Among more than 200 Local Economic Development Plans, which have been elaborated by the M4EG Signatories and approved through the technical review by the World Bank, one document stands out, and is worth studying a little closer.
It is the Local Economic Development Plan which was designed and adopted for implementation by Keda, Khulo, and Suakhevi Municipalities, in the autonomous Republic of Adjara, Georgia. It’s the first and only intermunicipal Local Economic Development Plan submitted to the M4EG Secretariat to date.
All the municipalities in question are adjoining and are assigned “high mountainous” status. This means they face more development challenges than an average municipality in Georgia, but it also provides them with some benefits under the Law of Georgia on the Development of High Mountainous Regions. Apart from being eligible for national support, these municipalities are also recipients of considerable funds, allocated by the government of the Autonomous Region of Adjara for supporting local economic development.
Keda Municipality was the first to join Mayors for Economic Growth in October 2018. The decision to make such a commitment probably came a bit easier for the municipal administration, as at that time there was an already operating project funded by European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD), focused on Rural Development. Within the framework of the programme, the Keda Local Action Group, international NGO CENN, and the Institute of Democracy (IOD) were able to provide support to the municipality and facilitated its planning efforts.
Four months later, Khulo and Shuakhevi Municipalities also joined the Initiative almost simultaneously.
The municipalities started off by creating their own Local Economic Development Partnerships, and launching separate consultative processes. As the representatives of the three working groups testified later, it turned out that the geography, composition of the local economy, development challenges and priorities of the three municipalities were so similar, that cooperating in the development area seemed a natural solution.
Thus, the three working groups collaborated to discuss and work on a common strategic development document, and invited the representatives of the regional government to participate. Reaching a consensus on the main areas of cooperation and potential solutions proved to be fairly smooth and easy. The three main objectives of the joint Plan of Action were stated as follows:
As early October 1, 2019, the draft joint LED Plan was presented to the broad audience at a dedicated event which took place in Batumi, the regional capital. Representatives from each of the respective municipalities took turns to present the key provisions of the Plan, which was an impressive manifestation of joint ownership and cooperation. Deputy Mayors from each of the three municipalities were also present at the event, reiterating the commitment of the concerned local administrations to make this joint LED Plan work. After the presentation of the Plan and the following discussions (which were mainly commending the authors for the interesting initiative and their cooperation efforts), the draft LEDP document was circulated among the stakeholders for comments. After completing this final round of consultations, the document was finalised, translated into English, and submitted for official evaluation.
In January 2020, it was officially approved by the World Bank’s technical review, and is currently being implemented.