Monday, March 31, 2014

This land is my land and this land is your land

On June 28, 2013 the Georgian parliament passed a law placing a moratorium on agricultural land sales to foreigners until the end of December 2014. Agriculture has been called one of the pillars of the Georgian economy as 53% of Georgians were employed in agriculture in 2011 according to a European Union Neighborhood Programme report. Furthermore, agricultural investment has been the focus of both the current Georgian Dream coalition government, as well as the previously governing United National Movement. As a blog by the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University highlights, the question then becomes, if Georgia wants to invest in agriculture, where will the money come from if not abroad? This blog looks at how Georgians feel about doing business with different ethnic groups as well as how Georgians feel about Georgian women marrying outside their ethnic group. The post also considers knowledge of foreign languages in rural areas in order to highlight that communication between Georgian and foreign farmers would be difficult without a common language.

Approximately 2,000 Indian farmers settled in Georgia according to a 2013 BBC report. This led to the incitement of protests particularly in the eastern Georgian province of Kakheti in 2013. The 2010 Caucasus Barometer asked Georgians how they felt about doing business with Indians. Results of the survey showed that 64% of rural Georgians approved of doing business with Indians compared to 71% of Georgians in Tbilisi. By looking at how Georgians living in rural areas feel about doing business with other ethnic groups, we can see how the Georgians most likely to be involved in agricultural activity might be inclined to working with foreign agricultural investors. The following graph shows that doing business with Iranians, a group that has also been reported to be investing in agricultural land in Georgia, is approved of by 59% in rural areas, compared to 86% in Tbilisi.

A further way of gauging how rural Georgians feel about foreigners is looking to whether they approve of Georgian women marrying other ethnic groups.  Though Georgians generally are against marriage to foreigners, rural residents consistently disapprove of Georgians marrying other ethnic groups more often than Tbilisi based Georgians. The following graph shows this relationship for Russians, the ethnic group which Georgians are most likely to approve of Georgian women marrying. Notably, rural Georgians approve 15% less than Tbilisians. This question may be related to rural support of the moratorium. Although the CB 2013 does not ask whether respondents would like to have foreign neighbors, presumably rural inhabitants would be less likely to want foreign neighbors if they are unlikely to support the marriage of a local woman to a foreigner.

An additional factor to consider is that rural residents are much less likely to speak a foreign language compared to urban or capital based residents. The majority of rural Georgians (80%) report having no basic knowledge of English compared to 46% of Tbilisi’s residents reporting no basic knowledge of English. Furthermore, 44% of rural residents report having either no basic knowledge or a beginner’s level of Russian, compared to 12% of Tbilisi residents who say the same.
 Note: Responses of Intermediate and Advanced were combined in this graph.

With the language barrier, it could be difficult for Georgian and foreign farmers to form relationships and communicate effectively. In order to avoid the language barrier, a number of companies have brought their own labor force to the country, including the Xinjiang Hualing Group which operates a small factory town on the outskirts of Kutaisi. Despite this, many foreign farmers who have moved to Georgia report hiring Georgians, especially during the harvest season. This could be a further factor which has conditioned the relationships existing between local and foreign farmers, as well as future relations between them.

This blog post has looked at the perspectives of rural residents on doing business with members of other ethnic groups as well as their level of knowledge of English and Russian. It shows that rural Georgians are much less likely to approve of doing business with other ethnicities, and that rural residents are much less likely to have knowledge of Russian or English. With these factors in mind, support for the ban on agricultural land sales may be more understandable. If residents in rural areas, many of whom are involved in agriculture, are less likely to be able to communicate with foreigners and are more likely than other Georgians to disapprove of relationships with them, then would they want them as neighbors? To explore these issues further, we recommend using our ODA tool here or reading this blog post detailing the extent of foreign agricultural holdings posted on the Transparency International Georgia website.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Aspects of Georgian Nationalism

In Stephen Jones’ 2013 book, Georgia: A Political History since Independence, he argues that economic issues are more important to the average Georgian than issues related to nationalism. According to Benedict Anderson’s classic exegesis of nationalism, Imagined Communities, a nation is defined as, “an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Anderson 2006). Anderson’s definition, in this blog post, is considered in conjunction with the oft quoted expression of Ilia Chavchavadze, “Homeland, Language, and Faith,” which referred to those things most important for Georgia in his view. As such, issues Georgians believe to be the most important issue facing the country over time and how Georgians feel about Georgian women marrying men of other ethnic groups are examined to gain an understanding about some aspects of nationalism in Georgia.

Each year the Caucasus Barometer (CB) asks (as an open-ended question), “What do you think is the most important issue facing Georgia at the moment?” The following graph shows that the only time territorial integrity, relations with Russia and peace have been more important than jobs and poverty in Georgia was in 2008 which was also the year of the August war with Russia. Notably, data collection for the 2008 CB was conducted only three months after the war. Furthermore, only one year later, economic considerations once again became the number one perceived issue facing the country. Considering that territorial sovereignty is considered to be a critical aspect of nationalism, it is interesting that Georgians have been more likely to consider economic issues to be the most important issue facing the country rather than issues related to territorial integrity.

