Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Technorati Profile

Friday, December 22, 2006

Schoolchildrens' Attitudes in Armenia: What Kind of Impact Has Civic Education Had?

Diana Ter-Stepanyan evaluated the effectiveness of the civic education training program implemented in Armenian high schools (upper grades of secondary schools). She conducted a quantitative (questionnaire based) survey among 494 tenth grade schoolchildren from all of Armenia’s regions to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of “Human Rights,” “Civil Society” and “State and Law” courses offered since 2001 in the scope of the civic education program in the schools. Particularly, she evaluated the knowledge and attitudes of schoolchildren in regard to various laws, crimes and punishment options, the role of the state, human rights and their violation, the need for and the topics to be included in the law courses offered in the schools.

The results of the survey indicate that, despite having a course on civic education, Armenian schoolchildren still possess controversial opinions/attitudes on various legal issues. For instance, only 48% of surveyed schoolchildren were ready to unconditionally follow the laws, while the rest mentioned that they would only follow the laws if they reflected Armenian traditions and social values. Furthermore, only 40% of schoolchildren accepted the role of the court as a mechanism to regulate disputes.

Such research cries out for a governmental response.

In parallel with educating schoolchildren on civic education, Ter-Stepanyan recommended to convey certain values to the children which would motivate them to follow the laws. She also recommended providing training to the teachers of civic education and developing interactive training materials which would increase the effectiveness of the training sessions.

Information about Ter-Stepanyan’s work, along with other CRRC-Armenia fellows can be found here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Barriers to Cooperative Ventures in Rural Georgia: Feisty Farmers

Much has been made about the collapse of agriculture in Georgia. From the overgrown tea plantations surrounding Zugdidi to the sere fields that used to be replete with apples in Gori, one encounters fallow land wherever one goes.

The international community and increasingly the Georgian government itself have been asking how successful agricultural ventures can be increased throughout Georgia. Sergo Baramidze, a CRRC fellow, set out to investigate barriers hindering the development of cooperatives and other forms of business partnerships in the rural areas of West Georgia.

Baramidze found that in rural communities of Georgia, peasants and small-scale farmers tend to be self-reliant and not interested in forms of cooperation, such as agricultural or credit cooperatives. For instance, only 5% of the credit unions developed through the World Bank attained a modicum of success.

The researcher highlighted five main barriers hindering co-op developments in rural areas of Georgia: 1) peasants and small-scale farmers are unfamiliar with the benefits of cooperation; 2) farmers are not educated about the principles of community resource management; 3) there is no concrete plan for the development of small farm cooperative markets in rural communities; 4) villagers distrust each other too much to cooperate; 5) a lack of financing exists for agricultural development.

In order to improve co-op development in rural areas, Baramidze suggests developing cooperative management training materials based on recommendations developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and Credit Agricole and adopting them to the local Georgian environment taking into consideration aspects of Georgian cooperative heritage – soviet farms (kolkhoz) and Georgian co-ops that existed before the Soviet revolutions in 1917 and 1921 – that may still be useful in contemporary Georgia. Moreover, Baramidze suggests incorporating the best types of social interactions of communities existing in rural Georgia’s day-to-day life into the business cooperation. For example, Baramidze believes that practices developed from Georgian eating and drinking culture such as the unique method of delegation of toasts to other members of table (alaverdi) could be transferred into the business life of rural communities.

The idea of using traditional practices and incorporating them into modern democratic traditions is an exercise most certainly worth further consideration.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Dynamics of Diaspora Investment in Armenia

In the South Caucasus, the question of investment from Diaspora communities has become increasingly important. With the largest and most well developed Diaspora network, the dynamics of Diaspora investment in Armenia is of special importance.

Manuk Hergnyan examined the impact of the Armenian Diaspora on generating Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Armenia between 1994 and 2004. He conducted a detailed company-level survey among Armenian companies with foreign capital, collected information from the Internet, State Registry of Armenia, Spyur Armenian business directory and several consulting companies.

