Current Situation in Kutatisi and Georgia  

Madonna Megrelishvili, Chair of Kutaisi-Newport Associtation   

The city of Kutaisi in West Georgia is the second biggest one in the country. The population of Kutaisi is about 160 000. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union the city was the largest industrial centre of the Republic of Georgia. In that period the city had four important industrial sites, famous in the Soviet Union and scores of industrial units of local significance. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the conditions of political instability (internal wars on the territories of South Osetia and Abkhazia, the forcible changes of government) developed in Georgia. No one had time to think about the Instrument which could adjust the heritage of Soviet planned economy lo the new reality, free market economy. Consequently up lo present day aforementioned industrial enterprises are ruined and are still not functioning, which costs Kutaisi the loss of numerous working places. Nowadays the city, once a first industrial centre of the country has lost its main industrial function.

But historically the city has also always had cultural and educational functions, which are not less significant. The functions have been more or less preserved in the city. There are two state universities in the city, which have a quite high ranking on the country scope. Higher education is available not only for the youth coming from the nearby districts but also for the applicants different regions of Western Georgia, so in this respect it can be said that the city is preserving the position of the second educational centre in Georgia up to this day.

The city of Kutaisi is also an important administrative centre. The most populated city after Tbilisi, it is also an administrative centre of the Imereti Region, the second biggest region in Georgia after Kakheti (excluding the autonomous republics and the territory of self-proclaimed South Osetia).

The Imereti region includes 12 territorial unils (Kutaisi, Tskhallubo, Samtredia, Bagdati, Vani, , Kharagauli, Zestafoni, Sachkhere, Chiatura, Tkubuli, Terjola and Khoni Disticts). It borders on the following'regions: Adjara, Guria, Samegrelo, Racha,, Rechkhumi, South Osetia, - Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti. It is worth mentioning that there is no other region in Georgia neighboring with so many regions. So Imereti and its main city Kulaisi are the most significant geographical centre in Western Georgia. It was chiefly due to it that from the 19th Century till 1917 Kutaisi served as territorial and administrative centre of Western Georgia including Abkhazia, Kutaisi Province of that time.

Varying relief of Georgia caused the development of a number of subcultures having different . customs and traditions in spite of territorial proximity. Thus Imeretians are normally known as particularly hospitable, tolerant, sensible and diplomatic.

Until the 80s of the last Century Orthodox and Catholic churches as well Jewish synagogue were located in the same area of the city just 50 meters apart. Before the 1980s of the 20th Century there were a lot of Jews living in the city, who later immigrated to Israel. Before the second annexation of Georgia by Soviet Russia (23th February, 1921), the significant part of the population (1/6) were the Catholics.

The strengthening of the administrative function of the city was encouraged by the recently legislative amendment adopted by Georgian Parliament, under which the Court of Appeal in Adjara was cancelled and Kulaisi Appeal Court became the only Court of this kind in Western Georgia.

The city and its surroundings contain important historic monuments. Two of them- the Bagrati / Cathedral (1003), and Gelati Monastery Complex (1106) have been introduced  into UNESCO's

Protection Fund of Cultural Heritage Monuments. Well-preserved imprints of dinosaurs' feet were found in the vicinity of Kutaisi as well as a settlement of the primitive man with his work and battle tools. All these is a good potential for developing tourism in the city, which at present and is still at its initial stage.

            In post-revolutionary Kutaisi new motor-roads and inner-city local roads have been and are being repaired. There has been 7% increase in the city budget which as compared against the period before the Rose Revolution has doubled. The electricity supply of the population is gradually improving, business activity has become more brisk, three buildings are being constructed, a reconstructed entertainment center meeting modern Standard has started functioning, This is not much for the city development, but after 15 years of Stagnation it seems significant.

A complex process of privatization of important state-owned properties is under way. It will probably have a positive effect on the development of local economy. Notably is that compared to Tbilisi the cost of per kilowatt electricity in Kutaisi is 1.7 cent less than in Tbilisi, which is one of the stimulating factors for business development if providing energy supply is stable.

There is one local television in the city, which mainly functions at the expense of the city government Orders and is not market orientated.

The Situation is somewhat balanced by the local printed media, represented by about 10 local newspapers. However, relatively leading positions are held by only four of them. Newspapers do not have large circulations because of low financial income of the population. The best of them in good times have a maximum circulation of 3000. Newspapers are mainly distributed with circulations of 1000-2000 in Imereti which is too little for a city with a population of 160 000.