Note: This chart has combined responses for jobs and poverty, as well as territorial integrity, relations with Russia, problematic relations with Russia and Peace. In 2008, a show card was used for this question during the Caucasus Barometer interviews. The card offered a number of issues for respondents. After 2008, a show card was not used and the open ended question mentioned above was asked. This may have effected the results to survey responses between 2008 and other years. 

A second way of assessing how Georgians feel about other ethnicities, is to examine to what extent Georgians approve or disapprove of Georgian women marrying members of other ethnic groups. The graph below shows that most Georgians do not support Georgian women marrying men of other ethnicities. This shows a certain level of social conservatism among Georgians, but this conservatism may be religious rather than ethnic as nationalism in Georgia is also tied to religion. The graph shows that Georgians have the highest level of approval for Georgian women marrying men of other ethnic groups that primarily tend to be Orthodox or another Christian group - Russians, Europeans, Americans, Abkhazians, Ossetians and Armenians.

This blog post has looked at several factors related to Georgian nationalism. It shows that economic issues have been consistently more important to Georgians than issues related to territorial integrity since 2008--a year which saw war with Russia. Finally, the blog looked at trends in how Georgians feel about Georgian women marrying men of other ethnicities and found that religion might play a bigger role than ethnicity when it comes to marriage.

To further explore issues related to nationalism, ethnicity, and economics we recommend exploring our data further using the ODA tool here, or reading Stephen Jones’ chapter on “The Myth of Georgian Nationalism.” For readers who read in the Georgian language, we also recommend this blog post on tolerance in Georgia and the South Caucasus more generally.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Russia, Georgians, and the State

With Russia’s recent military intervention in the Ukraine, some commentators have begun to compare Ukraine to Georgia in 2008. In August 2008 Russian troops entered Georgian territory, resulting in the expulsion of the ethnic Georgian populations of the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Thus, there is speculation that the Crimea will become separated from Ukraine as South Ossetia and Abkhazia became separated from Georgia. Markets have also strongly responded to the recent Russian intervention as the value of the ruble and the Russian stock exchange has fallen. As a result, the Russian central bank injected around ten billion dollars into currency markets to stabilize the value of the ruble. Furthermore, Russian president Vladimir Putin has aimed to tighten up the proposed Eurasian Customs Union that some see as a revival of the Soviet state. Although Georgia’s participation in the customs union was not strictly ruled out by former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanashvili, the priority of Georgia is an Association Agreement with the European Union according to parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili. With this context in mind, this post examines support for joining the Eurasian Economic Community (a precursor organization to the Eurasian Customs Union), support for the Georgian government’s involvement in business, and whether Georgians think being critical of the government is important for a good citizen. These factors are all seen as connected to how Georgians today perceive the Soviet past, and how this past relates to the present.

Georgians are nearly evenly divided on whether the state should be more like a parent (47%) or like an employee (53%). The 2013 Caucasus Barometer asked respondents to indicate whether they feel that “People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent,” or that “Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.” This question gives some understanding about what relationship Georgian’s feel they should have with their state. Those with positive connotations towards the Soviet past may be more inclined to respond that the government should be like a parent. The following chart shows that 53% of Georgians who think the government should be like a parent, also support membership in the Eurasian Economic Community.   Furthermore, the graph shows that Georgians who think that the state should be like a parent are 15% more likely to support Georgia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.

Note: “Do not support at all” and “rather not support” were combined in this graph to form “Do not support.”  “Rather support” and “Fully support” were combined into “Support.” 

Georgians who support the idea that the government should be more like a parent are also more likely to support an increase in government ownership of businesses. Support for Eurasian Economic Community membership is also strongest among those who think government ownership of business should increase.

Note: The data here has been collapsed from a 10-point scale where 1 indicated most disagreement with the proposed statement and 10 indicated most agreement with the proposed statement. Data from points 7 through 10 are shown indicating agreement with each statement. Data from points 5 and 6 are shown indicating neither disagreement nor agreement. Data from points 1 through 4 are shown indicating disagreement with each statement.

The following graph shows that Georgians who think it is important for a good citizen to be critical of the government are more likely to think that the government should be like an employee.

This blog shows that Georgians are more or less divided when it comes to whether the government should be like a parent or an employee. In looking at Georgians who think that the government should be more like a parent, it appears that they are also more likely to support membership for Georgia in the Eurasian Economic Community. Moreover, parent-like government supporters put less emphasis on the importance of being critical towards the government as a quality of a good citizen. To further investigate how Georgians feel about their government, we recommend exploring the data further using our ODA tool here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Can’t get no satisfaction. Who doesn’t want to join the EU?

