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Georgians Squeezed by Greek Crisis

Georgia’s rural communities, where unemployment can reach levels of 40 percent to 50 percent, depend on remittances as an important source of foreign exchange and to cover basic costs like groceries, fuel and rent. The World Bank estimates that in 2010-2014 remittances accounted for 12 percent of Georgia’s Gross Domestic Product. (Photo: Temo Bardzimashvili)

Greece and the European Union may have reached a bailout deal to ease the Mediterranean nation’s financial crisis, but the effects of the country’s economic collapse are expanding eastward.
 
Georgia is among the formerly Soviet states that are experiencing trickle-down economic pain. There are an estimated 250,000 Georgians living and working in Greece, transferring on average about $14.6 million per month to relatives back home during the first half of this year.
 
“Lots of people are really dependent on Greek money,” said Sopho Otiashvili, a Georgian law student whose mother has lived and worked in Greece for 10 years. At $204.78 million in 2014, Greece ranks as Georgia’s second-largest source of remittances after Russia, according to the National Bank of Georgia. That figure is only for official remittances, declared income sent home from the migrant’s host country. A report published in 2011 by Tbilisi’s Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) estimated that undeclared remittances to Georgia totaled the equivalent of 40 percent of the official tally.
 

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Joseph Larsen is a freelance writer who acts as a consulting editor to the Office of the Public Defender of Georgia.

Georgians Squeezed by Greek Crisis

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