Beka Liluashvili: “Export to Russia increased by 105% and the import of energy carriers from Russia grew by 72%.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Beka Liluashvili’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

Resume:

As compared to 2021, export to Russia increased by 6.8% in 2022 whilst the growth rate soared to 106% in January 2023. The import of energy carriers in 2022 and in January 2023 increased by 215% and 302%, respectively. FactCheck concludes that Beka Liluashvili’s statement is TRUE.

Analysis

On 28 February 2022, a member of the For Georgia party’s political council, Beka Liluashvili, on air on TV Pirveli’s Reaktsia programme (from 22:26), spoke about the law on so-called agents as well as the growth of Russian influence and noted that economic dependence on Russia has increased. In particular, Mr Liluashvili stated: “The import of energy carriers increased by 72% and export to Russia grew by either 103% or 105%.”

Beka Liluashvili did not specify a timeframe when the import of fuels and total export increased by 72% and 105%. FactCheck verified the annual figures for 2022 as well as indicators from January 2023.

As compared to 2021, export to Russia increased by 6.8% in 2022 from USD 610 million to USD 652 million whilst import increased by 79% from USD 1.023 billion to USD 1.835 billion. If Russia’s share in Georgia’s export was 14.4% in 2021, it contracted to 11.7% in 2022, although Russia’s share in import increased by 10.1% to 13.6%.

Georgia’s total trade turnover with Russia was USD 1.639 billion in 2021 which increased by 52% in 2022 and reached USD 2.487 billion. Russia’s share in Georgia’s total trade turnover rose from 11.4% to 13.1%.

In regard the import of energy carriers particularly, it increased by 215% from USD 245 million to USD 774 million – the import of petroleum products increased by 362%, natural gas by 23%, electricity by 75% and coal by 143%. In monetary terms, the import of oil and petroleum products (mostly petrol and diesel) account for the bulk of the growth of the import of energy carriers.

Graph 1: Import from Energy Carriers from Russia (USD Million)

Source: National Statistics Service of Georgia

Of note is that the growth of the import of petroleum products from Russia is not only because of the price hike. In 2022, Georgian importers purchased 192% more fuels from Russia (657,000 tonnes). It is noteworthy that because of the sanctions, Russia has to reduce prices on oil and, therefore, import and selling Russian oil have become more profitable as compared to other alternatives. Oil importers in Georgia have a higher profit from one litre of Russian petrol as compared to one litre of Romanian oil which the Competition Agency of Georgia pointed out in a survey published as early as in May 2022.

The trend of growing trade dependence on Russia is even higher in January 2023. According to the information of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, export to Russia increased by 106% from USD 43 million to USD 88 million and import increased by 105% from USD 86 million to USD 106 million in 2023 as compared to January 2022. The total trade turnover, respectively, increased by 105% from USD 129 million to USD 264 million and Georgia’s trade dependence grew from 11.6% to 18%. Given such a skyrocketing growth, Russia replaced Turkey as Georgia’s top trade partner.

In regard to the structure of import of energy carriers from Russia, dependence is even higher and the growth rate in total reached 302% from USD 24 million to USD 97 million. Specifically, the import of petroleum products and natural gas increased by 570% and 169%, respectively (given their relatively limited amount, the 89% decline in electricity import and the 9,500% growth of coal import did not significantly affect the total import of energy carriers).

Graph 2: Import of Energy Carriers from Russia (USD Million)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

Beka Liluashvili stated that the export growth rate was 105% which is in line with the January 2023 figure. In terms of the import of energy carriers, there is a substantial difference between the 72% that he named and the official statistics, although the official figures are much higher and lend further credibility to his assessment (Georgia’s growing economic dependence on Russia). Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Beka Liluashvili’s statement is TRUE.

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