International Mountain Day Celebration

Regional Development

International Mountain Day Celebration

11 December 2019

 

 

International Mountain Day Celebration took place on 11th of December at Rooms Tbilisi Hotel. The event was organized by the government of Georgia with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the European Union (EU) and Austria, Sweden and Switzerland, under the slogan “#MountainsMatter.”

The aim was to promote public awareness about the challenges that mountain communities face, more specifically, depopulation and underdevelopment, as well as to highlight the contributions of these communities to preserve the natural resources and cultural traditions of Georgia.

“People of the Mountains” awards have been provided to 9 families.  Besik Kharanauli, poet and Natela Grigalashvili, photographer, were also awarded for their work documenting life in Georgia’s highlands.

It was noted that nearly half of settlements in Georgia are in high mountainous areas, but only nine percent of Georgians live in the highlands. The need of improvement of infrastructure and services, increase of level of education and provision of more job opportunities has been highlighted.

In July 2015, Parliament of Georgia adopted a new law on the development of Georgia’s mountain regions which came into force on January 1, 2016. National Agency and Development Fund have been created at the same time. The idea was to encourage people to live and work in the country’s mountainous regions, and to offer greater support to those who do so.

An area was considered mountainous if it was located 1,500m or more above sea level, but in some cases this can be 800m.

Since 2016, high mountain status has been granted to more than 1700 villages and many of them benefitted from different projects.

Since its creation, 86 million GEL have been allocated in the Mountainous Regions Development Fund and agriculture, infrastructure and social projects have been financed. More than 2000 projects have been financed in the scope of Enterprise Georgia. 349 km road rehabilitation has been also mentioned during the ceremony as well as provision of Internet to more than 500 families.

Few examples of benefits provided by the Law:

  • Additional salary for doctors twice as high as the state pension and additional salary for nurses that corresponds to the state pension;
  • 20 percent higher pensions and social support for mountain population;
  • Partial funding of heating costs for the mountain communities during winter and partial funding of electricity costs;
  • 35 percent higher salary for teachers compared to their original salary;
  • Increase by 50 percent for teachers who participate in programs launched by the Ministry of Education;
  • Financial assistance to families for the birth of children.

In addition, the permanent residents of high mountainous settlements (about 300 000 people) enjoy tax privileges in relation to income tax and property tax and business entities having the status of high mountainous settlement enterprise are exempt from taxes under the terms defined by the Tax Code of Georgia. Already, more than 20 000 people and about 300 companies benefited from this regulation.

A strategy for development of high mountainous regions for 2019-2023 has been elaborated by the government of Georgia with support from UNDP, Switzerland and Austria, aiming to promote sustainable development, social support and access to services, with new funding of GEL 700 million (USD 240 million).

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