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Government’s Plans For Developing Highland Regions

The government has submitted a bill on socioeconomic and cultural development of Georgia’s highland regions to the Parliament, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili told the government meeting on June 4. The bill aims at ceasing migration from highland regions and promoting the business development.

Nino Kharadze is covering the issue.

A special state commission has developed a bill of amendments to the law on socioeconomic and cultural development in highland regions. The previous law was adopted in 1999. Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili informed the government meeting the Regional Development and Infrastructure Ministry had completed working on the bill. The bill will be refined and improved in the parliament, the PM added.

“I believe this is a very important issue, because the project calls for creating a system for setting social preferences to highland residents and promoting their business and economic activities. The project is also to draw additional money resources for developing infrastructure of settlements in highland regions. I believe this should be implemented in the near future, because families are leaving their places in highland regions, there is no living conditions there and we must start highland regions promotion projects as soon as possible”, Gharibashvili said.

The bill covers all settlements that are located 1500 above the sea level. The Mtskheta-Mtianeti region’s vice governor Koba Arabuli, a member of the state commission, says the quality and level of problems in concrete zones will be taken into account, not the location elements. For the first time this law and the government explain the current situation in highland regions and outline  highland zones as priority directions, Koba Arabuli said. For the first time, the law determines the status of the indigenous population.

“For the first time, the bill makes accent on not only social aspects, but an economic ground for saving the highland regions, including a promotion of business and entrepreneurship, cooperative activities, involvement of local population in those cooperatives and so on”, Arabuli noted.

The bill also calls for revision of social support issues, increasing salary bonuses to teachers and medical staff, appointing additional allowances to families with children, exempting local residents from property and profits taxes for 10 years for business development.

Economic expert Levan Kalandadze:

“Similar methods for supporting indigenous residents and promoting their business activities are widely practiced in many countries, including in Italy, France, and Alps Zone. This signifies the Authorities prioritize to save the highland regions’ culture and economic zone. At the same time, efficiency of these instruments depends on many factors, including the level of motivation of state structures for full-fledged and comprehensive implementation of the bill purposes”.

“I do not expect this project will revive the highland regions and become very attractive for highland residents in a year or two. But I find two important moments in this initiative: the government develops a policy concerning the highland regions and this policy should develop and grow.

Koba Arabuli, the Mtskheta-Mtianeti Region Governor:

“It is important that only hypsometric parameters do not suffice for the status of a highland settlement, that is, a 1000 meter above the sea level. Unlike the existing law, the amended law will not include the list of villages either”.