TBILISI, DFWatch–Liberal Academy Tbilisi foundation addresses parliament with a draft bill about Georgia regarding regulations of selling lands to the foreign citizens.
The organization on Thursday held a presentation of the draft and a study conducted by the academy to describe the situation in Georgia and the experiences of different countries.
Toward the end of Mikheil Saakashvili’s time in power, the government simplified the rules for selling agricultural lands to foreigners and foreigners started to purchase lands. People from India seemed to be most interested in this, which was viewed with skepticism by locals. The new government announced a moratorium on selling lands which was deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court earlier this year. However, the government has so far not had any initiative to solve the problem.
Liberal Academy Tbilisi prepared a draft, which aims to solve the problem, and this will be the first draft of the amendments.
Lasha Tughushi, Director of the Academy, told journalists that the draft bill was developed based on the findings of the study, which looked at the influence of immigration on development of agriculture and the selling of lands in Georgia.
According to Tughushi, the study looked at current practice and defined problems, and based on this, they prepared a draft bill to parliament, which takes into account Georgian reality and international practice.
He said a number of problems were found in the course of the study.
“The major problem is about the general attitude. Lands aren’t considered a special product in here, while in fact, there is a quite different attitude to this issue in each European countries,” Tughushi says, adding that land is a special product everywhere and thus attitudes are different.
The problem is that the population hasn’t been informed when in some cases their lands were sold and in some cases sold to foreigners, which created difficult conflict situation in the regions. There is no normal land cadaster and the registry is not in order.
“We don’t know the price of land. It is not counted what effect the sale will bring. Especially when a foreigner wants to buy land they should have a plan,” he says.
He adds that the problems of the lands close to conflict regions haven’t been defined. But there are also positive examples of foreigners buying lands.
Tughushi explains that in case the draft is adopted by the parliament, there will be a minimum and maximum margin of land area which a foreigner can buy. It also defines that the purchaser must have experience in agriculture. They must also employ local people.
There will be a principle of advantage rights, which means that if the government sells lands, then the local population must have a right to buy it first.
“The major goal is to encourage cooperation in order to consolidate certain resources. That’s why cooperation is one of the subjects in the draft, which will be advantageous to buying land,” he explains.
He thinks that the process must be transparent.
“When we are dealing with lands, it is particularly important that the process is transparent, moreover when the government plans to sell it.”