Swiss Ambassador Presents Lessons of Sustainable Economic Development at ISET
Thursday, 17 October, 2013

On October 11, 2013, ISET was pleased to host Swiss Ambassador to Georgia H.E. Günther Bächler. In introducing his presentation the ambassador outlined his interesting career track, which started with a BA in Art and History of Art and then moved to conflict studies and diplomacy.

The presentation continued with a discussion of the early development of Switzerland, particularly how the country, which was considered among the poorest some 200 years ago, transformed into one of the leading countries, strong and stable both economically and politically. He then drew some parallels between the early history of Switzerland and the current situation in Georgia.

200 years ago, Switzerland, like Georgia, was a low developed country characterized by a lack of income, poor and undeveloped rural areas, and high rates of emigration of both farmers and intellectuals to Russia, the US, and other large countries. But this process of stagnation was overcome with the combined effort of the citizens to start consuming less and saving more.

During the rest of the presentation, the Swiss Ambassador developed a hypothesis about what is crucial for economic and political prosperity; it was a hypothesis corroborated with the experience of various countries. As the ambassador claimed for countries like Georgia education, agriculture, FDI and foreign trade are the sectors capable of accelerating economic development. Ambassador Bächler named Agriculture the second most important economic feature, not only because of its potential in the growth of GDP per capita but because he considered it as a social issue too. “When 78 percent of the people are in villages, the development of rural areas is not only an economic but a social issue as well”, he stated. Access to finance, cooperation, a viable credit system, and a sound insurance system was considered as the most important factors for fostering agricultural development, even for small-scale farms. “Establishment of all these sectors for encouraging agriculture is possible if there is will from the government”, said the ambassador.

Economic development without taking care of nature and the environment is actually self-destructive. As Mr. Bächler claimed, we have to induce “Green Growth” as does Switzerland, which tries to shrink the extent of its dependence on natural resources such as gas and oil.

The presentation was concluded with the ambassador answering a range of extremely interesting and intriguing questions about the current political and economic situation of Georgia that were asked by students inspired by the great presentation.