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I. Basic Features of the Sector
B. Structure of Land Ownership and Distribution

II. Policies of the Sector
A. Past Evolution of Policies
B. Current Policies

III. Description of Principal Issues and Constraints Facing the Sector
A. Land Markets: Improving Access, Efficiency and Security of Tenure
B. Land Use Planning: A Strategy for Attaining Improved Land Utilisation

IV. Sectoral Objectives
A. Land Markets: Improving Access, Efficiency and Security of Tenure
B. Land Use Planning: A Strategy for Attaining Improved Land Utilisation

V. Policy Recommendations and Their Technical Justifications
A. Land Markets: Improving Access, Efficiency and Security of Tenure
B. Land Use Planning: A Strategy for Attaining Improved Land Utilisation

VI. Recommended Legislative Changes
A. The State Lands Act - Chap 62:01
B. The Lands Department - Chap 59:01
C. The Land Surveyors Act - Chap 97:01
D. The Land Registry Act - Chap 5:02
E. The Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Act
F. The Landlord and Tenants Act
G. The Accusation of Lands Act (not beneficially occupied)
H. The Acreage Tax Act- Chap 81:22 (1970)
I. The Property Tax Act
J. The Capital Gains Tax
K. Land Use Planning Act
L. The Local Democratic Organs Act

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I. Basic Features of the Sector

A. Categories of Land

Land in Guyana is owned either by the State or under private freehold tenure. There are two basic land markets. The first consists of freehold properties and the second consists of leases of publicly owned land. There is also a minor market in leases of freehold properties. In the freehold market, a purchaser buys outright from a seller under the "transport of property" or "transfer of certificate of title" transactions recorded at the Deeds Registry. All leases of publicly owned land are recorded at the Lands and Surveys Department.

1. Publicly Owned Lands

There are two categories of publicly owned lands, namely, State lands and Government lands.

State lands, formerly called Crown Lands are those transferred at Independence in 1966, to the people of Guyana and became known as State lands under Section 3(b) of the State Lands Act Ch.62:01.

While the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys is the custodian of all State lands, the Lands and Surveys Department in accordance with the State Lands Act and Regulations Chap 62:01, the Guyana Forestry Commission, under Act 2 of 1979, and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, under the Act 9 of 1979, administer land use for agriculture, forestry and mining throughout Guyana, respectively. Accordingly, each of these three Government institutions issues titles for different purposes over the same land space. The need for some rationalisation of authority in the allocation of public land is, therefore, of some concern in the planning of future institutional arrangements.

The Lands and Surveys Department (L&SD) is one of the five departments of the Ministry of Agriculture. Established by the Lands Department Act chapter 59:01, it is headed by the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys who under the said Act, oversees all transactions involving State lands. Under the State Lands Act, the President is authorised to make absolute or provisional grants of any State lands and leases for a term of twenty-five years. Alternatively, the President may authorise the lease of land for terms of up to 99 years.(1) In either case, the President can establish terms and conditions of any such authorisation, provided only that the terms do not contradict the Forest Act or other legislation. Similarly, the President may grant licences to use land for agricultural or agro-forestry purposes. The Minister of Agriculture is authorised under Order 60 of 1979 to approve and fix rent for all State and Government lands. Rates have remained unchanged since 1985 and thus are not a true reflection of current land values.

State lands can be given out in one of three forms: a licence, a permit or a lease. The lands can also be sold at which point they lose their character of State lands. Generally, leased lands are found in the "first depth," that is, land closest to the sea defences. The "second depth" lands are those located farther inland and are generally given under licences, and "third depth" lands farthest inland are generally given under permits. Although these forms of tenure have historic differences, they seem equivalent, all functioning as leases.