Hergnyan found that although the Armenian Diaspora played an important role in foreign direct investment attraction processes in Armenia in the transitional period, its level of involvement was less than expected. About 69% of all foreign investors that directly invested in the Armenian economy in 1998-2004 were Diaspora-connected investors, while in financial terms the total value of those investments made up only 24% of total FDI in Armenia.

Hergnyan concluded that the strategy towards Diaspora should become more differentiated; because different Diaspora groups have different motivations, the policy should capture these differences by a segregated and well-thought out approach to each group. Mr. Hergnyan also suggested that the informal and altruistic intentions directed towards families and friends of Armenia-born Diasporans can be encouraged and translated into additional investments instead of direct assistance in line with improvements in the business climate for small and medium enterprises.

The paper, in English, is a must read for those interested in FDI in the region. A version of it will be published in the forthcoming edition of the AIPRG Journal. The level of research is incredibly detailed and provides an excellent set of insights.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Labor Migrants Who Returned to Georgia

Mariam Sakevarishvili analyzed the life of labor migrants returning to Georgia. She combined CRRC 2004 Data Initiative findings with 50 interviews across Georgia (conducted in 2005). The interviews very much replicated the findings from the Data Initiative: prior to emigration 37% of respondents did not have adequate income; 31% were unemployed; 16% cited personal reasons for migration.

The priority for most of the migrants was providing financial support to their families. All respondents had realistic expectations about migration, therefore most were satisfied and thought that they had achieved their goals - purchased an apartment, returned loans, and met other immediate needs .

The research indicates that many male migrants are involved in criminal activity. For many this seems the only escape from poverty (especially because illegal immigrants are excluded from the formal employment sector). Sakevarishvili suggests that this contributes to building stereotypes of Georgian males as being criminal and dangerous. Apparently Georgians themselves tend to be cautious about establishing connections with their compatriots abroad.

The majority of the respondents say they may migrate again. The respondents said that the biggest discomforts for them were nostalgia and the relationship with the host country police. Conversely, they reported that the migration experience had helped them develop their own self-esteem, and that this was one of its biggest benefits. As for the adaptation process in foreign countries, Sakerashvili found that emigrants adjust better in Russia, Israel, Spain and Portugal, in the order in which they are listed. Respondents who lived in Russia even did not use the word “adaptation” in the conversation. For them, Russia has closer ties with Georgia than any other European country and both nations have a lot in common.

According to the research most of the emigrants used to live in Russia. More specifically, based on CRRC DI 2004 data (some caveats about existing migration data are appropriate) 31% of respondents said that their relatives were living in Russia, 16% in Greece, 13% in Germany, 13% in the US, 7% in Israel; 7% in England.

After coming back from abroad the respondents did not really notice tremendous changes in Georgia. For most, the changes that they found in their homeland were superficial. The above mentioned findings are based on the analysis of migration block of CRRC DI 2004 and face-to-face, in-depth interviews with 50 respondents in Tbilisi, Gori, Dmanisi, Kutaisi and Lanchkhuti.

And where do you find more about this research? As usual, on our website, in Georgian.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

HIV/AIDS: Azerbaijanis' Attitudes and Knowledge Explored

There has been growing concern about HIV/AIDS in the South Caucasus. But what kind of knowledge and attitudes about the disease exist in the region? By using data from the CRRC 2004 Data Initiative (DI) and conducting focus groups Gulshan Tagiyeva analyzed the knowledge and attitudes about HIV/AIDS in Azerbaijan.

Based on the results from 2004 CRRC DI survey, the fellow showed that the population in Azerbaijan is less informed about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases than Georgians and Armenians. Additionally, a large percentage of Azerbaijanis, particularly women, are unsure about how people become infected with HIV/AIDS. There is also very low social acceptance of those who are HIV positive. For example, of respondents in Baku only 8.9 % do not mind doing business and 5 % being friends with people who have HIV/AIDS (2004 CRRC survey).

This research demonstrates more work clearly needs to be done in Azerbaijan to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and social acceptance of those who have HIV/AIDS, particularly among women. The author has drafted a manual (in Azeri) to help promote AIDS education. Her report and a presentation (both in Azeri) can also be downloaded.

