As you know, the Constitutional Court invalidated the Moratorium on land sales to foreign nationals. How legitimate was the decision?
Under current law, the Constitutional Court had the right to take such a decision. Moratorium itself was more like trying to patch holes in the ship, which had sprung a leak. It was an inflexible and wrong step, since before the Moratorium a previous government had abolished all restrictions on privatization of land plots.
All this was done under the banner of a liberal economy, which in theory is acceptable in many areas, but is absolutely unacceptable with regard to agricultural land.
This can be seen in many European countries, for example, in Austria foreigners need a special permit to purchase land, which indicates that the privatization of a particular land plot is not contrary to the public interest. For a non-citizen of the European Union this procedure is even more complicated- to buy agricultural land in Austria, he must live in the country for 10 years. Moreover, a special permit is required even on a long lease. In most countries, including developed countries, agricultural land is under the control of the state.
Does Moratorium create difficulties for investment in which our agriculture is in dire need?
I believe in that situation the Moratorium was the only right step, because you cannot keep the doorcompletely open. In Georgia, there are only about 700 000 hectares of arable land, and 20-folddifference with prices in Europe. I’m not talking about the difference in incomes in agriculture.
In this situation, if the doors are wide open, foreign citizens will buy all the land, and our citizens will bein the best case salaried workers.
With regard to investment, we are talking about maximum 9 million GEL that have reduced up to 2million since Moratorium came into effect . It is not such a great investment given a fact that last year 400 000 hectares of land were cultivated in Georgia, of which 100 000 at public expenses. During 25 years of independence there was no businessman who really invested in agriculture.
Look at the neighboring countries – the sale of land to foreigners is forbidden in Armenia and Azerbaijan, in Turkey you can buy no more than 2, 5 hectares. Everywhere in the world there are restrictions.
NGOs funded from abroad spread information about great investments that were allegedly stopped due to the Moratorium, and are lobbying for the abolition of restrictions. We should not open the door until the territorial integrity is restored, economic and political stability is achieved.
I would advise the government not to listen to amateurs and entrust the solution of this issue to professionals and scientists. Amendments to the land use law , in particular in terms of the rights of foreigners to purchase land, is under consideration.
I would advise the government not to make any regulations, as regulations are always a source of corruption. The public should discuss this issue and take more or less acceptable solution. The problem with overly open doors concerns not only this issue, but also many others.
For example, the idea of subsidizing agriculture is criticized a lot. Maybe in liberal economic theorysubsidizing is really wrong, but there is a reality in which it is necessary. Measures to protect the manufacturer do not operate in the country- we have zero import duty, but in partner countries restrictive tariffs are set on goods exported from Georgia.
All doors open in order to destroy a local manufacturer. In this situation, it is at least necessary to subsidies agriculture and conduct adequate customs policy.