VT Times, September 17, 2015
The government has set a target to register 100,000 land plots and issue land titles on 60,000 plots in the next fiscal year 2015-16. The target was approved by the cabinet at the government’s monthly meeting for August held late last month at the Government Office in Vientiane. Since the programme to issue land titles began in 1997, it is expected that more than 900,000 land titles will h ave been issued by this fiscal year which finishes at the end of this month, Deputy Director General of the Land Administration Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr. Anothai Chanthalasy said recently.
It is unlikely that the officials in charge will be able to achieve the target set to issue one million titles this year as set by the five-year national socio-economic development plan (2011-2015), he admitted. However, officials have been deployed to the provinces to speed up the issuance of land titles, according to him. Statistics showed that there are 2.6 million land plots in total across the country including those plots whose titles have been issued.
According to procedure, the process to complete issuing a land title for one plot could take about three months. On average, around 160,000 kip is charged as a service fee for issuing a land title to cover basic expenses under the government-funded programme. In an essential case, consideration is also given to a request to issue a land title for a plot which is not located in an area where the government-funded land title issuance programme has been introduced, Mr Anothai said. For example, an individual who needs a land title for business operations, he explained. However, a report also emerged that some individuals have approached officials to provide special services to issue the titles in exchange for bribes. Director General of the Land Administration Department, Mr Siphandone Sihavong spoke to Vientiane Times admitting that some officials had accepted bribes in exchange for special services. He added that some of the officials found guilty have been disciplined.
Issuing the land titles to local people will enhance the ownership of land use rights by local people. Members of the National Assembly (NA) have voiced concern after learning that people, whose land has not been covered by a title deed, have been taken advantage of when investment projects have become involved and affected their land as the compensation paid was unreasonably low. Debating a draft National Land Policy at the fifth ordinary session in July 2013, the NA members recommended full recognition of land use rights of the local people who inherited land from their parents over generations, despite their lands not having been issued with titles. The NA members said it was the officials who were slow in issuing land titles , especially those in rural communities.
The draft National Land Policy, which has still not been approved, recognises the land use rights of the local people who inherited the lands from their parents, despite them being without titles. According to the draft National Land Policy, compensation for those lands taken for commercial projects will be based on market prices, while those whose lands are required for public projects will receive reasonable compensation.
Chairwoman of the NA’s Committee for Economic Planning and Finance Dr. Souvanpheng Bouphanouvong said the core content of the draft National Land Policy has no problem and relevant parties agreed in principle, despite it having not been approved. But the fact that the draft policy has not been approved due to land issues is among the subjects mentioned in the Lao constitution, which is in the process of being amended. This means the constitution must first be approved before the draft policy can enter final debate and be approved. The core content of the draft policy should not be changed, she added.