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Discussion of the decentralization project in Gori


Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

The Decentralization Strategic Plan 2019-2025 of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure is being discussed in the regions of Georgia. The document aims to increase authority of local self-governments, to financially decentralize them and to improve the mechanisms for the better engagement of citizens. Experts have some remarks about the strategic document. They say the document contains some obscurity and started campaign with more clear messages and requirements: “Say Yes to Decentralization,” “State Property to Local Self-Governments” and “It Is Time for Self-Governance.”

Regardless the controversial opinions about some issues, the authors of the decentralization strategic document and the experts on self-governance organize joint meetings in the regions. The information meeting was held on December 22 in Gori, where the mayors of all four municipalities of the region and chairpersons of the municipal councils attended. The initial version of the project was discussed during the meeting.

While the municipality mayors from Kvemo Kartli region requested more rights for more opportunities, the municipality mayors from Shida Kartli region heard the discussion of the document in silence; mostly the experts and the strategy authors debated about the strategy document. 

“Today, we are discussing the issues, which were already agreed with the 2013 Law on Self-Governance. Assignment of the property, division of the income and transfer of the natural resources are already regulated by the law; it was to be done in 2016 and now we are discussing these issues again in 2019. The 2025 strategy document does not reflect what was already approved by the 2013 law. Verbally everybody says that we are right and the properties shall be assigned; we tell them to make clear messages in the document,” the expert of the self-governance Irakli Melashvili said. 

Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Mzia Giorgobiani said midterm strategy on decentralization aims to increase the authority of local self-governments, to decentralize them financially and to introduce effective mechanisms for the better engagement of the citizens in self-governance. The deputy minister underlined three main direction of the 2019-2025 strategy. 

“The 2019-2025 Decentralization Strategy includes three main directions: implementation of the authorities on the place, fiscal decentralization which includes the property as well and the third direction is very important component for local development – direct engagement of the municipality population for the purpose of decision making process and transparency,” the Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Mzia Giorgobiani said. 

Gori Municipality Mayor was the only one among the municipality mayors in Shida Kartli region, who made comments with the journalists after leaving the meeting and said that the strategy is acceptable for him and does not have critical remarks by now. 

“With this strategy we will have more rights and the local self-governments will be really decentralized. The central authority already assigned public schools to us together with respective funds and it is not additional burden for the municipalities to take care of the buildings of schools. It was the initiative of the central authorities in order to empower the self-governance,” Gori Municipality Mayor Konstantine Tavzarashvili said.

Head of the non-governmental organization Gori Information Center Mikheil Chitadze said the current version of the strategy cannot ensure real self-governance and they will still remain dependant on the central government. 

“I doubt, this strategy will have real result. There might be some progress but it will not be real decentralization process and cannot ensure establishment of real self-governance. Main components are not envisaged in the reform,” Chitadze said. 

The decentralization strategy does not envisage restoration of the self-governing city status for those seven cities, which lost the status in 2017. Gori Municipality was one of the municipalities first divided in 2014 and then unified in 2017. The representatives of the government state that the division of the municipalities was not successful reform. 

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