Recommendations on territorial optimization of municipalities - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Recommendations on territorial optimization of municipalities

17 April, 2014

Territorial optimization of municipalities is one of the key challenges of the local self-government reform, which implies the establishment of new self-governing cities and self-governing communities within the current municipalities. Today there are total of 69 self-government units in Georgia. Out of these, after the reform the status of a self-governing city will be granted to additional 7 cities - Telavi, Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Ambrolauri, Gori, Mtskheta and Akhaltsikhe - and new municipalities will be formed from their adjacent villages.

The Governmental Commission for Regional Development of Georgia, which is authorized to develop criteria for territorial optimization, has examined at the 10 March 2014 sitting territorial optimization of Gori, Telavi, Zugdidi, Ozurgeti, Akhaltsikhe, Ambrolauri and Mtskheta Municipalities and has proposed to the above-mentioned Sakrebulos (local council) and the population to form one self-governing community each from the settlements existing in the territory remaining after separation of self-governing cities, the administrative centers of which would still be in the self-governing cities.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Gori and Akhaltsikhe Municipality Councils have previously supported the formation of one self-governing city and several municipalities, on 3 April 2014 the Government of Georgia has submitted to the Parliament of Georgia an initiative to form 7 self-governing cities with only a single municipality each from their neighboring villages.

On the one hand, such approach will facilitate the distribution of human resources, finances and obligations between a city and the governing authorities of a self-governing community (municipality). On the other hand, it will not achieve the effect planned at the outset of the reform. Moreover, such an approach totally annuls a core idea of the reform - proximity of self-government with the population. Under the proposed model, an administrative unit of a newly formed municipality will be most probably created in the respective self-governing city, thus in fact not changing anything for the citizens.

The Government-offered system will not equip the population with a real opportunity to be actively involved in the decision-making process by getting closer to the self-government. It also excludes the formation of new administrative centers in the geographically and infrastructurally inter-related territories.

If the authorities aim to form real self-government and to the extent possible bring self-government units closer to the population by increasing their number, then the territorial optimization of municipalities should secure maximum participation of the local population. Demographic, geographic, infrastructural, social, economic, historical and cultural issues should be taken into account. This requires solid amount of work as well as mobilization of considerable financial and human resources. We believe undertaking this volume of work in 2-3 months is associated with a host of difficulties.

During the territorial optimization of municipalities, special attention should be paid to the following issues:

  • The volume of financial resources to be allocated by the state for the formation of new municipalities should be necessarily identified. In addition, the approximate volume of budgetary funds to be allocated by a newly formed municipality should also be established;
  • Owing to the fact that proximity of self-government with the population is one of the arguments for implementing the reform, an administrative center of a new municipality should be located in a place, which in territorial terms would be geographically easily accessible for all settlements. It is equally important to take into consideration historically established proximity among the communities, villages and settlements;
  • Citizens should enjoy an opportunity to receive other state services as well in the newly formed municipal centers.