ICC stand regarding the degrading business environment

Dear fellow members, Many of you have approached me in the past few months to brief me of the problems you are facing with the Revenue Service and with the Investigation Department of the Ministry of Finance commonly known as "Financial Police".



 I was also approached by some of you who are arbitrary prohibited by some locals from accessing your properties at a time the government has been refusing to assist you.



 In short the problems that many of you are currently facing are the following:



 1- Unannounced and arbitrary withdrawals of funds from your bank accounts by the Revenue Service; freezing of your bank accounts which is leaving you no other choice but to settle with the Revenue Service at gun point.



2- Persecution and prosecution of businesses considered by the government to have ties with the previous one; some of our members who fall in this category have been driven out to bankruptcy and others will be following soon if nothing is done to stop this.



3- Illegal re-auditing of several companies who were already audited by the previous government and who had agreed at that time and under duress to pay arbitrary amounts within the frame of plea-bargain procedure.



4- Inability of some of you to access and cultivate your agriculture land.



5- Arbitrary implementation of the visa regime when some of our foreign members who purchased agriculture land are not granted a visa extension and cannot stay in country and have therefore to leave Georgia with their investments behind.



 I have brought the above mentioned problems to the attention of several decision makers through personal meetings or through e-mails or letters; As you are no doubt aware I enjoy good professional relations with several government officials. I was promised that our concerns will be addressed swiftly however we got no results except the creation of commissions, sub-commissions and sub-sub commissions to discuss all kind of trivialities except the essential; meanwhile many of you are being driven to the slaughterhouse with no recourse but to pay or go out of business.



 I have requested one of our embattled members to attend our March 20th Board Meeting and brief the Board so we get all a better understanding of the Revenue Service's modus operandi from the perspective of a business operating on the ground, and not only from lawyers and accountants.



 Based on the very worrying facts that we have heard and that were confirmed to us previously by many of you, we cannot and shall not  remain silent or subdued at a time scores of members are having very difficult times and are unable to operate their businesses normally for being crippled by liens and by endless court cases not to mention being unable to access their private properties!



 The FIRST listed goal of ICC-Georgia in the Charter (Article 2.1) is to: “Protect and foster the interests of its members and protect their business interests in Georgia”; I will therefore fight with all available tools to protect and foster the interests of our members and protect their business interests and if not I will be failing my basic responsibilities as chairman of our organization.



 Some of you do carry a normal business activity and haven't been hindered, this includes my personal business as well that operates smoothly till now; you might be feeling no pressure and therefore you are surprised and wondering why we are taking on those issues publicly and up-loud? You will only clearly understand why we are so loud the day it will be your turn to head to the slaughterhouse, however do not worry because that day ICC will be standing next to you and will support you the same way we are supporting today your other fellow embattled members.



 I would like to underline an important matter that is subject to an obvious conflict of interest within our own membership  since our demands to the government do conflict with the interest of some of our accounting and law firms who do benefit somehow from the problems that businesses are currently facing.



 Yes, on the short run accountants and lawyers do make money from the ambiguities of the Tax Code and from mediating conflicts between businesses and authority, however there will be much more business for all of you once the country will enjoy a stable and business friendly environment; ICC has to focus on the bigger picture and will fight to stop harassment of businesses in general and of our members in particular even if in the short term this will impact on your revenues. ICC will push for legislations that will secure the rights of the business community at large and will insure that all businesses are well protected so this cancer that is crippling us since more than 16 years is eradicated once and for all.



 Our candid and honest description of the situation to the public through the media is upsetting the government; I am sorry about that, but if the price to pay to protect our members and the business environment is a less friendly relation with some people from the government and some retaliatory measures against me for expressing our opinion publicly then be it! This is a price that I have already paid in the past more than once and that I am more than willing to pay again.



Heading a business organization is a big responsibility since the interests of the community have to supersede the private interests of the chairman and those of the Board members.



 Being a successful business association goes beyond organizing friendly meetings with government officials, round tables, seminars, social events and white washing the image of the country to foreign investors.



 Being a successful business association consists in stepping out of our comfort zone to move things forward and improve the business climate no matter the difficulties and the price to pay.



 Business organizations that vegetate in their comfort zone are numerous in Georgia however ICC is surely not one of them and should never become one of them.



 ICC is the largest and most powerful business organization in the world and in Georgia the most inclusive and outspoken one; it is our duty and responsibility to insure to the business community at large and to our members in particular a friendly, stable and predictable business environment.



 ICC has supported assisted and engaged this government since its inception for a year and a half, unfortunately we are witnessing a repetition of the same repressive policies carried out by the previous government and this is something that we shall surely not allow to happen.



 At a time we are publicly confronting the government on issues that relate to the harassment of many of you, I was ashamed for another business organization that stated to the media that their members do not have any issue with the Revenue Service at a time some of the members whom we are fighting for now are members as well of this other business organization! Which statement can prove more than this one that businesses are scared to death from opening their mouth?



An Italian proverb says:" Better to live one day like a lion than one hundred years like a sheep"!



Dear fellow members, this is not the first time we do confront publicly the Georgian government on the same issues; we have succeeded in the past to stop harassment of businesses for several years in a row and all together today we will succeed  again.



Fady Asly


1-04-2014, 23:49    

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