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Statement On The Land Issue By PM Bainimarama

Statement On The Land Issue By PM Voreqe Bainimarama

Over this week, there has been so much said in the media about the Land Issue, particularly on the proposal by one Dr. M. Krishna Murti on the rehabilitation of the Sugar Industry amongst other things through dereservation of native land.

The comments and statements which have been made have as usual attempted to politicise and sensationalise the land issue by selectively highlighting the recommendations of the Krishna Murti Report.

Let me categorically state that there is no formal Government position thus far taken on this Report. The critics and commentators have just focused on belittling the efforts of the Interim Government, which is committed to exploring the best options available for a better utilization of any type of land for the benefit of landowners foremost, the tenants and the economy as a whole.

In this context, the Interim Government has set up a Committee on Better Utilization of Land (CBUL), and its proposal has been adopted in principle by Cabinet at its last meeting. The CBUL was not even aware of the Krishna Murti Report and as such, it never featured in the Committee's deliberations.

To set the record straight, CBUL's recommendation and the Krishna Murti Report are two different matters and should not be confused with Government's intention.

The Interim Government's intention on land is very clear and through the incentive package as recommended by CBUL, landowners should expect more rental income in the future, with an increase in native land rentals to 10% Unimproved Capital Value (UCV).

CBUL's recommendations is a result of its deliberations with the Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB) on the relevance, viability and acceptability or otherwise of NLTB's proposal for incentives to be offered to landowners.

The increase in native land rentals to 10% UCV is to ensure that individual mataqali landowners receive more rental income than what is currently given

The increase however will not impact upon the legislated 6% UCV rental. The stipulated amount will remain with Government to fund the additional 4% through a subsidy for all ALTA leases.

Under the proposed new arrangements, the NLTB will consider waiving the 15% poundage to be charged on the proposed rental subsidy. This will ensure that maximum benefits of the subsidy are to be passed onto the landowners

Lease premiums will be funded from the Farming Assistance Scheme (FAS) administered by the Ministry of Primary Industries. These lease premiums are paid in return for reduced rentals for future years based on valuation, which uses comparables.

The proposed land rental subsidy will be for a period of five years or when the relevant legislation is amended. CBUL has also recommended that the term of native leases be increased from 30 to 50 years. The need to put in place an attractive incentive package that benefits both landowners and tenants is a pressing national issue that needs to be urgently addressed. It is time to put emotions aside and to start looking at issues rationally.

The Interim Government fully recognises the historical, social and cultural significance, which indigenous Fijians place on their customary land. Recognising this and the importance of land for economic development and creation of much needed jobs and income, the Interim Government has come up with a proposal that would accrue more benefits to the landowners, yet fully safeguarding their rights to ownership as entrenched in existing Legislations.

I therefore call upon the media as well as well those who have tried to distort the Interim Governments position on the land issue to create mischief and instability to immediately cease their propaganda. The Interim Government is committed to working closely with the landowners and NLTB in implementing the proposal, which has been developed by CBUL.

ENDS

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