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Land lease rentals to be increased- Harmon

by Gary Eleazar

Investors looking to lease lands for the establishment of industrial sites, agricultural or other domestic purposes will soon have to pay an increased rental fee, as Government is looking to go ahead with a land re-evaluation exercise.

This disclosure was made by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, when he appeared on Wednesday, before the Standing Parliamentary Select Committee on Natural Resources . The meeting which is chaired by opposition Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament, Odinga Lumumba, saw the Minister of State being grilled on the coalition A Partnership for National Unity, Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) government’s policy on Land Titling, Climate Change and Information Communication Technology.

On the matter of the re-evaluation, Harmon told the Committee the administration is looking to put in place a land classification system and “under this component to develop and implement a classification methodology for revision of rental rates, based on assessments of the market value of land.” Harmon told the Committee there is currently an increased demand for lands to be used for, domestic, industrial and other purposes but, “the true value of lands have to be properly ascertained.”

He surmised that existing evaluations would be outdated. “If you look at the price paid for one acre of State land to the Lands and Surveys Commission, then you will understand what I am talking about.”

Harmon suggested,too, that even with extremely low land rates in some areas, several large companies have been failing in their obligations to make their payments to the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission.

This situation, he said, has resulted in difficult financial straits for the Commission. “We have to change that and we have to ensure that the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission is a profitable undertaking and one that can stand on its own feet without having to have too much government intervention,” according to Minister Harmon.

Land Reclamation Unit

In addition to the strengthening of the commission’s information systems and general infrastructure, Minister Harmon said a Land Reclamation Unit will also be put in place for Mining and Forestry.

Committee Chairman, Lumumba, in welcoming the idead of a land reclamation Unit, spoke to the need for efficient enforcement. He pointed out that it is difficult to get companies to reclaim lands it would have already mined out and moved on from.

The Minister of State in acknowledging Lumumba’s concerns, told the Committee, “we need stronger enforcement mechanisms within the Ministry of Natural Resources.” He cited as example the need for more “Forest Rangers to ensure that the company did what they are required to do under the law,” He used the occasion to remind the committee that Substantive Minister with responsibility for the Sector, Raphael Trotman, will be appearing before the body shorty, to elaborate further on the sector.