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Threats and Advantages of Ban on Land Sales

Members of the constitutional commission cannot reach agreement on sales of agriculture land plots to foreign citizens. We remind you that there are several initiatives proposed by Georgian Dream, Democratic Movement and Alliance of Patriots.

Under their bills, transmission of agriculture land plots to foreign citizens and bodies without Georgian citizenship in ownership must be banned. There are various opinions in Georgian political circles concerning sales of lands. A part of politicians thinks that it is categorically unacceptable to sell Georgian agriculture land plots to foreigners, while another part finds nothing hazardous  in similar deals.

Countries with a resource of agriculture land plots always raise special interest. All developed countries with a resource of agriculture land plots have set a strict control over sales of lands. There are two approaches in the world regarding this issue: 1) governments completely restrict sales of agriculture land plots to foreign citizens. For example, Lithuania, where the organic law has banned sales of agriculture land plots. According to another position, governments set conditions that must be satisfied by foreign citizens wishing to buy agriculture land plots. For example, in Austria, sales of landsto foreign citizens is regulated by separate land laws and special licenses.

«Sales of agriculture land plots does not concern constitutional sphere. Land Code should regulate all these aspects. It is inadmissible to sell agricultural land plots in indefinite spaces. Agriculture land plots should be sold for necessary public needs and strategic interests of the country. Nowhere in the world lands are  sold for attracting investments, because this is inadmissible and restricted. Developed countries and major international research centers know very well that similar foreign investments annihilate medium, poor and small farmers», Paata Koghuashvili, expert in agriculture issues, noted.

First of all, we should restore legal status to villages and transform them into territorial units. Involvement of communities in rural development is of crucial importance. Preferential rights for purchase of lands is one of the priorities for agriculture cooperatives and the main thing is Government of Georgia should move to a program financing component, Koghuashvili said.

As to sales of lands to foreigners, we are obliged to admit this through the Code, because Constitutional Court of Georgia has taken a decision that is unjustified and no country has adopted similar decision ever.

In practice, Constitutional Court of Georgia has forged Organic Law of Georgia as if it obliges the Court to legalize sales of lands to foreigners.

«If foreign citizens buy lands, they should be used for agriculture purposes to grow products that will fully correspond to social-economic development of Georgia and food safety interests of Georgia. Organic Law of a high-developed democratic country directly reads that it is absolutely unacceptable and restricted to trust land issues to indefinite games of free forces and  separate individuals», Paata Koghuashvili noted.

Otar Khupenia, president of Social Equality Center told the Banks&Finances newspaper that the land does not belong to only one generation and it is inadmissible to sell it at unreasonably low tariffs.

«We should have  established valuable market institutions to ensure reasonable sales of our agriculture lands. Since we have no exchange, it is impossible to sell agriculture lands. Despite all these aspects, we cannot avoid sales of agriculture land plots amid free economy, but we should be based on experience that is practiced worldwide. There are many countries that practice strictest regulations around agriculture land plots», Otar Khupenia said. Giorgi Gakharia has also made comments over sales of lands to foreign citizens. He asserts that sales of land plots should not be banned by organic law. At the same time, he noted that the mentioned issue should be regulated to a certain degree.

«Our position is that land, as a key asset, must be maximally used efficiently in economic activities. All of us know very well that there are various approaches: a little bit strict, more liberal, left-wing, right-wing and so on. We want that land plots be efficiently used in economy. Even amid restrictions, there were certain instruments and the Government had discretion  to issue permits to foreign owners in case of economic expediency. I believe this process will be continued», Gakharia said. Beka Natsvlishvili, secretary of parliament faction of Georgian Dream – Social-Democrats, states that under constitutional amendments, restrictions will be introduced on sales of land to foreign citizens:

«I believe lands should not be sold to foreigners. Only exceptional cases may be permitted, when it is unreasonable to refuse huge benefits, based on state interests. In all other cases, naturally, sales of lands to foreigners is inadmissible, because our citizens have  not fully employed potential of our land resources. We have to perform serious job in agriculture sector».

I do not know the final version of the constitutional bill, but I know the pathos of this issue, Natsvlishvili said.

«According to my information, the bill admits possibility of land sales in exceptional cases, but similar exceptional cases will be limited considerably», Natsvlishvili noted.

We remind you that meetings as part of the third phase will be held in constitutional commission  in the midst of this month. In this period the commission will submit a bill of amendments to the State Organic Law.