Moratorium on Lands Sale
25 July, 2013
Moratorium on Lands Sale
A moratorium is imposed on sale of agricultural lands in Georgia to foreign firms and citizens until the end of 2014. Due legal framework, regulating land divesture issues in the country, will be shaped out meantime. International Transparency Georgia finds the moratorium controversial to Georgian constitution and decision of constitutional court of Georgia admitting divesture of agriculture lands to foreign citizens a year ago. Part of sector pundits argues any decision of parliament is legal although some believe moratorium is
not a solution but just a delay of the problem and appeal for settling the issue through economic tools.
The decision of Georgian constitutional court made past June that made available divesture of agriculture lands to foreign citizens in Georgia is suspended for around a year and a half after persisting outcry of civil society and farmers who lost their living bread as an aftermath of this permission. The moratorium has already entered into effect. The new law also requires of Georgian government to work out a united state policy on agriculture lands possession and disposal as well as organization of the united system of lands’ cadastre and arrangement in order to regulate lands, privatization and disposal issues to locals and foreign proprietors alike. The recent restrictions never cover the already acquired lands [by foreigners] or divesture of non-agriculture lands on foreign citizens. The bill on moratorium envisaged a halt on lands sale until the end of 2017 however the term was cut to the end-2014 eventually.
The issue of putting moratorium on lands became acute after rural population completely dependent on agriculture activity appealed new government to hand them back the pastures and arable lands sold by the previous authorities to foreign investors thus depriving farmers of their single living source. The protestation tide upsurge particularly after video-shots of Indian-based Crown Immigration company operating in Georgia, touting compatriots to purchase Georgian agriculture lands in Kakheti region, one of the most fertile soils of Georgia, just for nothing. The overwhelming part of Georgian analysts hailed authorities that unrestricted divesture of lands was a crime against own nation and required moratorium until the land regulation will be properly shaped out. According to Paata Koguashvili, an agriculture sector analyst and former MP, no country in the world except Georgia practices such a nonchalant attitude toward land issue as Georgia did. The EU theoretically allows its member-state citizens to purchase lands within the EU space but practically it is almost impossible for multiple preferences [for locals] and requirements. The newly joined EU member-states announced a 10-15-year moratorium and suspended divesture of lands on non-residents completely. Nobody can say how much of Georgian lands are already sold to foreigners for lands registration/cadastre is not implemented since 2004. Speculations suggest 30 thousand hectares (ha) to be in propriety of foreigners. According to economic ministry, 18 700 ha of lands were sold totally in 2011-2012 however the governmental body does not separate local and foreigner proprietors. In February of 2013 new authorities halted the sale of only the state-owned lands until elaboration a land code but appeared reluctant to adopt a moratorium. Finally, it yielded to the public outcry. However, not everyone is happy over the decision. TI Georgia believes the moratorium is anti-constitutional as it infringes the constitutional right of ownership as well as violates the decision of the constitutional court on the one hand, and controversies with the organic law stating that even parliament cannot change the decision of constitutional court. Koghuashvili believes the moratorium is apt even belated and meantime Georgia should adopt new land regulation in full compliance with the democratic countries. Soso Archvadze, an economic analyst, assures any decision of parliament is legal however he considers the moratorium with certain skepticism.
“This is not a solution of the problem, it is just a delay,” He said in the interview to Georgian Journal. “Of course land is a special good, it is a substantial, vital part of the state and it cannot be considered as an object of trade alone. But we should apply economic not administrative tools and artificial restrictions to regulate the issue.” He suggest introduction of a high excise on agriculture lands so as to increase its price and deprive foreign farmers of the appetite. “It is an open secret that [agriculture] lands in Georgia whatever expensive it might seem to local people are extremely cheap compared to other countries. Let’s introduce a land excise for example that will by many-fold exceed the land’s market price, that will enhance the capitalization of lands and cut the appetite of Panjabi farmers for example to sell 1 ha in their country in order to acquire 50 ha in Georgia,” Archvadze said.
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