To obtain a lease of State land, each applicant must file an application with the L&SD in Georgetown or in one of its regional offices. All applications are reviewed first by District Land Selection Committees (LSCs) and then by Regional Land Selection Committees, which are also required to interview the candidates. The judgement of the LSC is based on the applicant's ability to work the land, the needs of the individual and his or her family. Over time, there have been several questions raised as to the objectivity and transparency of the LSC process, as well as the lack of any independent appeals mechanism. In addition, it is a legal requirement that, before a lease can be granted, the parcel must be surveyed, either by the L&SD or by a surveyor approved by that Department. Given the continued staff shortages at L&SD and the lack of budgetary resources for surveys, a backlog of "provisional" leases has built up. These leases are non-transferable, non-mortgageable and cannot be sublet, all of which are major deterrents to further investment.

The management and administration of publicly owned lands fall under several institutions, their diversity and independence of each other having caused a multiplicity of coordination and communication problems: Lands and Surveys Department, the Guyana Forestry Commission, Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, Central Housing and Authority, the Guyana Natural Resources Agency, the Department of Regional Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency soon to be established.

Government lands are those purchased by or granted to the Government of Guyana by the State to be developed with general revenue, for public purposes, such as land for hospitals, and schools, land development schemes, etc. Lease terms are slightly different for "Government lands" than for "State lands." Government lands for agricultural purposes are governed by the Deeds Registry Act that allows the Commissioner, who holds the land on behalf of the Government, to lease the property for up to twenty years with optional renewal. Currently Government lands are allocated under 20-year leases. State and Government leases are approved by the Minister of Agriculture while under the existing legislative framework Cabinet must approve the sale of State and Government lands.

2. Freehold/Private Lands

These are those lands that have been "alienated" from the State and which are held by private or corporate interests.

Freehold grants of land were first provided to settlers along the Atlantic coast in two of the Dutch colonies in what is now Guyana, the United Colony of Demerara and Essequibo, and the Colony of Berbice. Certain conditions, e.g., the establishment of a sugar mill, were required to be fulfilled to gain the freehold status. Eventually Dutch freehold lands extended between sixty and one hundred miles upstream along creeks and rivers as well as along the coast.

In Demerara and Essequibo the grants were 100 rhynland roods(2) by 750 rhynland roods, while in Berbice they could reach 148-1/2 by 1000 rhynland roods. The freehold was the first depth of the estates, but once two-thirds of that had been cultivated, freehold could be extended to the second depth.

When the Dutch ceded control of the territory to the British in 1803, according to the Articles of Capitulation the private properties maintained their character. After Capitulation, the British made additional conditional grants of the first depths of Crown Lands, which were converted to freehold upon the fulfillment of specified conditions. According to the Crown Lands Regulations of 1903 and 1910, owners of land in the first depths were entitle to purchase the second depths within five years of having been given title to the first depth.

Freehold land administration is carried out by the Deeds Registry under the Office of Attorney General of the Supreme Court. There are two systems of land law and property recordings governing the private market, namely, the "transport index" based on Roman Dutch legal practices, and the "index of land transfer of title," that is, the Torrens system introduced in the early 1950s by the British.

An owner of a transported property theoretically owns the land from the centre of the earth to the sky above subject to Government interests, e.g., airplanes flying overhead, minerals, etc. To effect a transport sale of property, proposed sales must be published in the Official Gazette for two weeks before the transaction. If no objections are filed, the transaction is allowed to go on. If timely objections are made, the matter is settled in court. Such requirements for all transactions are burdensome, expensive and time consuming. It does, however, generate legal certainty of ownership. Transported properties are found mainly in the cities. Nearly all of Georgetown and New Amsterdam properties are held under this system. The process can be completed in three months allowing for publishing and filing and the necessary file review. However, it can be much longer, given the deficiencies of the Deeds Registry.

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B. Structure of Land Ownership and Distribution

The Guyanese Government owns about 90 percent of the national territory. In coastal areas where most of the population is concentrated, roughly half of farms are freehold properties. The distribution of lands is characterised by the predominance of small farms, of 5-15 acres each. This structure of distribution originated during the colonial period when both the size and number of plots allocated to former slaves and indentured workers were restricted. In the post colonial years the predominance of small farms has continued to be encouraged by Government policies that limit the size of plots, leased or granted to individuals by the State to hypothetical minimums that could support a family.