Unemployment in Azerbaijan: Beyond the Economic Consequences

Unemployment following the collapse of the command economies in the Caucasus has had consequences far beyond the traditional questions of income. Unemployment affects people’s psychological condition and, on a more basic level, the very fabric of society.

Rufat Efendiyev conducted a quantitative survey among 492 individuals (proportionally selected in each district) who were registered as unemployed in Baku. In his research, Efendiyev found a steep increase in the number of physical and mental illnesses of the unemployed population. Additionally, 67% of respondents described their psychological condition as stressful because of financial difficulties.

In a particularly worrying development, Efendiyev also highlighted the age discrepancies in the unemployed population. Among those officially registered as unemployed in Baku those between 24-29 years predominate (24.4%) compared to other age groups. Efendiyev also found that 26.6% of respondents mentioned the absence of connections and friends as a barrier to getting a job.

Young, unemployed and disgruntled males, as has been shown in other contexts, is one of the most important groups to properly integrate into the workforce; this group is capable of creating large and possible traumatic social upheaval if their expectations with regards to the future are not met. The research points to the importance of youth employment programs and efforts to combat non-economic manifestations of unemployment.

Efendiyev’s book in Azeri, English and Russian is available here or from the CRRC Web site.

Georgians living in Gali

Rusudan Velidze analyzed the living conditions of the Georgian population living in Gali, in Abkhazia. For those unfamiliar with the circumstances, these mostly are (Georgian) Megrelians, and the area is under control of the de facto Abkhaz authorities.

The researcher, on a CRRC research stipend, conducted face-to-face, in-depth interviews with 60 respondents in 2005. After the change of the Georgian government in 2003, the number of population returning to Gali increased, but their economic condition remains harsh.

Some of Velidze's main findings include: most of the respondents believe that the war was triggered artificially and that Shevardnaze’s government contributed to the escalation of the conflict. As for the current government, the population trusts it more and hopes that the territorial integrity of Georgia will be restored.

After establishing Georgian schools in the district, the educational problems are more or less resolved. There are 32 Georgian schools, charging a monthly fee of 4 to 7 GEL. The level of education is good. But healthcare remains one of the major problems. The healthcare system is disorganized and there exists only one hospital in the district, which lacks medical supplies and qualified doctors.

The main information source for the population is television. Georgian, Russian and Abkhaz TV channels are available in the district. Velidze also reports that the Georgian population does not have any relationship with Abkhaz people and do not know much about their everyday life.

A Georgian language report is on our Website, and more detail available from Velidze directly.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Asylum applications by Georgian citizens -- 1990-2005

How many Georgians have applied for asylum in the last 15 years? According to UNHCR data, about 66,600 Georgian citizens have applied. Interestingly, the numbers have kept going up:

1992 -- 350
1994 -- 2,504
1996 -- 3,099
1998 -- 4,108
2000 -- 3,904
2001 -- 6,264
2002 -- 8,422
2004 -- 8,934
2005 -- 7,051

So no reduction after the Rose Revolution.

How do they distribute across the countries? Germany received almost 20,000 applications. France is next with about 7,300 applicants, followed by Austria with 7,000 and then Switzerland (4600), and the Netherlands (4100).

By 2005, Greece received the highest number of applications (almost 1900, up from 323 in the previous year). The reasons for this are not entirely clear to me yet. One explanation is that other countries may have toughened their view of Georgian applicants (Germany had its lowest number of applications since 1993).

I have a spreadsheet as hardcopy, and can try to make it available upon request.

Higher Education and Employment -- a broken link

One of the key problems in post-Soviet higher education is that it does not prepare graduates for the labor market. Studying the situation in Azerbaijan, Firdovsi Rzayev argues that one of the reasons for this is that there is no link between higher education and employers. Although in principle employers are willing to help developed curricula, organizing the practical trainings for the students, and strengthening the material-technical base of vocational schools, there is no formal mechanism for doing this.

Rzayev argues that there should be a unit under the umbrella of the Cabinet of Ministers, bringing together the various ministries (economic development, labor, education) with other stakeholders (employers' associations), and researchers. This unit could help to set directives for a higher education that better meet market needs.

