Mountain Law: What social benefits will locals receive?
Friday, July 24Georgia’s Parliament has adopted a law to encourage people to live and work in the country’s mountainous regions.
The Law on Development of Mountainous Regions passed the legislative body at its third hearing and it will see mountain communities in Georgia enjoy greater benefits with the aim of developing mountainous regions.
Abandoning mountain areas has been an issue for Georgia for decades. Mountain populations leave their homes and migrate to bigger cities to pursue better job opportunities.
According to the 2002 figures, 164 villages in Georgia were deserted and 152 villages were barely inhabited, with ten families or less. The creation of the Mountain Law aimed to curb this.
"The project provides social benefits for people living in the mountainous regions and creates incentives for economic activity,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said while introducing the draft bill earlier this year.
"It also envisages allocation of additional funds for infrastructural development of the mountainous areas."
So with the law now adopted, what exactly are the benefits people in Georgia’s mountainous areas are going to enjoy?
• Each family in the country’s mountain regions will receive a monthly financial aid from the state with the amount of GEL 100 during two years for every newborn child. This financial aid increases to GEL 200 for every third, fourth and subsequent children.
• Mountain residents will enjoy a non-taxable income if their salary is up to GEL 6 000.
• Individuals and legal entities in mountain regions will be exempted from profit tax for ten years.
• Those who permanently live in a mountain region will be exempted from property tax for any land they own.
• State-funded schools and other educational institutions in mountainous regions will enjoy increased vouchers.
• Doctors in mountain regions will receive supplemental salary twice as high as the state pension, while nurses will receive supplemental salary as high as the state pension.
• People of mountain regions will enjoy 20 percent higher pensions and social assistance.
• The Government will partially fund heating expenses for mountain population during winter months.
• Teachers in mountain regions will enjoy supplemental salary as high as at least 35 percent of their original salary.
• Teachers in mountain regions who will participate in programs initiated by the country’s Education Ministry will see their salary increased by 50 percent.
• Those living in mountainous regions will get 50 percent of their electricity expenses funded by the Government.
All of these changes will be implemented step by step until 2017.
An area will be considered as mountainous if it is situated 1 500m above the sea level, however in some exceptional cases this number can be reduced to 800m. A Mountain Agency will be established to deal with such issues.
Permanent residency of a mountainous region will be offered to people who spend at least nine months of the year in the mountains while temporary residency will be offered to those who spend at least six months of the year there.
A number of international experts including professionals from UNDP Georgia and the Governments of Switzerland and Austria have been actively supporting Georgia in preparing the new law through expert consultations, working discussions and study visits abroad. (Agenda.ge)