For purposes of defining policies for this National Development Strategy, it is necessary to distinguish several classes of interest in land. These are:

a) Holders of State leases: these are the legal occupants and holders of lease documents as issued by the Land and Surveys Department.

b) Sub-lessees of State leases: who rent lands from principal lessees. Under the present lease arrangements, they are considered illegal occupants of State lands.

c) Unregularised occupants of State Lands: those who have applied for lands they occupy while waiting on the applications to be approved.

d) Squatters on State lands: illegal occupants of State lands, not including sublessees.

e) Owners of freehold lands: those who have purchased from the State or previous holders by way of transport or certificate of title.

f) Renters of freehold lands: those who rent under private arrangements from freeholders, both formally and informally.

g) Unregularised occupants of freehold lands: those who have claims to the lands they occupy but whose claims are not legally documented. This is often the case on old freehold estates that have been subdivided but for which individual titles have not been issued.

h) Squatters on freehold lands: illegal occupants of privately owned lands.

i) Indigenous communities: Amerindian communities throughout Guyana, recognised as Amerindian Districts, Areas and Villages.

j) The sugar industry: meaning GUYSUCO and inclusive estates.

k) Prospective investors: those who seek to possess lands for agricultural or other purposes.

l) The landless, may be classified as citizens of the lower income bracket, desirous of obtaining land for agriculture but who are deterred by cost factors and the process and associated arrangements.

Each category of occupants is faced with a number of issues and constraints in terms of access to land, the land market, and security of tenure. This has led, among other things, to a thriving informal land market, which is beneficial to many absentee landholders, either freehold or lessees, from which the Government loses a considerable amount of revenue that could have otherwise been applied to improving land administration, other related services and infrastructure. It is imperative that these issues be dealt with promptly in order to ensure increased agriculture productivity towards the well being of all Guyanese.

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II. Policies of the Sector

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A. Past Evolution of Policies

Land tenure policy has undergone many changes over time. After 1831 the British alienated State lands under a form of title called "absolute grants." This was substituted in 1921 by the "conditional purchase grants" which were made absolute, providing the purchase price was paid in five equal installments and conditions of beneficial occupation and open boundary lines were satisfied. The alienation of State lands under the systems of grants was suspended in 1938 because of the abandonment and poor development of large areas of land under such titles. The licence of occupancy was the forerunner of the leasehold system. During the period 1890 to 1912 large areas of State lands were taken up by corporate bodies, village authorities and individuals under documents of title called "licences of occupancy." These titles were issued for unspecified periods "during her Majesty's pleasure." The 99-year lease was adopted after 1912. The 21-year lease was introduced in 1919 and the 25-year lease was adopted about 1965 with the right of renewal. At present State lands are allocated under 25-year leases.

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B. Current Policies

As part of its structural adjustment programme, Government has been renewing its land policies to create more efficient land markets. Some key decisions taken in recent years include:

a) The transfer of house lots and homesteads in land development schemes, on a freehold basis. (This programme is on-going.)

b) The substantial upward revision of rentals for all publicly owned lands, based on soil quality, proximity to an infrastructure, etc., along with provisions for periodic review of such rentals. (The legal and administrative details of implementation of this measure are being worked out.)

c) The creation of a future semi-autonomous Lands and Surveys Commission with the ability to retain a portion of revenues from rentals and sale of services as well as the ability to set terms and conditions of work for its staff.

Government is also negotiating a programme of assistance from the IDB that will focus, among other things, on the Lands and Surveys Department, improvement of rent collection systems, clearing the backlog of provisional leases and regularisation of tenure in selected freehold areas.