Consequently, the income of printed media is small and so is the degree of the independence of the newspapers. Only two leading newspapers, which can function mainly thanks of grants of foreign donor organizations are relatively independent, the other two due to ignoring the norms of journalistic ethics manage to survive. The newspapers to some extent highlight the events taking place in the city, however the information they publish can't be considered sufficient.

There are two radio broadcasts functioning in Kutaisi, one of them systematically highlights news and occasionally periodically has cognitive and analytical programs. The other. more entertaining is popular with teenagers and students. The radio is less political, however several NGOs often use radio as a means of contacting the population.

There is a number local, international and Tbilisi NGOs in the city. Surprisingly. that they exceed the number of business organizations. Local -NGOs are distinguished with less effectiveness. The position of the leading organizations is occupied by the third category of NGOs. They work in different spheres of social life and in some cases have an important influence on the decisions made by the local self-government bodies. The powerful NGÖ activists often hold high positions in state or self-government organizations which usually causes a negative response of the local population.

1. In order to study the activities of democratic institutions and share their experience the Kutaisi-Newport International Association carried out the following projects:

1.                   The visits of the leaders of the local self-government and Imereti Regional Administrative officials to Newport (2002, 2004).  

2.       To develop the skills for further development of the European technologies of democratic governing of the city and the region.  

3.       Equipment of the local educational System (universities, Colleges, lycees, schools) with modern literature on human rights and democracy.

4.      The foundation of a library without extra expenses for the university instructors and students in order to get acquainted with modern European literature in the area they are interested in.

5.     The publication of the Journal The Land of Colchi by the Kutaisi-Newport International Association, highlighting Kutaisi-Newport and Georgian-British collaboration and integration processes.

6.               Organization of Seminars and trainings on administrative, self-governing, NGO and business management problems with help of European experts.

7.               Students' postgraduate studies at the University of Wales, Newport (UWN) in the areas essential for the city: energy sector management, business administration, IT management, Computer graphics and design, etc


2. The accomplished projects concerning self-governance are the following:


1.       15 representatives of Kutaisi self-government were trained on some judicial issues by the Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia in 2004.

2.       Association of Young Economists of Georgia with the help of Kutaisi self-government accomplished a short-term project of defining the town strategy in 2004. It was financed from the self-government budget 9000 GEL (4171 EU). The document The Plan of Kutaisi Strategic development was created as a result of the project. In spite of the self-government participation in the project, no attempts were made lo accomplish it. The document is not certain to be very academic. 1t was worked out without the assistance of experts and opposed to the law in some aspects, though it was the first case when the government tried to shift from ineffective governing to Strategic planning.

3.       Some non-governmental organizations worked out the project of Cultural Development of the Town. The local government allocated 3000 GEL (1390 EU). But the project wasn't paid much attention to.

4.       Taking into account the monitoring of effective usage of 2004-2005 budget a group of non-governmental organizations worked out a project of monitoring the 2005 budget. Only a six-month monitoring of 2005 was published, as the financial and economical team of the town in 2004 included some authors of the project who avoided criticizing themselves.

5.       Monitoring of local elections was held by the Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia. in2005.

6.       The project of training election observers for 2003 elections according to the Electoral Law of Georgia was organized by the Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia.

7.       Local democracy development group arranged 16 Civic Centre meetings in Imereti and Racha region for local self-government representatives. 180 persons participated in 154 consultations. But consultations for the population of Western Georgian villages are not held on regular basis.

8.       Under the project Women's Rights Protection, the Women Rights group arranged field visits in Imereti, Racha, Lechkhumi and Samegrelo regions on following issues;

ˇ     Women's rights in Georgian legislation

ˇ     Trafficking

ˇ     Gender violence

Meetings in the Civic Centre were arranged for teachers and pupils of secondary schools. Members of the same group participated in various trainings and Civic Centre meetings on Women's Rights. 15 trainings were conducted on women's, children's and recruits rights. 266 interested persons participated in them.

9.       The project of monitoring the effective usage of the 2005-2006 State Governor Fund has been worked out by the^ Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia.

10.   The Local UNDP Office has completed the process of involving all the public structures
in local net. The local UNDP office finances the Internet service of Kutaisi self-
governing body and regional administration.

