Constitutional Amendment for Planned New City Lazika Endorsed
Parliament passed constitutional amendments to define special status of planned new city, Lazika, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast with 126 votes v 1 at its first reading on June 12.
According to those amendments, lawmakers will have to adopt an organic law to define special status of the city. In the constitution Tbilisi has a status of the capital city and Adjara region on the Black Sea coast, as well as the breakaway region of Abkhazia – a status of Autonomous Republics. There is a separate law detailing the capital city’s status, as well as separate “constitutional laws” on Adjara and Abkhazia Autonomous Republics. It is expected, that a separate law on Lazika’s status will also be elaborated after constitutional amendment on the planned new city’s special status is passed by the Parliament.
Deputy Justice Minister, Dimitri Dzagnidze, told lawmakers that the special status for Lazika would entail creating of “a territorial entity with high degree of self-governance”, which would have “attractive taxation system.”
Deputy Minister could not reply the question of the oppositionist MP Jondi Bagaturia how much money was planned to be spent on the ongoing construction of House of Justice in the city territory. Though, deputy minister said the funds for the Lazika construction will be reflected in the next year budget.
Most oppositionist MPs criticized the proposed constitutional amendments with regard to the status of Lazika city.
MP Dimitry Lortkipanidze from the Fraction Unity for Justice announced the concern of environmentalists about the construction of the city and criticized the government because they plan to dry swamp in the area and it will endanger eco-system.
“Actually we do not know what we are discussing now,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), said, adding that without having any specific plan there was nothing to discuss. “No one was able to explain to me what we are talking about.”
“We know very well what we are doing. We are creating thousands of new jobs,” MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling party responded, adding that special status would create incentives for private investments in building of the new city.
The only MP from the parliamentary minority, who supported the legislative changes during debates was Guram Chakhvadze from National Democrat Party. He said “this particular status should define the future of the city” and “if we work on it properly, this dream and idea might be realized.”
CDM leader, MP Giorgi Targamadze, said that construction of new city was unreasonable, while many other existing towns, including nearby port town of Poti, remained “neglected”.
He said that the plan to build new city was “yet another whim” of President Saakashvili and told the ruling party lawmakers to think about naming the new city ‘Mishapolis’ or ‘Mishaburg’ instead of Lazika.
When speaking about planned new city, President Saakashvili said in December, 2011 that “about 1-1.5 billion Lari” investment was required at the initial stage for the city to be built.
“In next four years we will spend about 200 million and the rest I think [will be filled] by private investments,” Saakashvili said in December. “I am very optimistic. This city is not a whim. In the condition when 45% of our population lives in rural areas, we now need new urban centers for resettlement of these people and for their employment.”