davit narmania 2013-02-25

Davit Narmania, Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development. (Official photo.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The goal of a new reform of local government is to involve locals in solving their own problems, like bad roads and failing water supply.

The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure on Monday laid out its new decentralization plan and local government strategy for the years 2013-2014 during a presentation at Tbilisi Marriott Hotel. The media, non-government organizations and local government representatives were present.

The authors of the initiative hope that the appropriate legislative amendments will be passed at the spring session of parliament, so the new initiative can be enforced as new local elections are scheduled.

Davit Narmania, Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, said that the new system comes into force after the local election in 2014. It will abolish the office of governors, who currently represent the government in the regions with little real power, but nonetheless formally ruling their region.

Local governments are staffed by representatives of Mikheil Saakashvili’s party. After the massive shift in the political landscape in the parliamentary election last October, locals have been demanding to replace them with Georgian Dream coalition representatives or other non-UNM members, and have frequently held protest rallies and clashed with public employees as they were trying to go to work.

Now, the ministry suggests electing all members of local government and involve the local population as much as possible in solving their own problems.

“When a water pipe is destroyed somewhere in a village, in western Georgia, those people first try to reach us here in the ministry, which has so many appeals to review and it takes months to finally review their problem and start solving it, while we can regulate this issue so that local governments and councils should solve important issues for specific settlements,” the minister explained.

Tengiz Shergelashvili, Deputy Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister, said that small issues need a long time to solve and even though the state budget has significantly increased for the last eight years, there are still many local problems, like improperly built or damaged roads; no water supply in many villages, and electricity or natural gas issues, which he thinks is a problem that local governments are still mainly dependent on the central government in sorting out.

The new model suggests having councils of villagers, which will participate in decision making, to grant legal status to villages and settlements and to have local elections every two years instead of four, including election of gamgebelis, the head of towns and regions.

The authors of the initiative think that there should be held assemblies of village councils at least three times a year to discuss what the villagers need most.

The ministry plans to introduce this concept all over the country in order to involve all who are interested in reforming local government, starting next week.