Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Policy makers explore measures to contain land occupation

Vientiane Times, 1 August, 2013

Policy makers have suggested tax increases and land occupation restrictions in order to constrain occupation of large scale of lands. The suggestion was made in the drafted National Land Policy, which was tabled at the 5th ordinary session of the National Assembly (NA)’s seventh legislature, which closed on Friday.

During the session, the law makers shared ideas to further develop the draft. During the debate it was noted that many, notably rich and influential figures have occupied considerably large areas of land. Under the draft policy, individual Lao nationals, joint venture enterprises between Lao and foreign investors and foreigners are not allowed to own land use rights to more than an appropriate area of land.

The government is required to define measures for indentifying the appropriate size of agricultural plots and residential areas, so that parties cannot own usage rights to more land than is deemed appropriate. Under the draft, the government is required to formulate regulations and measures to restrict land occupation so that the eligible parties do not occupy more land than they are allowed.

Two options were offered by the policy makers in an effort to constrain land occupation, according to the drafted policy. Under one scenario, those who already own land use rights greater than the area they are allowed to will be required to transfer land use rights to the surplus area to eligible relatives and parties. The second option states that in cases where the holders of excess land use rights wish to retain the surplus land, they are required to pay a higher rate of land tax, similar to the graduated scale for electricity charges, where the more you consume the more you pay per unit.

In case the holders of land use rights fail to follow one of the two aforementioned options within three years, land use rights to the surplus area will fall into state ownership, according to the draft. The NA’s members welcomed the draft land policy. Many said several rich individuals have occupied land without making use of or developing it, but just occupy it for future commercial interest driven by increasing market demand. Foreign investors are permitted to purchase land use rights in Laos for building residences and enterprises under the condition that the government allocate an appropriate area in accordance with the amount of investment capital and the length of the concession.

However the land use rights owned by investors will be valid for 50 years, with an extension of 40 years possible, according to the draft. The draft policy will be put out for public comment before being resubmitted to parliament for debate and eventual approval at a later date.

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