Arguably there remains, however, a chicken-egg problem: for such a mechanism to work, there needs to be a willingness to implement comprehensive reform; moreover, the employers themselves don't always have the most modern practices. Maybe the best way is to short-circuit this by importing recognized vocational certification from abroad, instead of trying to set up a similar system oneself. This does not work in all sectors, but should not be a major problem in some (computer skills, IT, financial services), which then can provide a role model.

Details of the study, in Azerbaijani, on the CRRC website.

Migration between Georgia and Azerbaijan

Sergey Rumyantsev studied migration from Georgia to Azerbaijan. He interviewed 460 ethnic Azerbaijani respondents who had migrated from Georgia to Azerbaijan. The majority of respondents said that the socioeconomic situation in Georgia was the prime reason for the migration. Ethnic discrimination did not play a significant role in the perception of Azerbaijani migrants (indicating that media reports of tensions between ethnic Georgians and Azerbaijanis may be overblown). About 80% of respondents still had relatives in Georgia. More than 60% of the migrants left for Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, when times in Georgia were particularly tough.

Rumyantsev also interviewed 170 Ingiloys (ethnic Georgians originally from the Qakh region of Azerbaijan), who had not yet migrated anywhere. Among the Ingiloys who were considering migration, only very few wanted to go to Georgia. Western Europe was more popular, followed by Russia. (The data obviously is not fully representative, which is why actual numbers might be misleading.)

Again, research (in Azerbaijani) with more findings available on our website, and even more information available if you contact the fellow directly.

Gabala Radar Station -- local health awareness

Rashida Abdullayeva examined a curious relic from Cold War days: in Gabala, Northern Azerbaijan, there is a giant radar station, which is leased out to Russia until 2012. According to reports citing the Russian Ministry of Defence the radar station has a range of up to 6000 km, was designed to detect missile launches from the Indian Ocean, and hosts around 1200 Russian servicemen. It is generally accepted that this powerful radar has a significant impact on the environment and the health of the local population. A somewhat dramatic assessment can be found here.

But what does the the local population actually know about the hazards? Although they complain of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and chronic ailments, there seems to be little awareness of potential preventive measures that could at least alleviate the impact of the electromagnetic rays.

On her CRRC research grant, Abdullayeva put together a short booklet documenting very simple preventive measures, such as blocking direct line-of-sight between the radar station and settlements (even planting small trees, she says, could help here). She also has extensive photographs of her fieldwork, showing a fairly hapless, resigned population, as well as deformed animals. It is not a public health baseline study (which might be difficult to conduct), but still conveys a powerful impression.

The radar station is likely to remain a bargaining chip in the complex tournament of Russian-Azerbaijani relations: Russians want to keep the asset, Azerbaijanis are happy that they have an asset that gives them some leverage on Russia.

Details of the study online, in Azerbaijani.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Drugs Use Survey of Georgian Students, 2003

The Georgian Research Institute on Addictions (GRIA) in 2003 conducted a survey of about 700 students in Tbilisi's universities.

52.6% of male respondents say they have used hashish at least once. About 8% of males responded that they smoked it regularly over the last year, with a total of 4% claiming they used it very regularly over the last 30 days.

The data probably is unreliable (I have not seen the actual study), but the one interesting feature is that only 3.4% of female respondents say they had ever used hashish. And none said they use it regularly. Overall, this seems to tally with the results from CRRC's Data Initiative on smoking: there is a very strong gender discrepancy, with around 5% of female Georgian respondents admitting to smoking (whereas around 45% of males say they smoke).

According to the Ministry of Interior, 2004 prices for 5 g of marijuana are roughly 7-9 US dollars.

