“Instant city” plans in Georgia are said to follow Chinese model

Ellen Barry writes in The New York Times that plans to build an “instant city” in Georgia (the country), hatched by President Mikheil Saakashvili four months ago, seem to be inspired by China’s experience. Saakashvili wants the new city, Lazika, to be the country’s second largest in ten years.

Deputy Minister of Justice Giorgi Vashadze said he found the idea of a “charter city” on the Internet and envisioned the new city as one of these, built by foreign investors and with “distinct regulatory and judicial systems” in which all who come to the city to invest or work enjoy the same rights. It is not clear whether Vashadze envisages such a regime for the new city.

The term “charter city” is currently being championed in poor countries by the libertarian US economist Paul Romer, who defines them as “city-scale special administrative zones.” This is very similar to the declared plans in the new Chinese concessions in northern Laos, and broadly to the special zones advocated by China in Africa. Most recently, the Albanian prime minister proposed a Chinese-invested free zone. According to the NYT article, Georgia is hoping to attract both Western and Chinese investors to Lazika.

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