Vientiane Times: December 25, 2017
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has stressed that the government’s policy on land use should add value to land and benefit everyone in the country.
Mr Thongloun discussed the policy with officials from various sectors and local authorities at a national meeting held last week.
“We must make land generate additional value and provide benefits for the state, every family, and everyone in urban and rural areas,” he said.
Mr Thongloun was referring to the country’s 236,800 square kilometres of land which he said should be used as the basis for social and economic development, stressing that everyone could be its owner, participate in its management and benefit from it.
To this end, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is compiling the National Master Plan on Land Allocation, and preparing amendments to the Land Law.
Mr Thongloun asked that the master plan and changes to the land law be written concurrently, noting that the Land Law must be amended where needed although most of the stipulations it contains are acceptable.
He said the amended law should make it clear whether land belongs to a private company through a concession agreement or to an individual, and that the government has the right to manage all land and monitor its use.
“This is the question we must answer,” Mr Thongloun said.
“After that we must use the land for the right purposes while bringing satisfaction to all people throughout the nation,” he added.
He explained that the existing Land Law had some limitations in bringing about socio-economic development. The law, which prohibits the trade of land, has caused huge losses in state revenue because the government cannot levy fees on the transfer of the right of land possession from one entity to another, as is permitted under the law.
Even though about 200,000 land titles had been issued, the revenue earned from land taxes was less than the taxes earned from utilities and other sectors, the Prime Minister said.
He also mentioned the dishonesty among government officials, individuals and private companies that was commonplace in land deals.
Even though the law stated that people who had left the country a long time ago (the exact time is stipulated in the law) still owned their land, people who had fought for national liberation and were involved in the country’s defence and development lacked space to live.
The prime minister said he had firsthand information about misconduct and wanted everyone to acknowledge the fact and together find a solution.
The three-day meeting chaired by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Sommad Pholsena, agreed that the master plan would aim to restore 70 percent forest cover and provide sufficient land for agriculture to ensure food security. Changes in land use should be made in a centralised manner through the National Assembly and government, with the transfer of management rights to local authorities.
Concerning conservation areas that came under the regulations of other sectors, such as road sites and wetlands, the policy must acknowledge the use of this kind of land as reasonable, but the sectors involved in the management of conservation areas must have regulations for their management and determine the appropriate usage fee.
The meeting agreed that all land plots should have a land title, whether owned by an individual or a private or state organisation.
The ministry asked local authorities to cancel levies on land which contradicted Presidential Decree No. 3, saying that many sectors and local authorities defined levies themselves.
Speaking at the meeting with land officials, provincial deputy governors and district governors, Prime Minister Thongloun explained the government’s plan to carry out reasonable implementation of the National Socio-Economic Development Plan next year.
He said belt-tightening measures would be needed to preserve resources, problems should be resolved more systematically, and government debts paid so that businesses could operate more easily. “2018 must be the year when the government can carry out the National Socio-Economic Development Plan through new mechanisms that ensure transparency and accountability, which will combat corruption, bribery and the concealment of state property,” the prime minister said.