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III. Description of Principal Issues and Constraints Facing the Sector

The analysis that follows deals with the major issues under the following categories:

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A. Land Markets: Improving Access, Efficiency and Security of Tenure

1. Land Selection Procedures for Leases on State Lands

The land selection committees are authorised to approve or deny applications for leases of State land. Their procedures are inefficient, due to:

- the absence of clear-cut criteria for approval or denial of applications;

- the time consuming and bureaucratic process of decision making involving the Regional Democratic Council besides the district and regional land selection committees;

- the abuse of power by committee members, on the land selection committee at both the district and regional levels, that affect the reasons for recommending or denying an application.

2. Tenure Conditions of Leases of State Lands

As a result of the constraints mentioned in this section, many leases granted are provisional. Such leases are currently estimated to be 1,062, waiting for surveys to be carried out before the final determination. Land under this circumstance cannot be used as collateral for production financing, so the 'provisional' lessee is prevented from investing as he or she desires in the land occupied, ultimately impeding agriculture development.

This situation also increases the possibility of boundary disputes, since formal boundaries were never demarcated. The Lands and Surveys Department is not now in a position to deal with disputes adequately, due to limitations on human resources and lack of support from an internal legal unit.

The unattractive conditions of State leases include:

(a) The duration of leases, which are currently given for twenty-five (25) years. There is great difficulty in obtaining production financing, since most banks do not accept a lease of 25 years as collateral. For example, GNCB specifies that a loan must be 100 percent secured with deposits (cash or quasi-money) or 125 percent in the case of immovable property owned under registered deed or transport.

(b) Transferability and use for collateral: " the lessee shall not transfer or mortgage his interests in the lands occupied in this lease or any part thereof except in accordance with the provisions of the State lands regulations." This provision also limits the use of leases as collateral.

(c) Subleasing: "The lessee shall not sublet or give possession of the land thereby leased or any part thereof." This provision creates major difficulties for the lessees in cases of illness or economic difficulty.

Such requirements and restrictions place a great burden on lessees and limits their ability to utilise the land to its maximum capacity and accumulate capital. The landlord/tenant relationship is not recognised. Sublessees are denied access to formal financing for agriculture investment since their tenure is not recognised.

They also limit long term investments by farmers of leased land who have tilled the same plot of land for a number of years and hold back from investing out of fear of the termination of a lease or sublease and the lack of security over the long run.

3. Lease Rentals

Undervalued rents paid by lessees of State lands (less than 5 US cents per acre) directly impact on fiscal revenues and the quality and efficiency of administration and management of State lands. This situation gives rise, among other things, to land speculation and has the effect of subsidising those who are least in need of subsidies, e.g., large landholders, who sublease the land at market rates. Land, like any other input into production, should be priced as close as possible to its market value. Otherwise the resource will be underutilised or misused. Underpricing of land also robs the State of revenues that could be used for development.

Increased land rents would also serve as a deterrent to land speculation and would, in fact, encourage intensive land use and reduce the amount of idle lands. Ultimately, land rents would provide funds for agricultural research and development and for funding the Land and Surveys Department towards an efficient and effective agricultural land administration and sustainable land resource development.

4. Lease Management

Lease management is an important aspect of land administration. Currently there is no lease management system, that is, a data base indicating name of the lessee, location of leased land, date of issue and expiration of current leases, etc. As such, there is no adequate provision for the billing and collection of revenues from lease rents. Other problems in the area of lease management include:

5. Unregularised Occupants of State Lands

Some applicants who have put in their applications at the Lands and Surveys Department, and are awaiting documentation, go ahead and occupy the land applied for. Under these circumstances the applicant can access no production financing and lacks a sense of security of tenure that directly influences his investments in the land.

Unregularised occupants also include those who have inherited a lease or have had the original lease transferred to them without the necessary documentation, due to the time-consuming process of applying to Lands and Surveys for approval or permission to do so; as well as those whose leases have expired and have not bothered to renew it but still occupy the land.

