“The issue of self-government is one of the crucial issues of our future. If we want democracy, Europeanism and a strong state, we need strong regions - there won't be strong regions and there won't be a strong state, strong Georgia!” - President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili said when she opened the Georgian local self-government platform – an international conference on Efficiency and Challenges of Local Self-Government in Georgia and addressed the Polish, American, Canadian and Israeli guests.
According to her, in order for the region to be strong, self-government should be real, put into practice and not remain only as a good legal framework and strategy.
"The issue of self-government is one of the crucial issues for our future. If we want democracy, Europeanism and a strong state, we need strong regions. This is a situation we cannot escape from. If there are no strong regions, there will be no strong state, strong Georgia! Greater attention to regions - this has been one of my top priorities since day one, but attention alone is not enough.
In order for the region to be strong, self-government must be real, put into practice, and not just a good legal framework and strategy. A lot has been done in this direction, but most importantly, the region should be self-governing in practice, the municipality should be self-governing, which requires several preconditions, but if we do not do this, we will not be able to return to our traditional arrangement.
Georgia was strong when self-governing units (it was not called self-governing back then) were strong and were together. This unity, self-government and their independence is our niche. This arrangement of our state was broken by the Soviet system, which moved us to an ultra-centralized system and thereby destroyed what was the foundation of our strength, which we must return to. We have the basis of this: we adopted the Self-Government Code, but not everything has been fulfilled yet; We adopted the decentralization strategy, which needs to be implemented in three main directions - everything starts and ends with finances. If there is no new distribution of income, there will be no self-government either, because it will not have the resources to implement its own decisions. Therefore, we should go further in this direction. In many countries, there are examples of how resources should be allocated to make authoritarianism a reality.
The second is the issue of transfer of property to self-governments, which is also written in the new code, but has not yet been fully implemented, and this is one of the foundations of the strength and new opportunities of the municipalities.
And the third is the issue of citizens' involvement in the decision-making process and budget allocation, which is also very important. This has also started, this practice has already been introduced in several municipalities. In some places on a very small scale, in others a little more seriously, but this still only covers projects such as parks, sculptures, etc. There is no citizen's full involvement in the processes that has become a true partner of the self-government. The steps to be taken towards this require everyone's involvement. So, there is a lot to do," said the President.
The platform is organized by the Solidarity Fund PL (SFPL) branch in Georgia and the Georgia Financiers Association of Local Self-governing Units (GFA).
Representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development of Georgia took part in the event.
The participants of the conference discussed the best strategies for effective management of local problems and the best international practices.
The main task of the platform is to assign priority strategies to Georgia's self-government bodies, which will allow them to better serve their citizens, improve sustainability and better guide the collective vision of local self-governance in Georgia. In addition, the platform aims to transfer financial and budgetary SOPs to local self-governing units.