Municipalities don’t receive revenues from protected areas
The State owns more property than self-government bodies in the territory of municipalities, while 100% of certain types of property is owned by the State. This considerably hinders local economic development: municipalities are devoid of the possibility to use the property in their own territory for increasing their revenues.
The situation is also the same with regard to protected areas: there are 87 protected areas in Georgia in total, and all of them are owned by the State; accordingly, the revenues from the protected go to LEPL Agency of Protected Areas of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.
Out of the 87 protected areas of various categories that exist in Georgia, tourism infrastructure has only been arranged in 16 areas, while only 13 of these receive revenues:
A part of the protected areas is provided with waste removal service by individual municipalities, in return for which the Agency pays the municipalities a monthly sum. However, the local budgets don’t receive any other revenues from the protected areas.
From 2017 up to May 2019, the protected areas were visited by 1,995,554 visitors in total, while the total revenues received during the same period amounted to GEL 13,634,498.
If we look at the experience of other countries in the management of protected areas, relevant bodies of the central authorities play the main role, although there are cases where the powers are also distributed to local authorities. In Czech Republic, the policy in relation to protected areas is mainly determined by the central authorities, though regional and local self-government bodies have the powers of control and monitoring; in Hungary, municipalities are also responsible for the management of protected areas of local importance; in Serbia, the most part of protected areas is owned by local self-government bodies, which receive revenues; and in Poland, the powers are distributed between the center and local administrations, and in some cases the self-government bodies also receive revenues.
In the opinion of TI Georgia:
- It is important to arrange tourism infrastructure in as many protected areas as possible, so that the revenues to be received from tourists and visitors will increase constantly.
- On the other hand, it is necessary that the Georgian authorities – as part of the discussions on a new strategy of decentralization of local self-government – discuss the redistribution of revenues to be received from protected areas between the central and local budgets and, in the long run, transferring certain categories of protected areas (for example, the Martivili and Okatse canyons) into municipal ownership. The redistribution of these revenues between the central and local budgets is going to increase the revenues of municipalities and, at the same time, make self-government bodies more interested in taking care of the development of tourism.
 Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti is the only region where protected areas have not been created.
 14 strict nature reserves, 12 national parks, 20 managed reserves, 40 natural monuments and 1 protected landscape.