6. Squatters on State Lands

The illegal occupation of State lands for agriculture and other purposes, especially housing, has increased over the last decade. Much of the land squatted on for housing is prime agricultural land for both cultivation and grazing. Many persons resort to squatting for agriculture as a result of slow administrative procedures for granting land. This situation thrives due to a lack of enforcement mechanisms at the Lands and Surveys Department.

7. Regionalisation

After regionalisation in 1982, the functions of the Lands and Surveys Department were nominally deployed in the regions.

The Land and Surveys Department has been unable to discharge its statutory functions effectively (specially that of surveying), since under this system the responsibility for routine cadastral surveying and the administration of State lands, were transferred to the Regional Democratic Councils. This has had a profoundly negative impact on the national system for administering Government leases.

The absence of an efficient communication system between regions and with head office adds to the inefficient regional service.

8. Surveys and Data Bases

9. Registration of Freehold Lands

a. The Property Registry

The Registrar of Deeds under the direction of the Attorney General is responsible for the registration of all transactions involving freehold land: buying and selling, creation and cancellation of mortgages, encumbrances, private leases, use rights, etc. It also records intellectual property and functions as a commercial registry. It is deemed that both land and commercial affairs are too much for the current registry to deal with adequately, as persons wishing to transact property business at the registry compete for attention with those who are there for commercial affairs.

b. The "Transport" System

To effect a transport (sale) of property, proposed sales must be published in the official Gazette for two weeks before the transaction. If no objections are filed, the transaction is allowed to go on. If timely objections are made, the matter is settled in court. Such a requirement for all transactions is burdensome, expensive and time consuming. In principle, this process could be completed in about three months, necessary for publishing requirements and file review. However, transactions can take a year or much longer, due to institutional (human resource related) inefficiencies .

c. The "Land Registry" Torrens System

The Torrens System relies heavily on surveyors to demarcate the land into plots. Over the last 10 years surveying has become problematic. The survey process has greatly slowed and there is little money in the system to pay surveyors and few are willing to work at the rates the Government pays. The decentralisation of survey functions as a result of regionalisation has also contributed to the deterioration of the process of registration of freehold property, since this also requires cadastral surveys.

d. Administration of Land Registration

Freehold lands held under the "transport" and "certificate of title" systems, are administered by the Deeds Registry.(3) Although both yield a secure title to land, they are both subject to procedural problems due to the inefficiencies in various areas of the Deeds Registry, such as:

(i) Data handling

The record system is operated in an outmoded and inefficient way. All procedures are carried out manually, using no automation, photocopy, or microphotography technology, as such the process is lengthy and, sometimes, results in fraud and mistakes that ultimately create legal uncertainty.

Records are stored inefficiently. Instead of being bound, they are sometimes bundled with string and left on the floor. The filing system seems to have been abandoned, and consequently documents have been lost or stolen. This is also the result of the degeneration of the vaults in both the registry and subregistry, which are subject to flooding and have no measure of climate control.

(ii) Funding

Financial constraints have led the registries to utilise and accept documents not printed on quality paper (Saunders Brand), consequently, documents made years ago are in tatters. The limited availability of funds has also affected the registrars' ability to purchase other office supplies needed for routine work.

(iii) Personnel

The registry is inadequately staffed, both in respect of numbers and qualifications of personnel. This is directly related to the rates of payment, which are substantially below salaries and wages in the private sector. Because of low emoluments qualified persons do not apply for positions, and therefore employees lack the ordinary competence to carry out the functions of the office. Most employees train on the job as funds for formal training are limited. The disparity between the remuneration offered to staff and the legal and commercial value of the services they perform has been identified as a source of corruption, which poses a direct threat to the integrity of the transactions and the safety of the physical records.

10. Occupation and Utilisation of Freehold Lands

There is evidence of significant incidences of underutilised freehold lands due to:

- a lack of sufficient stimulation and incentives for agriculture production;

- poor state of maintenance of the drainage and irrigation system in many areas;

- absentee landlords, who either have gone overseas or have neglected the land for other, possibly urban, careers;

- restrictive procedures for land rental, which discourage renting out land that the owner cannot utilise.

