Space for Discussion in Tbilisi: Impact of Covid-19 on Various Sectors

On May 11th, the fourth event of the Space for Discussion was held in Tbilisi. Invited guests from the economic, healthcare, and education fields assessed the impact of Covid-19 on various sectors for the ELS participants:

  • Levan Darsalia, Representative of the Investment policy and support department at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia
  • Keti Goginashvili, Representative of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia
  • Gvantsa Khizanishvili, Public health expert
  • Revaz Apkhazava, Researcher of educational issues and chairmen of the coalition “Education for All”. 

 

The main task for the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia in the post-crisis period will be attraction of investments. In the meantime, the mentality of investors has changes as well and now they give preference to the tourist zones that are more or less safe and effectively cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia is now working on creating the new packages that will help the country to become more competitive on the international market. At the same time, the state is trying to mobilize financial resources for small and medium-sized businesses so they can effectively reopen after the pandemic; For this purpose, income and property taxes were eliminated for those types of businesses. It is also planned to increase the percentage of subsidizing loans under the state program “Enterprise Georgia”.

The pandemic showed us the importance of local production. By manufacturing facemasks and other sanitary and hygienic products in Georgia, we managed to prevent the epidemic in the country for as long as possible. It also became clear in the agriculture sector that it is easier to not only cope with the virus, but every shock that might hit the economy, if you are not dependent on the external factors… Now we can export various local products”, – pointed out Levan Darsalia. 

Challenges also showed us what is necessary to effectively fight against the pandemic. A big part of the investments will be used for strengthening healthcare sector, however supporting private sector is also important”, pointed out Keti Goginashvili. 

From the perspective of healthcare sector, one of the reasons why Georgia coped well with this challenge is an effectively coordinated work among the state agencies. Several stages can be pointed out: closure of the state borders, sending returning citizens to the quarantine zones, trainings for the primary healthcare workers in order to reduce the number of patients in different hospitals, splitting hospitals into two parts: so called “fever centers”, which are for the primary diagnostics and COVID-19 hospitals, which treat infected patients. Turning hotels into quarantine zones was an important part of the chain as well.

„Everything was adapted wery quickly. We managed to prepare the action plan between January 6 and January 28. We took necessary measures earlier that recommended by the World Health Organization and sometimes we were even one or two steps ahead of them. That allowed us to prepare hospital sector, primary healthcare, and healthcare system in general in order to cope with the problem. We were ready to diagnose COVID-19 cases already on February 4th, which a lot of developed countries in Europe and Asia failed to manage” – added Ketevan Goginashvili.

How can we cope with self-isolation? – a public health expert, Gvantsa Khizanishvili, shared several recommendations with us:

„It is important to openly talk about the aforementioned issue and the problems that young people face in this period of time; stay positive and calm, focus on positive messages and share them. Youth activity is very important in this regard. They should get information from the trusted sources such as different organizations of the UN, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (Georgia) and others. Regarding the post-crisis period, mental health issues will become especially important”, – added Gvantsa Khizanishvili.

Responsibilities of the state and society is best seen through the lens of educational system, – pointed out Revaz Apkhazava.

In that regard, impact of COVID-19 on the educational sector showed us an important thing:

„If we pointed out earlier that part of the students have problems with the access to education, now we face the challenge that up to 600 000 students, schoolchildren, or pre-school children are left without realizing the right to not only high-quality education but education in general. It was important to consolidate efforts in that direction. What can we learn from the aforementioned situation? – there was a shift of responsibilities.  If a teacher’s responsibility was earlier connected to the school, headmaster, or the ministry, now that responsibility is focused on the student, meaning that the teacher and student are now face to face each other. “Force majeure freedom” was granted to them”, – added Revaz Apkhazava.

A research conducted by the coalition “Education for All” showed that some teachers managed to organize remote teaching system and create resources adapted to that type of teaching; Some teachers had motivation and skills to do the same, but they did not have relevant technical means; There are some teachers who have motivation, but do not have skills and, therefore, they were asking for the instructions on using relevant digital programs.

„Additionally, research showed how important the participation of a parent is in the learning process and that the modern educational system is unimaginable without a collaboration between a parent, a teacher, and a school and a focus on the common goal. The research also showed that we do not have a well-functional infrastructure for digital teaching and learning and a lot of work is needed in that direction”, – added Revaz Apkhazava.

The discussion, which was held via online platform ZOOM, was moderated by the project coordinator Gvantsa Ichkiti.

Space for Discussion is a new series of meetings has launched under GIP’s ongoing project “Promoting Youth Transformational Leaders in Georgia”. Space for Discussion is an additional opportunity for the “Emerging Leaders School” (ELS) participants to meet the experts from different fields as well as public and private sector representatives. The participants choose the discussion topic themselves and have an opportunity to get the answers to the questions of their interest from the invited professionals and decision-makers.

The project “Promoting Youth Transformational Leaders in Georgia” is implemented by Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) with the financial support of USAID/Georgia and in partnership with CRRC Georgia.

 

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