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Zelensky appoints Georgian, who built Batumi, to head investment office: Who is Levan Varshalomidze?

Author : 112.ua News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to open an investment office under the leadership of Levan Varshalomidze, ex-head of the Adjara government
23:24, 21 May 2020

Levan Varshalomidze
Open source

President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to open an investment office under the leadership of Levan Varshalomidze, ex-head of the Adjara government.

Levan Varshalomidze is a colleague and close friend of the third president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, both of them graduated from the faculty of international relations of Kyiv State University.

Varshalomidze served as head of the government of Adjara from 2004 to 2012. He was appointed to this post after Adzharia survived the crisis period for the whole of Georgia - in May 2004, the head of the region since 1991, Aslan Abashidze tried to arrange an armed coup, but he had to flee to Moscow.

During the period of Varshalomidze’s activity, Batumi became the fastest growing city in Georgia and completely changed - five-star hotels appeared in it, the construction and tourist boom began. Batumi still leads the ranks of tourist destinations with high development potential.

Related: Ukraine’s MFA responds to recall of Georgia’s ambassador amid Saakashvili's appointment

Levan Varshalomidze is one of the few leaders of the United National Movement party, which, after the change of power in 2012, was not formally charged. After losing the 2012 election, Varshalomidze publicly transferred power to the new head of the government of Adzharia, Archil Khabadze. Then he lived for about two years in Batumi, after which he went to work in Ukraine. At the same time, unlike Mikheil Saakashvili, he did not want to part with his Georgian citizenship and resigned as deputy prime minister in the government of Petro Poroshenko.

In July 2016, Varshalomidze returned from Ukraine to Batumi and engaged in party activities - he worked as vice chairman of the political council of the United National Movement party.

And now he returned to Ukraine and in March was appointed secretary of the National Investment Council of Ukraine. The National Investment Council was established in 2016 and is now an advisory body to the Presidential Administration of Ukraine. Its task is to attract investment and improve the investment climate. The Council has been tasked with attracting $ 50 billion to the country over the next five years as an investment.

And now about Batumi. Yes, the city has certainly changed, but there are still many problems. Many skyscrapers have been built in Batumi, but demand is far from supply, and many offices are empty. And the construction is on and on.

OC Media journalists, with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation Regional Office in the South Caucasus, have prepared excellent material on how Batumi looked in 2019. We advise you that you should be aware of what Varshalomidze had a hand in and what should be meant when the Georgian reformers once again talk about turning Odesa into a new Batumi.

Since 2008, port city of Batumi on the Black Sea coast of Georgia attracts visitors with its bright lights of tourism, trade, and gambling.

The widespread development of empty plots is central to the life of a city with a population of 160,000. The sounds of a jackhammer are ricocheted from multi-story high-rise buildings, spreading to the Batumi skyline.

There are blocked streets along the first floors of the skyscrapers, where traffic flows through construction sites, passing into sidewalks and roads of Batumi.

Related: Georgia cannot tell us if we should or shouldn't appoint Saakashvili, - Ukraine's Foreign Minister

"The construction boom in Batumi reflects a global trend in speculation in real estate, which builds on the development of the luxury and entertainment industry to attract investment," said Susanna Harris-Brandts, an architect and graduate student in urban studies at MIT.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Excavator at a construction site in a residential area of ​​Batumi.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Diesel smoke fills the air above the construction site behind the Black Sea Mall.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Cranes and skyscrapers are an integral part of the silhouette of the city around the stadium under construction, a view from the side of an abandoned construction site.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Building materials are stored in a few unoccupied areas.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

The construction industry has become a source of income for many residents of Batumi. Unfortunately, at best, this is only preparatory work, since many projects are not completed due to the fact that developers do not fulfill their construction obligations or prematurely abandon projects.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

A discarded pair of construction gloves on asphalt. Construction waste everywhere in the city.

According to Harris-Brandts, from 2008 to 2013 Batumi was aimed at developing cities and rebranding by order of the government of the Unified National Movement of former President Mikheil Saakashvili. "The government has launched many new construction projects and spurred further development of the private sector."

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Floors of empty apartments throughout the city indicate that the demand for real estate is much less than excess supply.

The lack of demand is the result of both local and global factors, explains Susanne Harris-Brandts.

“To some extent, empty buildings also indicate a lack of government regulation and long-term planning,” Harris-Brandts explains, adding that poor architectural design has contributed to the emergence of a new landscape of empty buildings in Batumi.

There are three types of empty buildings in Batumi:

"There are buildings with partially completed construction; buildings whose exterior construction was completed, but developers cannot complete the construction of internal premises or sell them; and buildings in which many apartments are completely completed and sold, but there are no owners. The latter are the so-called "ghost apartments."

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Window frames imported from neighboring Turkey, the border of which is located 17 kilometers from the city, are ready for installation.

Related: Georgian Prime Minister spoke on further diplomatic relations with Ukraine

Safety regulations hang on the fence of the construction site. Batumi recorded the largest number of accidents at construction sites in Georgia in 2018.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

A worker without protective equipment rises to the top of the building, which should become a medical center.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Excavator on the promenade of Batumi.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Children at the dusk ride in a coastal skatepark. Most of the apartments in the buildings behind them are empty.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

A huge pit restricts traffic at a busy intersection.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

A woman walks along the once busy Javakhishvili street, which is now blocked by several frozen construction sites.

Related: Georgia demands extradition of Saakashvili from Ukraine

Unfinished building in the center of Batumi.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Grass grows on a swampy plot of land inside an unfinished apartment building.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Workers carry materials to the construction site, which should become Adjara’s multidisciplinary medical center.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

A man walks past one of the posters depicting future buildings, which are numerous throughout Batumi.

Harris-Brandts explains that the new construction sites might be connected with optimism and the promise of an alternative future for the residents of Batumi. “In a less positive perspective, vacant lots in new buildings can interfere with the city’s social life, weakening the interaction between residents and destroying existing communities.”

"Nevertheless, the residents of Batumi demonstrate a creative and flexible approach to adapt to constantly empty buildings; on the unfinished ground floors sometimes they informally sell second-hand things or fresh products, and the empty windows of the Old Town are sometimes used as temporary fashion shows or exhibition venues."

Unregulated construction and poorly observed safety rules can be dangerous for those working on construction sites.

The official tourism portal of Adjara reported that the number of tourists increased by 23% in 2018. In the construction boom, triggered by the growth of tourism, there are no signs of decline.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

Eclipse Casino ads are showing on the screen next to two skyscrapers that are still under construction. Gambling is a visiting card of Batumi for many tourists, especially from neighboring Turkey, where gambling is prohibited.

Related: One of ISIS' leaders apprehended in Ukraine, extradited to Georgia

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

The small office of Orbi Group, the largest construction holding in Georgia, is located on the famous pebble beach of Batumi, whose visitors can stop and look at the property.

Despite the fact that the Batumi Alphabet Tower has become a cult building and a popular destination among tourists, its construction is still not completed.

112 Agency

Ian McNaught Davis(OC Media)

The sun sets over the horizon on the coast of Batumi, where construction will not end.

 

 

 

 

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