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Constitutional Amendment for Planned New City Lazika Endorsed

Parliament passed with its first reading on June 12 constitutional amendment according to which lawmakers will have to adopt an organic law to define special status of planned new city, Lazika, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.

The law, defining the status of yet to be built city, is not yet developed; but according to public statements of President Saakashvili and other officials, the special status would imply “special form of governance, special jurisdiction for civil adjudications in order to make this place especially attractive for investments.”

During the discussions opposition lawmakers pressed in vain Deputy Justice Minister Dimitri Dzagnidze, who presented the constitutional amendment, to provide specific details of the project, including its plan and finances.

“Actually we do not know what we are discussing now,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze of Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM), said, adding that without having any specific plan there was nothing to discuss. “No one was able to explain to me what we are talking about.”

“We know very well what we are doing. We are creating thousands of new jobs,” MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling party responded, adding that special status would create incentives for private investments in building of the new city.

Deputy Justice Minister, Dimitri Dzagnidze, told lawmakers that the special status for Lazika would entail creating of “a territorial entity with high degree of self-governance”, which would have “attractive taxation system.”

CDM leader, MP Giorgi Targamadze, said that construction of new city was unreasonable, while many other existing towns, including nearby port town of Poti, remained “neglected”.

He said that the plan to build new city was “yet another whim” of President Saakashvili and told the ruling party lawmakers to think about naming the new city ‘Mishapolis’ or ‘Mishaburg’ instead of Lazika.

When speaking about planned new city, President Saakashvili said in December, 2011 that “about 1-1.5 billion Lari” investment was required at the initial stage for the city to be built.

“In next four years we will spend about 200 million and the rest I think [will be filled] by private investments,” Saakashvili said in December. “I am very optimistic. This city is not a whim. In the condition when 45% of our population lives in rural areas, we now need new urban centers for resettlement of these people and for their employment.”

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