Source: Georgian Research Institute on Addiction, Georgia Today, 8-14 December 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Snapshot: Border Crossing Armenia-Georgia

Earlier this morning some observations that in themselves can almost serve as indicators:

  • Number of trucks waiting on Armenian customs, headed towards Georgia: 51
  • Number of interlocutors who had any idea what the reason for the actual problem was: 0
  • Number of types of uniforms worn by officials on the Armenian side: 5 (probably more)
  • Number of officials, or people acting as officials, wearing no recognisable uniform on the Armenian side: 6 (likely more)
If you want to get a first class fake $20 bill, pay your $30 Armenian visa with a $50 banknote. I have now twice seen the friendly Armenian official returning a fake 20$ bill as change for the 50$ he received. Visually, the bill is almost perfect. The only significant difference is in its feel. (Recently, it was claimed that large-scale production of counterfeit currency can be traced to South Ossetia)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Student Migration from the South Caucasus

Foreign students officially registered in Germany, 2004

Armenian: 391
Azerbaijani: 357
Georgian: 3,269 (no typo)

By comparison:
Iran: 4,185
Russia: 11,479
USA: 3,280
China: 27,129 (representing the highest number of foreign students)

Source: DAAD/HIS, available at http://www.wissenschaft-weltoffen.de/2006/1/1/2/1

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reproductive Health in the Caucasus

According to a 1999 Reproductive Health Survey, Georgia has the highest abortion rates in the former Soviet Union (possibly in the world, though I haven't checked). In Georgia there are 3.7 abortions per woman (per life).

Other 2001 data suggests that Azerbaijan follows closely and has 3.2 abortions per woman (Turkey: 0,7). In data from 2000, Armenia has 2.6 abortions.

As a comparison, the same figures for Russia are 1,5, for the US 0,7.

In the three South Caucasus countries, rates of modern contraception are less wide-spread than in any other comparable country. One consultant working in the field pointed out that in some countries, there is an incentive for the medical community to perform abortions since they are paid for them -- whereas they don't get paid for promoting methods of contraception.

The data could allow comparisons of the impact of incentives, versus culture, versus historical development. (Although it should be pointed out that such data needs to be screened for bias, survey problems.)

New data for Georgia, from a 2005 Reproductive Health Survey, is to be released later in December 2006.

Source: www.prcdc.org/CWestoff.ppt

Financial Sector Snapshot - Armenia

A special issue of the Armenian Journal of Public Policy (published by AIPRG, with CRRC's Heghine Manasyan as one of the Editors) is devoted to Financial Sector Development. All the papers are engaging for non-specialists.


  • the estimated 2004 after-tax earnings of ALL Armenian banks is around 18,5 million USD (which, almost needless to say, is very low by comparison)
  • given that banks are small, they can only serve small or medium-sized enterprises (which in turn often cannot meet the underwriting standards)
  • a major impediment to growth of deposits is the fear of the tax police (although their actual rights are limited)
  • there exist around 500 000 accounts in Armenia, almost all located in Yerevan

(Source: Financial Sector Assessment of Republic of Armenia, Emerging Markets Group, under contract to USAID 2005)

All of this matters to development and the ability of those without access to networks of wealth and power to become successful entrepreneurs (see the post below, on Douglas North).

Given the low earnings, one recalls the joke about the Bata Shoe Factory representative being sent to southern India on a market study. The first representative comes back, dejected, saying "we don't have a chance there, they all go barefoot." A second one goes out, calls back from a payphone and says "HUGE opportunities! Millions of potential customers!"

So what do the low earnings tell us? Are they a symbol of opportunity, or a symptom that nothing goes?

Ideas on this, and much more, in the Armenian Journal of Public Policy's special issue of December 2005.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Snapshots on Attitudes towards Education

Anastasia Kitiashvili used CRRC's 2004 Data Initiative to study attitudes to education. Unsurprisingly, a higher education degree is not a guarantee for employment. In Georgia, about 27% of those with higher education remain unemployed. In Azerbaijan, it is about 18% and in Armenia 17%.

These figures reflect that in Georgia more people have higher education degrees. Moreover, they repeat the old insight that higher education does not provide the skills needed in the labor market. Still, it remains popular.

Although the migration data is limited, it appears that education is the third most popular reason why Georgians migrate. Preferred destination for Georgians is Germany, for Armenians the US, for Azerbaijanis Turkey or Russia.

Our data on education should become more interesting for the 2005 and 2006 datasets, as we can track longitudinal changes and have a broader reach in the countries. The actual numbers (in our dataset) and Kitiashvili's study (in Georgian) are available, as usual, on our website.