Forget ferro-alloys or scrap metal. Used cars have now become Georgia’s top export, raking in tens of millions of dollars for state coffers, even while raising uncomfortable questions about the country’s ability to produce goods locally.
Georgian used-car dealers attribute the boom in large part to eager car dealers from Kazakhstan who have been racing to fill their own lots before July 1, when higher duties on car imports go into effect in the Central Asian country as part of a trade union with Russia and Belarus.
Georgian government data show that $197 million in used vehicles were exported from Georgia in the first five months of 2011; a whopping $56.7 million in sales were registered in May alone.
A representative of the Kazakhstan embassy in Tbilisi told EurasiaNet.org that too many cars are being exported to Kazakhstan from various countries for the government to keep track of how many cars come from what country in a given year.
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Molly Corso is a freelance reporter and photojournalist based in Tbilisi.