On December 30, 2013 Davit Usupashivili, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, declared that Georgia’s top priority for the year was the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU. If signed, the association agreement will enable closer ties between Georgia and the EU. This will likely be supported by the vast majority of Georgians as 83% of ethnic Georgians say they would vote to join the EU if a referendum were held tomorrow, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation. Still, a minority of Georgians are against closer ties with the EU. This opinion appears to be related to satisfaction with life, the perceived political situation, and one’s perceived economic standing in society. This blog explores data on those who are less supportive or against EU integration in Georgia, as well as some possible reasons for the opposition.

Given the government’s focus on EU integration, it is not surprising that Georgians with a higher level of trust in the EU are more likely to think that the country is headed in the right direction. This difference is pronounced with 30% of Georgians who fully distrust the EU and think the country is going in the right direction, as opposed to 60% of those who fully trust the EU and think the country is going in the right direction.

Note: "Politics is definitely going in the wrong direction" and "politics is mainly going in the wrong direction" were combined into "politics is going in the wrong direction." “Politics is definitely going in the right direction” and “politics is mainly going in the wrong direction” were also combined in this graph.

In addition to political satisfaction, as measured by the previous graphic, personal satisfaction seems to be related to one’s trust in the EU. Georgians who trust the EU appear to be more satisfied with life overall. For Georgians who fully trust the EU, only 21% report being dissatisfied, whereas a full 46% of Georgians who do not trust the EU report being dissatisfied with life. This trend also holds for those who support Georgia joining the EU.

Note: Overall life satisfaction on the CB 2013 questionnaire had a ten point scale. This graph converted those numbers into a three point scale. 

In understanding satisfaction with life and political satisfaction, one factor that appears important is the perceived economic position of Georgians and their household. The following graph places perceived economic rung, how Georgians feel their household is doing compared to the rest of society, and trust in the EU against one another.  As the graph shows, families that feel more confident in their economic standing are more likely to trust the EU. This trend holds largely true for families that report standing on an economic rung of 3, 4, or 5. When a family perceives itself to be at a lower economic rung in society (1, 2), then they are more likely to distrust the EU than those who perceive that they are at a higher rung in society. This is evidenced by the fact that almost two thirds (64%) of those who responded with full distrust of the EU also ranked themselves as either on the first or second rung of the economic ladder. About half (52%) of those who slightly distrusted the EU also reported being either at the first or second rung of the economic ladder. Once again, this trend also is present in support for Georgia’s accession to the EU.

Besides being personally or politically dissatisfied, what other factors do you think might be related to disapproval of closer ties between Georgia and the EU?  The data set used for this post will be available online shortly, and you too can investigate the numbers here with our online data analysis tool.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Health in the South Caucasus

With the recently concluded Olympics in Sochi and the controversies surrounding them, one might be interested in understanding how populations in the South Caucasus think about health and sport. What factors are related to perceptions of health in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia? This blog explores perceptions of health, economic well-being, as well as whether a household limits its consumption of beef as one of many indicators related to a household’s economic situation.

South Caucasians who say they exercise for at least two hours a week are more likely to rate their health better than those who do not exercise at least two hours per week. The following graph depicts this trend in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, and consistently shows that those who believe they are in good health are much more likely to say they exercise for at least two hours a week compared to those who report poor health.

Note: In this and following charts, the original five-point scale for the question, “Overall, how would you rate your health,” has been collapsed to a three-point scale by merging “very poor” and “poor”, and “very good” and “good.”

Additionally, people who consider their households to be on a higher economic rung in society tend to rate their health more positively. Respondents were asked to imagine there is a 10-step ladder reflecting the economic standing of all households in their country, such that the first rung corresponds to the lowest possible economic position in society, while the highest rung refers to the highest possible position. The following graph demonstrates this trend in the South Caucasus. In Georgia, where the trend is most pronounced, only 27% and 34% of families who report being on either the first or second rung report being in good health, whereas 91% and 59% of families who reported being on the fifth or fourth rung respectively, reported being in good health. This trend can be seen throughout the South Caucasus and suggests that the higher economic rung a family perceives itself to be on, the more likely they are to report good health.

Note: The first rung corresponds to the lowest possible economic position in society, while the highest rung refers to the highest possible economic position in society. Results were collapsed from an original 10-point scale.

Whether a family owns or consumes a number of consumer goods is a common indicator of well-being. The following graph looks at whether a household limits its consumption of beef and perceptions of health. As the graph indicates, families that are less likely to limit the amount of beef they eat are also more likely to report being in good health. Furthermore, the trend also largely holds for the consumption of many other foods and consumer products, as well as whether a family owns certain durable goods such as a personal computer.

This blog shows that health and perceptions of one’s household economic situation are related. Higher perceived economic status is related to more positive feelings about one’s health in the South Caucasus. What other factors might be at work when looking at how healthy one feels and how often one exercises? We encourage you to explore our data to find out more about health and exercise in the South Caucasus with our online data analysis tool here.