Preferences for highlands
13 March, 2014
Preferences for highlands
A project on taxation preferences and subsidizing communal bills in the Georgian highlands is underway. The project aims to alleviate the aggravating problem of migration from the highlands to the lowlands which is devastating the frontier villages of Georgia along its border at the Caucasian Mountains. Vasadze appeals to the Georgian government to set up a special agency or ministry handling the problems in the highland regions. Economic analysts believe zero taxation in
the highlands may boost business there, particularly in the tourism sector as the Caucasian highlands are famous for its captivating landscapes. Its mountain ranges and speedy rivers also offer opportunities for extreme tourism. The Patriarch of Georgian Orthodox Church appealed, in an open letter in January, to the Georgian authorities to think of repatriating the population to the highlands. He believes job creation will be the biggest lure to this purpose. The Patriarch suggests settlement of homeless young people over 18, as well as impoverished families who lost their homes in the devastated mountain village areas. Also convicts who committed lighter offences may serve their duty in the highlands. On 3 March, the charity Fund Mamuli [Fatherland] appealed to the business sector to set up small enterprises in the mountain regions where tens of families leave their villages each year. In particular, out of 250 villages in the Dusheti district, in the western part of the Caucasian highlands, 70 villages are already empty. Only a few kids go to school in the villages that are on the brink of devastation. “There is no medical service, public transport or communication means in the highland regions. Due to poverty and destitution, a small child died in the village of Shuapkho,” Mamuli representatives say. “Unemployment is the major problem which forces inhabitants to leave their houses.”The idea of helping the Georgian highlands derived from the first ever conference dedicated to the mountain region problems held last January. According to statistics of 2002, 164 villages in the Georgian highlands are completely empty and ruined while less than ten families are residing in 152 villages. The situation is lamentable at the border line which is completely desolated.  As Gia Zhorzholiani, Deputy head of the Regional Policy and Self-Governance Committee at Parliament, is reported by Georgian media, the Committee collaborates with Levan Vasadze, one of the co-founders of the Demographic Restoration Fund, also with several organizations including the Council of Experts and Academy of Sciences of Georgia, to work out a bill on taxation preferences and state allowances subsidizing communal bills. The bill is expected to be ready by this fall and put under review, however details on the projected privileges are not disclosed as of yet.
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