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Who should buy state owned lands?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, July 2

Several days ago the Constitutional Court upheld Transparency International Georgia’s constitutional appeal in the case of Mathias Huter vs. the Georgian Parliament. The Constitutional Court ruled the Georgian Parliament’s moratorium on the acquisition of agricultural land by foreign citizens until 31 December 2014 to be unconstitutional, as it contradicted Article 21 of the Georgian Constitution whereby the right of property and inheritance is recognized and inalienable and it is also prohibited to abolish the universal right of holding, acquiring, selling or inheriting property.

Georgia has not recorded information concerning its land property since 2004. There has been an increased interest in investing in Georgia’s agricultural opportunities since 2012 mostly from Indian farmers attracted by inexpensive and fertile land, as well as by the lack of red tape.

It should be noted that after the Georgia Dream took office, a new law was adopted, suspending the sale of agriculture land to foreign citizens or to entities established by foreign nationals until the end of 2014.

This law was to be in effect until the government “improves the land registry process and elaborates a unified state policy on the rational use and protection of land resources”. However, a statement concerning meeting such an improvement has not been reported by the government yet. Moreover, Georgian Dream member Zurab Tkemaladze claims that the court decision has negatively influenced the issue.

“Currently, foreigners can buy Georgian lands at especially low prices. The process will harm the country. The Inter Agency Commission that was to tackle this vital issue has been formed. However, the Constitutional Court has hindered it from accomplishing its responsibilities by making this irrational decision,” Tkemaladze states.

According to Georgian patriarch Ilia II, Georgian springs, rivers, land and everything below it should not become someone else’s. During his weekly sermon, Ilia II talked about the possibility of the country’s resources falling into someone else’s hands and addressed the government with a request to be very careful and discreet in their decisions.

Opposing such arguments, Transparency International Georgia, analysts Sergi Kapanadze and Giorgi Abashishvili state that such a ban on foreign citizens will cause significant injury to the Georgian economy, as strict rules on the purchase of Georgian land might force foreign businessmen to refrain from investing in Georgia.

Meanwhile, analyst Paata Koguashvili states that a legal basis concerning the issue should be clear. He claims that restrictions should be imposed for foreign citizens wishing to buy state-owned lands; as such restrictions operate in any developed country.