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Government reforms

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, May 24
The Government of Georgia has decided to merge seven self-governing towns with seven municipalities in order to save budget costs.

The Government claims that state decentralisation did not provide the desired outcome of more development and more investments in the regions, and there was no need to spend the state's money further.

The opposition and NGOs are strongly opposing the initiative, as they believe the consolidation of power in the hands of the central government is harmful.

They stressed the steps taken towards the country’s decentralisation, when local issues and problems are settled by local authorities, must be maintained and strengthened.

The seven self-governing towns are Gori, Zugdidi, Akhaltsikhe, Ambrolauri, Mtskheta, Telavi and Ozurgeti.

The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure has tasked the regional city councils with voting on the change.

In local city councils, where the Georgian Dream ruling team maintains a majority, the initiative is supported.

In Zugdidi, Gori and Telavi, voting has already taken place, where the majority supported the change prior to the October local elections.

In all the cases the sittings were noisy, as the opposition and NGOs attending the voting process were accusing the council members of blindly following the central government’s demands.

The parliamentary opposition has also appealed to the President to name the exact date of the local elections to avoid the merger.

Firstly in 2014, Georgia elected 12 mayors and up to 60 local governors, which was assessed as “unprecedented” and a “ step forward” by then-Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili of the Georgian Dream leadership.

Now the government says the initiative over the merger is “just a technical issue” as mayors and governors have nearly the same executive functions.

Voting in local councils has a recommendation nature and it is up to the government to make the final decision.