Thu | May 25, 2017

New policy tabled to guide gov't land divestment

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 2:00 AM

The Government has made changes to its land-divestment policy following long-standing concerns about the lack of transparency in the sale of State-owned lands.

On Thursday, a policy document setting out a new framework to guide the process was tabled in Parliament.

The Office of the Contractor General previously expressed concerns about the process of divesting Crown lands and had suggested that State-owned lands be awarded on the basis of competitiveness, impartiality, and merit.

In particular, concerns had been raised about the multiplicity of standards used by government agencies, as well as inadequate transparency in the divestment process.

The Ministry of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change on Thursday tabled the Government's land-divestment policy document in the House of Representatives.

According to the ministry, the new policy is built on the guiding principles of transparency, equity, sustainable land utilisation and management, and the use of the divestment process to build social and economic capital.

The policy framework sets out the pricing policies and purposes for divestment.

As part of its new policy arrangement, the Government will divest land to promote economic and infrastructural development, to promote social capital formation, and for the preservation of natural resources and the environment.

All properties for divestment shall be advertised with the exception of those that are being sold to another government entity.

Competition for parcels of land within land-settlement schemes shall be restricted to persons within the community.

Another critical aspect of the new policy is that the Government shall ensure that the divested property is optimally utilised, with the divesting entity undertaking periodic reviews of the terms and conditions of leases.

Built-in mechanisms in the divestment process for minimising speculation is another feature of the new policy.

The policy has a built-in evaluation and monitoring component for the divestment process. Entities divesting Government-owned lands shall be required to provide annual reports.