Min­is­ter urges re­turn of un­used state land

The Myanmar Times - - News - THIT NAY MOE news­room@mm­times.com

SIX thou­sand peo­ple were handed con­trol of nearly 5 mil­lion acres of land by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, in­dus­tri­al­ists heard at a meet­ing with se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­ness lead­ers. And now it’s time for the gov­ern­ment to take some of that land back, ac­cord­ing to the Union min­is­ter for plan­ning and fi­nance.

At the Oc­to­ber 22 Myan­mar En­trepreneur­ship Sum­mit in Nay Pyi Taw, Plan­ning Min­is­ter U Kyaw Win said the for­mer gov­ern­ment had handed over nearly 4.8 mil­lion acres (1.92 mil­lion hectares) to about 6000 ben­e­fi­cia­ries, sup­pos­edly for devel­op­ment pur­poses. In fact, much of the land re­mained un­used, and has be­come the fo­cus of dis­putes that have fes­tered to this day.

Ques­tion­ing how much value was be­ing pro­duced on the give-away land, U Kyaw Win said, “If state-owned pos­ses­sions are to ben­e­fit the whole coun­try, a sin­gle acre can be as prof­itable as a 10-acre plot.” The land in ques­tion was cat­e­gorised as va­cant, vir­gin or fal­low.

“We should learn from past ex­pe­ri­ence when rights are given to en­trepreneurs, cor­rect the faults and move for­ward,” he said.

En­tre­pre­neur U Myat Thin Aung urged the gov­ern­ment to claw back land that was not be­ing put to pro­duc­tive use.

“This land should be con­fis­cated from peo­ple who have failed to use it for busi­ness, and given to oth­ers. If 2000 acres was given away and only 200 of that is be­ing used pro­duc­tively, the rest of the land should be given back,” he said, adding that the coun­try’s devel­op­ment would slow un­less its as­sets were used more pro­duc­tively.

Land dis­putes have long plagued the gov­ern­ment, prov­ing a seem­ingly in­tractable prob­lem in­volv­ing ar­chaic laws, a lack of or­gan­ised own­er­ship doc­u­ments and, in many cases, mil­i­tary in­ter­ests. Thou­sands of cases of land grabs have been re­ported to the var­i­ous gov­ern­ment com­mit­tees set up to re­solve them, with most in­volv­ing lo­cal famers. The con­tested own­er­ship and in­her­ent le­gal com­pli­ca­tions stand as an enor­mous bar­rier to for­eign in­vestors not want­ing to be­come en­tan­gled in such du­bi­ous fights.

The en­trepreneurs at the Oc­to­ber 22 meet­ing told State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that high land prices were de­ter­ring for­eign in­vest­ment, and that dis­putes were rife be­tween lo­cal res­i­dents and com­pa­nies that had taken over the land.

The plan­ning and fi­nance min­is­ter also di­vulged heavy losses sus­tained by state-owned en­ter­prises over the past five years, in­clud­ing more than K154 bil­lion (US$120 mil­lion) lost by the three sec­tions of the Min­istry of In­dus­try. The pe­riod is equiv­a­lent to the term of of­fice of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. Min­is­ter U Kyaw Win said the Min­istry of In­dus­try No 1 had lost to­tal K40,067 mil­lion, the Min­istry of In­dus­try No 2 K13,155 mil­lion and the Min­istry of In­dus­try No 3 K101,100 mil­lion. It was nec­es­sary to re­view these op­er­a­tions, he said.

– Trans­la­tion by San Layy

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