Some NGOs accomplish the projects on transparency of governmental activities. The main drawback of NGOs in Kutaisi is the lack of qualifications of some members of the staff in current municipal governing issues, The local NGOs don't have a sufficient number of social experts with certain experience. Sometimes they are like the government they criticize defining the objectives for a grant from donor organizations instead of concentrating on the problems of local society. It is noteworthy, that the process of expenditure for relating purposes of the local self-government budget is much more transparent nowadays than it used to be.

The thing Kutaisi lacks most of all at present is an efficient local self-government. In order to describe self-government in Kutaisi it is advisable to analyze the Georgian legislation about local self-government and respectively the current Situation throughout the country, as it is clear that Kutaisi self-government has to function in the same circumstances as it is in the \\hole country. 

In 1997 organic law On Local Self-Government and the Local Government was passed. in accordance with the new law Sakrebulo (the City Council) - representative body of the local government was elected in 1998. It had the authority to pass the local budget. However, the Ministry of Finance still determined the main parameters of local income and expenditure. Thus, the function of Sakrebulo was factually limited to confirming initiatives suggested by the state organs which were considered obligatory. The main disadvantage of the aw at that point was that the Mayor (the highest official in the city) was appointed by the President. Besides, under the law the executive branch was a section of the state {not of the local) government with the legally delegated authority to fulfill the executive functions of the local self-government. The state and the local government properties and finances had not been delimited and this resulted in mere declarative nature of the self-government. In reality the self-government organs were a structural subsection of the central government bodies both according to the law and to the actual state of affairs. Consequently, they could not ensure the consideration the interests of local population.

In 1999-2001 considerable changes were introduced into the organic law On Local Self-government and the Local Government. The mayor was now elective and the local government in its essence became an executive branch of the self-government. An important improvement in the law was delimitation of local self-government and state, and determination of their relationship based on cooperation and partnership. The law now separated the authority of the local government and self-government. The local self-government was granted exclusive and administrative authority. The law introduced two forms of handing over state functions to the local self-government: by law and by agreement. The above-mentioned changes were obviously progressive. However certain weaknesses still remain. Mayors were not elective in all self-governing units (In Tbilisi and Poti mayors were appointed by the President under -the law). Cities (Kutaisi. Tbiiisi, Batumi, Poti, Rustavi) had the delegate functions of the local governing, i.e. state functions, but the law did not take into consideration the conditions of the delegation.                                   

       To carry out the delegate functions properly the law envisaged the handover of the purposeful transfer to the local budget. However the law did not state at all the cases in which the local self-government had the right to refuse to carry out the delegate functions if the government did not fulfill its ones (delegate functions) fully or partially.

According to the changes the functions of the self-governing bodies became the use and management of the local property (sale, rent, lease, etc.) though there was no law on differentiating the local and the state properties. The local authorities were given the right to adopt the local taxes (the legal rents). In fact these local taxes and the accumulated amount of the self-governing bodies were defined by this percentage.

These changes took place in 2002, when the election of the local authority was held for the second time. The current term of the local self-sovereign" bodies will be over in summer 2006. 

After the Rose Revolution a new law on the property of the self-governing body was adopted. It helped to solve the problem of property differentiation. However, the other problems have not been solved yet. The priority of the state in the field of self-governing is the realization of the delegate functions locally without proper financial resources, allotted by the state.

Self-governing bodies spent 80-85% of the budget on carrying out the delegate functions which leaves very little finance for exclusive functions. In most cases the representatives of the central governmental bodies don't seem very competent in the essence of self-governing, considering that the purpose of self-governing bodies is the transition to the non-transferable budget. For example, the state to the city of Poti, which has a great deal of income, does not receive any transfer from the government.

: The budget of the self-governing bodies is formed from the income received from the local properties. But it does not guarantee the financial independence of the body. The delegate and exclusive functions were greatly mixed in the post-revolutionary period. The state is financing the local authority for repairing roads and facades (exclusive responsibility), while health programs financing is not taken into account and they are financed from the poor local budget.

