has worked to enable its financing on the capital markets through a sovereign-style funding system. Mr. Koopman has been serving the EU for roughly three decades. Previously, he was in charge of State Aid control at the commission’s Directorate-General for Competition. His earlier assignments included senior management posts in the Department for Economic and Financial Affairs—the commission’s economic service—as well as Enterprise and Industry, which supervises the smooth running of the single market. In the past, Mr. Koopman was a member of the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board, in charge of assessing whether the draft EU legislation would achieve the desired results and worked in the private office of Vice-President Kinnock – lastly as a head of cabinet. Prior to joining the commission, Mr. Koopman was an associate of the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, an independent research institute that prepares policy analysis for the Dutch government. A Dutch national, he holds degrees in economics and Latin and Greek from the University of Amsterdam.

Part 1: European Connectivity (Renewable Energy and Digital Connectivity): Panelists

Lasha KhutsishviliChair of the Board of Governors and Governor for Georgia, ADB; and Minister of Finance, Georgia

Lasha Khutsishvili has been the minister of finance of Georgia since April 2021. Beginning his career as a member of the Council of Tax Resolution at the Ministry of Finance in 2007, he then moved to Ernst&Young where he worked for 5 years in the Tax and Legal Division. Mr. Khutsishvili rejoined the civil service in 2013 as a director general of the Revenue Service and in 2014 became deputy minister of finance. From 2014 to 2020 he supervised the Ministry of Finance Tax Dispute Council. Mr. Khutsishvili is a graduate of the Free University Business School and the University of Preston in the field of business administration.

Gert Jan KoopmanDirector-General, Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission

As of January 2023 Gert Jan Koopman is the director-general of the Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. Between 2018 and December 2022, he was the director-general of the European Commission’s budget department. In this role, he contributed to putting in place the European Union’s €800 billion NextGenerationEU recovery plan as well as the €18 billion MFA+ for Ukraine. He has worked to enable its financing on the capital markets through a sovereign-style funding system. Mr. Koopman has been serving the EU for roughly three decades. Previously, he was in charge of State Aid control at the commission’s Directorate-General for Competition. His earlier assignments included senior management posts in the Department for Economic and Financial Affairs—the commission’s economic service—as well as Enterprise and Industry, which supervises the smooth running of the single market. In the past, Mr. Koopman was a member of the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board, in charge of assessing whether the draft EU legislation would achieve the desired results and worked in the private office of Vice-President Kinnock – lastly as a head of cabinet. Prior to joining the commission, Mr. Koopman was an associate of the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, an independent research institute that prepares policy analysis for the Dutch government. A Dutch national, he holds degrees in economics and Latin and Greek from the University of Amsterdam.

Teresa CzerwińskaVice-President, European Investment Bank

Teresa Czerwińska is responsible for Eastern Partnership countries as well as for Central Asia, the People's Republic of China, and Mongolia. She also oversees matters of science, education, innovation, digital economy, and the InvestEU program. Prior to becoming EIB vice-president, Ms. Czerwińska was a member of the management board of the National Bank of Poland, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Poland, when she was also a governor of the European Investment Bank. Earlier she held the position of undersecretary of state, being responsible for the state budget at the Ministry of Finance. Before this, she was the undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Teresa Czerwińska is a professor of economics at the Warsaw University specializing in finance and risk management.

Rolande PryceRegional Director for the South Caucasus, World Bank

Rolande Pryce is responsible for developing the World Bank’s country strategies for Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In addition, she manages the portfolio of lending, advisory and convening services, coordinating with development partners, and engaging with other key stakeholders on economic growth and poverty reduction in all three countries of the South Caucasus. Ms. Pryce joined the World Bank in 2006 as counsel in the Legal Vice Presidency. She has held several operational positions across the World Bank’s regions, including in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and South Asia. She has also worked in the World Bank’s Energy and Extractives Global Practice on energy reform and regulation. A Jamaican national, Rolande Pryce holds a master’s degree in public international law from the University College of London, a juris doctor from the University of Miami, and a bachelor of science in international business and mathematics from the City University of New York.

Part 2: Middle Corridor (Reshaping the Euro-Asia Connectivity): Panelists

Irakli KarseladzeMinister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Georgia

Irakli Karseladze has extensive management experience in both public and private sectors. He has been head of the Administrative Department of Georgia, first deputy minister, chair of the Roads Department, executive director of the Tourism Development Fund and its affiliated companies, and chair of the Advisory Board of the Co-Investment Fund of Georgia. Prior to moving to public sector, Mr. Karseladze headed logistics at Diplomat Georgia; procurement, logistics, and administration at the Georgian Lottery Company; logistics and procurement at Lomisi – Natakhtari Brewery; and international procurement at Cartu Group. In the early stage of his career, he worked as an expert on an aerial and naval ports project under the United Nations Development Program.

Samir SharifovGovernor for Azerbaijan, ADB; and Minister of Finance, Azerbaijan

Samir Sharifov started his professional career in 1983 as economist in a state-owned foreign trade association. In 1990, he moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the newly-independent Republic of Azerbaijan where he served as deputy head of the Department of International Economic Cooperation before joining the National Bank of Azerbaijan as department head, and where he later became executive director overseeing wide range of areas such as payments system, foreign exchange control, open market operations, reserves management, and others. In 2001, Mr. Sharifov was appointed as the first executive director of the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), a sovereign wealth fund of the country. In this capacity, he led the government commission on the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI), making Azerbaijan the best-practice country globally through the publication of the first-ever EITI report. Mr. Sharifov is currently a governor for Azerbaijan at the IMF, ADB, and Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, as well as an alternate governor at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Islamic Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank.

Bhargav DasguptaVice-President (Market Solutions), ADB

Bhargav Dasgupta has over 35 years of financial industry leadership experience across diverse economies, including Asia and the Pacific. Formerly the CEO of ICICI Lombard General Insurance, India’s largest private sector general insurance company, Mr. Dasgupta held pivotal roles in project finance, corporate banking, treasury, e-commerce, international banking, and insurance during his tenure at ICICI Bank. He holds a postgraduate diploma in business administration from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and a bachelor of engineering (mechanical) from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

Aik Hoe LimDirector, Trade and Environment Division, WTO

Aik Hoe Lim and oversees the work of the WTO Trade and Environment Division on environment, climate change and sustainability, as well as on the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. He was previously counsellor to two WTO directors-general, adviser to the director-general’s Consultative Group, and secretary to WTO committees, working groups, and negotiating bodies on services trade and domestic regulation. He represents the WTO in various international fora including the UN Environmental Management Group and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the UNEP Global Environmental Outlook.

Moderator

Nisha PillaiJournalist and Moderator

Nisha Pillai is an accomplished former news presenter with BBC World News who now specialises in moderating panel discussions and high level dialogues. She has worked closely with several UN agencies, scientific institutes such as CERN, and industry events in the finance, IT, and energy sectors. Ms. Pillai’s 25-year career at the BBC culminated as one of the main news anchors at BBC World News, where she reported extensively during the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war. As an award-winning investigative journalist at Panorama, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, she had notable investigations to her name. Recognition includes the Royal Television Society’s annual award for best tv investigation.