Many land owners, absentees usually, are faced with the problem of squatters for various purposes, including agriculture. This squatting is a direct result of the unavailability of legally accessible agricultural lands.

The complications in trying to rent or lease out freehold land are particularly vexing. Some freehold lands are left idle or are underutilised, leading to the unavailability of good land for agriculture investment, directly as a result of conditions stipulated by the "Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Act" which act as severe deterrents to rental. These include:

- Low rentals paid by rice farmers renting freehold lands. The rent is set by, and can only be reviewed by, a select committee that has not functioned recently. As a result, the rents paid to land owners are unrealistic.

- The land owner cannot necessarily repossess his land at the end of a lease. Repossession can only occur if preset conditions as set out under the Act are broken.

11. Unregularised Occupants of Freehold Lands

This is the occupation of freehold lands by persons who claim rights that in some cases are not backed by legal documents. Some of these are occupants of a declared Land Registration area and are awaiting the land court to summon them for a hearing to determine and grant possession in the form of a title. This Land Registration process under the Land Registration Act is bureaucratic, time consuming and costly. While this process is going on, occupants cannot utilise their property to access finance for agriculture or other forms of development.

12. Squatters of Freehold Lands

Squatters who have had sole and undisturbed adverse possession of a tract of land for twelve years and more, have the right under prescriptive title, to obtain title to the said land. As a transport deed a new title is passed in the squatter's name; in the case of registered lands, an application is made for a declaration of title. This involves a declaration being published in the Gazette and press; after a period of twelve months the title is passed once there is no objection. The problem lies with the inability of the Deeds Registry to expedite such matters swiftly; as it stands now, a squatter may wait for years before he is granted prescriptive title. In fact, this practice is not very common, perhaps because squatters are unaware of the provision, and it has fallen into disuse, in effect due to the system's inability to administer the procedure.

13. The Shape of Agricutural Plots

Over time, owing to the workings of legacies, some land holdings have become very fragmented. A peculiar problem has arisen in that their form has become very long and narrow, in order to assure that each plot retained access to irrigation and drainage canals. In Essequibo some plots are known to have dimensions of 12 feet wide by more than 9,200 feet deep, while in Berbice this extreme has reached the dimension of 12 feet by more than 12,000 feet. Such distorted shapes are highly unsuitable for cultivation.

14. Amerindian Lands

Unclear or unmarked boundaries of indigenous settlements have led to encroachment from loggers and miners and a general sense of insecurity regarding rights and ownership of the Amerindian peoples. (This issue is addressed more fully in Chapter 22 of this Strategy.)

Underutilised land resources under indigenous holdings are sometimes exploited by others (e.g., foreign investors), and all benefits and incomes they produce elude the community and its peoples, resulting in growing feelings of exploitation and mistrust for the Government.

15. The Sugar Industry

GUYSUCO holds a large percentage of coastal lands; much of it is cultivated but a portion has been left idle for some time. This has created a situation where there is idle land that is not available to those who might put it to productive use.

16. Prospective Investors

Many prospective investors interested in acquiring portions of land for agriculture, aquaculture and other pursuits are often deterred due to unavailability of data regarding the particular parcel of land and the process they have to pursue to acquire the land needed.

Given the need to promote investment, both foreign and local, clear and transparent procedures regarding the application and granting of leases should be adopted. This situation has been identified as a major constraint to aquaculture development in Chapter 31 of this Strategy.

17. The Landless

Many persons, squatters and sublessees included, are desirous of acquiring land for agricultural purposes. They are, however, deterred by the application process, unavailability of capability maps to guide decisions and, most of all, the unavailability of lands with necessary supportive infrastructure.

