|Georgia—Parliament on the Move?|
|June 24, 2011|
By Giorgi Lomsadze
Georgia’s legislature is getting ready to quit the capital Tbilisi. If all goes according to plan, the new legislative seat will soon become Georgia’s second city, Kutaisi.
The Georgian parliament gave its preliminary endorsement  June 21 to the relocation plan. If the measure wins final approval from lawmakers, the move will occur in 2012. Construction has already begun on a $34-million legislative complex in Kutaisi, some 220 kilometers to the west of Tbilisi.
Some observers are still scratching their heads over what to make of this legislative migration. Officials in the executive branch, which will stay behind in Tbilisi, say the move aims to invigorate the local economy in struggling Kutaisi, as well as ease the pressure on infrastructure in “overloaded” Tbilisi. President Mikheil Saakashvili wants Georgia to have three major centers -- Kutaisi, the legislative capital, Batumi, the commercial capital and Tbilisi, the executive center.
Having a parliament in town could indeed be a boon  for hotels and restaurants in Kutaisi. But critics say the move would create a huge and unnecessary expense at a time when Georgia is still struggling to recover from the global financial crisis.
If the move takes place, it is unclear what would become of the embattled parliament building in Tbilisi. While a new, Spanish-designed futuristic building awaits lawmakers in Kutaisi, it is rumored that the parliament building could undergo condo conversion. The government so far has not confirmed rumors of privatization plans.
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