Georgian MP Guram Vakhtangashvili from South Ossetia's Georgian-populated Didi Liakhvi constituency said in an interview with the Georgian daily Rezonansi (Resonance), published on June 22, that the closure of the major black-market in the village of Ergneti in the South Ossetian conflict zone - brought “more negative, rather than positive results.”
The market in Ergneti, which was a major center for trade of smuggled goods, was closed down by the Georgian authorities in late May and early June, 2004, leading to protests by the authorities in breakaway South Ossetia. Officials in Tbilisi claim the closure of the market triggered a decrease in smuggling and an increase in budgetary revenues.
“Although the scale of smuggling has been reduced, it had no financial effect. Many people were left without jobs [after the closure of this market]. Ties between the Georgians and Ossetians were cut off, which was then followed by tensions in the region last summer [when clashes erupted between the Georgian and Ossetian troops],” MP Guram Vakhtangashvili said.
He said that roughly 2,000-3,000 people, both Ossetians and Georgians, were working in the market and even more residents of the conflict zone were indirectly engaged in the activities which were related with the operation of the Ergneti market.
“I know that about 80% of breakaway South Ossetia’s budget was filled through the operation of the Ergneti market. It is also clear that it is necessary to fight against smuggling, but it should have been done in other ways,” MP Vakhtangashvili added.