More than eight thousand farm families have less than ten acres of land (IICA/IFAD), with an average holding of two acres in that group. This clearly is an infrasubsistence level of land holding, and very likely it is the major explanation for extreme poverty found in rural areas. While a holding for the rural non-poor is about 26 acres, this suggests that disparities in access to land are a contributing factor to rural poverty. Undeniably, the fundamental fact is that having larger farms means having more income. Everything else being equal, too many rural families have too small a land base to rise above poverty.

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B. Land Use Planning: A Strategy for Attaining Improved Land Utilisation

Land use planning may be seen basically as a process by which land is put to its most appropriate use, possibly guided by zoning and by tenure and taxation policies, based upon the physical, environmental, economic, social and demographic characteristics of the economy and the land resource in question. It also provides a context for resource management, conflict resolution and decision making at local and regional levels, consistent with national policies and priorities.

Most land in Guyana belongs to the State. Land use conflicts are, therefore, closely related to the institutional and legal framework within which these lands are administered. Within the coastal area, where most agricultural and industrial activities are concentrated, and where there is approximately a 50-50 split between publicly and privately owned lands, land use planning is an even more complicated issue than it is in the hinterland.

As mentioned in Section I of this document, several institutions are involved as authorities, planners or advisors in the way Guyana's land resource is utilised. These institutions issue leases or permits to utilise the land for forestry, mining, housing, agriculture, respectively, on the same land resource. The overlapping of legal mandates and the absence of coordinating mechanisms between them result in uncertainty and conflicts among various classes of land users.

Land use planning has never been practiced in Guyana but as the economy of Guyana develops, and the pressure on resources increases, the need for a national policy and plan on land use becomes crucial, especially since such a national policy can be a strategy for attaining optimum land use towards national development. Proper land use planning would face many of the obstacles that hinder land administration in the existing framework, plus some additional ones. A list of the major constraints is as follows:

1. Coordination and Communication

The situation is one of lack of coordination, hence communication, among responsible institutions, resulting in the duplication of authority, overlapping responsibilities and the non-transference of relevant data between the institutions. For example, the GGMC, GFC, GNEA and petroleum units have legal mandates for their respective operations, but they all overlap with the GNRA. The National Parks Commission and the GFC both have mandates for national parks, Lands and Surveys and GFC both have regulatory powers for woodcutting; CHPA, GFC, and RDCs all have mandates for environmental protection and conservation, either sectoral or geographically; and there is soon to be the EPA.

2. Funding, Human Resources, Facilities

Limited funds for the purchase of equipment, office supplies, etc., result in the deterioration of the existing equipment and the capacity of the various institutions to carry out its routine work.

Human resources are inadequate due to the vicious cycle of:

- a loss of qualified personnel due to poor remuneration;

- poorly qualified staff resulting in low performances.

Physical facilities are grossly inadequate, as can be seen in the physical deterioration of many buildings and internal structures, storage facilities, etc., and an absence of specialised equipment to carry out the specific functions of the different agencies involved.

3. Land Use Policy

The conflicting use of land often results from the absence of a clear directive policy on land uses. This is a major constraint and is seen in the actions of the agencies in charged of forestry, geology and mines, and lands and surveys, all issuing leases for the same land resource.

4. Information Base

The suboptimal allocation and utilisation of land are also a result of limited data on a national scale as to type of soil and its most economic and efficient use.

No central data base system exists for the storage, analysis, management and retrieval of data on title and tenure conditions, coupled with a lack of or inadequate data on existing land use, soil type, temperature, rainfall, slope, land tenure, indigenous settlements, physical infrastructure, social infrastructure and population, etc.

The lack of data hinders the planning and implementation of a land use plan and subsequent development projects, agriculture, etc., as well as individual choices and decisions in land use for agricultural and other purposes.

5. New Land Frontiers in Agriculture

Lack of a clear strategy for the opening of new agricultural lands puts a greater demand on already limited lands with the necessary infrastructure.

6. Unclear Policies on Size of Holdings

There is no consistency between the acreage restrictions in land development schemes and the lack of such restrictions on the acreage of land that may be leased outside them.