The regional unit of the state authority still maintains for the purpose of limiting independence of small self-governing bodies. The Governor Institution still exists, though its functions are not quite clear. But it is evident that it has great influence on the important decision-making. Factually, it is the Governor who makes the last decision. Above all the Governor selects the staff for higher positions in the governing local bodies. A good example of it is Kutaisi where three Governors have already been replaced in last two years which was followed by the changes in the Civic Centre. The regulation concerning relations between the mayor's office and the City Council of Tbilisi is very important, as it fully reflects the attitude of the state to the self-governing. Institution. Due of the obstacles in the development of local self-governing in Georgia is insufficient knowledge of this subject among the state and the local public figures. The government servants suppose that the financial-budget and economical independence of self-governing bodies will badly influence general national state politics. The local self-government representatives cannot make any independent decisions concerning important personnel, budget, social and economical issues and in most cases, they take into consideration the opinions of the State Governor, the chairperson of the local governmental party, or the staff of the presidential office. The decisions made by the authorities of local self-government are never based on up-to-date problems, and mainly represent the ambitions of state and local eminent figures. Therefore local politics is inadequate to local needs.

In most cases the local authorities are not aware of the current Situation in the country. They can't analyze the importance of state privatization. As they say if everything is sold what is left to be ruled? They don't realize the principles of the free market economy. the rote of the public sector in the free economic conditions. Besides they don't have energy and gas distribution under control, they even can't phone anywhere to supply the light or gas a certain district when it is extremely necessary. They are used to such governing methods and feel awkward without acknowledging their function in present-day life thus becoming a target of irony for local population.

On October 26, 2004 the Parliament of Georgia ratified the European Charter on the Local Government which defines basic principles for the development of local democracy and  self-government. Virtually, self-government has been realized in Georgia. But models are to be worked out to bring the Georgian legislation on a part with the European one and to meet the requirements of the European Charter. New forms of government are especially necessary for the cities not included in any district, namely for Kutaisi, Tbilisi, Poti, Batumi, Gori and Rustavi. Political, administrative and financial decentralization is essential in self-governing of cities, towns and villages. Unfortunately, the legislative vacuum in defining the power of the local authorities and financial independence significantly hindered the full implementation of the self-government Institution in Georgian state System. Due to this and other objective and subjective reasons the local government could not become an available public institution for the citizens, and what is more, its inactivity almost discredited even the idea of self-government. In fact, not a single authority of Georgia showed eagerness to change the Soviet, vertical governing style by the effective decentralized governing. The implementation of the reform in this sphere should be supported not only by the authorities of the country but also by NGOs and the whole civic society.

Nowadays the regulations of Kutaisi Civic Centre government most of all confines municipal power and increases responsibility means of its realization if it is not considered.

It grants the local institutions only the rights and not responsibilities. The Statement of local
administrative organ violates the course taken by the state towards decentralization. The latter better
than anything else reflects need of the society. The course of the existing Statement tends to lead to
centralization, which affects the development of local democracy, civil society and the formation of
effective government.

In order to analyze the administrative and self-governing legislation it is better to focus on several sides of the issue, such as - political, financial, property and institutional aspects. Unfortunately for several years the main accent was mainly made on narrow political issues, like the elections of some authorities or the regulations concerning the Sakrebulo (City Council). Less attention was drawn to such fundamental issues as: the functions of the self-governing bodies, finances, properties etc.

The local self-government is based on the participation of the population in its work and it is a kind of Agreement between the government and the people, where bilateral rights and responsibilities are revealed. In particular the local population has the right to:

ˇ       have good administration

ˇ       get information on the resolutions

ˇ       take part in the process of formation of local policy. On the other hand the local administration is obliged:

ˇ       to provide good administration of population

ˇ       to provide effective service

ˇ       to be transparent and accountable.

The European Charter on the Local Government is one of the fundamental international. Statements determining the main principles for the development of local democracy and self-governing. According to the Charter the local self-government bodies constitute one of the bases of any democratic. System, and points out that the existence of the local self-government with actual authority guarantees effective administration. The administration meeting the interests of close people is the base of democracy. And it is best achievable on the municipal level of administration. Article 3 of the European Charter on Local Government dealing with local self-governing concept states: the local self-government implies the right and actual capacity of the local self-governing bodies to balance the significant part of state affairs and control them within the limits of the law under its responsibility and taking into account the needs of local population.

To create the actual self-government the legislative amendments should be made on the one hand and on the other hand, it is also necessary to expand general knowledge of self-governing.

To make the legislation amendments it is necessary to analyze the Standard acts regulating the
self-government (laws, Presidents" resolutions and the resolutions of the government of Georgia),
perform their comparative analysis with analogous legal norms of European states. The initiative
package of the necessary legislative amendments should be outlined and introduced to the society and
the representatives of the civil sector. Simultaneously it is necessary to raise the knowledge of people
working or willing to work in the self-governing structures.