7. Environmental Concerns

The absence of environmental regulations on the occupation and utilisation of the land resource, can lead to environmental degradation of the land resource through deforestation, pollution from waste disposal (mining), etc.

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IV. Sectoral Objectives

The principal broad objectives for agricultural land policy are:

Improved tenure security will be one of the keys to achievement of the first goal, and also to laying the foundation for higher incomes from small farms.

Another objective, which supports the national policy condition of fiscal sustainability, is to increase the flow of Government revenues from agricultural lands, both from leasehold and freehold.

Finally, a fourth broad objective, in consonance with the national policy condition of institutional sustainability, is to drastically improve the institutions of land administration, including the registries, so that land policies can be executed effectively.

More specific sectoral objectives are described in the remainder of this section.

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A. Land Markets: Improving Access, Efficiency and Security of Tenure

1. Land Selection Procedures

To rationalise the land selection process and committees, to ensure that applications are reviewed objectively and acted upon expeditiously.

2. Tenure Conditions of Leases on State Lands

- To eliminate the backlog of provisional leases.

- To improve lease arrangements towards providing greater security of tenure.

- To improve access to production financing for agricultural investments.

- To improve the transferability of leased land and its use as collateral.

- To extend security of tenure to sublessees of State lands.

- To accelerate the process of conversion to freehold.

3. Lease Rental Rates

To raise the lease fees on State lands to market levels so that the value of the land resource is channeled to the Government instead of to persons who let out State land by subleasing it.

4. Lease Management

To improve the process by which the public gains access to State and Government lands by way of efficient lease administration by the Land and Surveys Department. To make more effective the management of Guyana's State land resources by putting in place a proper lease management system, with better documentation, and an effective system for collecting lease rentals.

5. Unregularised Occupants of State and Freehold Lands

To regularise occupancy of State and freehold lands as promptly as possible.

6. Squatters on State and Freehold Lands

To eliminate and prevent squatting on agricultural lands, in part by providing better access to land for poor families and in part by improving the useability of the rental instrument.

7. Regionalisation

To re-centralise the Land and Surveys Department functions towards more efficient land administration.

8. Surveys and Data Bases

To make more timely surveys and improve the quality and coverage of data on land registration and land characteristics, and to modernise data management systems.

9. Registration

To rationalise and modernise the responsibilities of the Deeds Registry and improve its functioning.

10. Occupation and Utilisation of Freehold Lands

To improve renting conditions of freehold lands, and so make more agricultural land available and increase the average intensity of its use.

To stimulate and increase the productive use of freehold lands while improving the contribution of such lands to national revenues.

To eliminate and prevent squatting on such lands.

11. The Shape of Agricultural Plots

To rearrange the plots so that they have the same acreage but a more workable shape.

12. Amerindian Lands

To establish clear Amerindian District boundaries both on the ground and in maps.

13. The Sugar Industry

To make available the sugar industry's unutilised land for agriculture and other development.

14. Prospective Investors

To improve access to State lands for agriculture, aquaculture and other development.

15. The Landless

To provide equal opportunity and improved access to lands for gainful employment.

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B. Land Use Planning: A Strategy for Attaining Improved Land Utilisation

1. Coordination and Communication

To improve the coordination and communication among all related institutions.

2. Institutional Capacities

To improve the functioning of each institution responsible for land allocation and administration.

3. Land Use Policy

To clarify national land policy, at a broad level in this Strategy and more specifically in subsequent documents.

4. Information Base

To improve the collection, storage, retrieval and dissemination of data nationally.

To acquire the land use and land capability data necessary for investment.

5. New Land Frontiers in Agriculture

The development of new lands that have the potential for sustaining economic activities, clarifying intentions and programmes in this regard.

6. Policies on Sizes of Holdings

To provide economic sized land holdings for all farmers.

7. Environmental Concerns

Promote the sustainable use of land for agriculture and other purposes.

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V. Policy Recommendations and Their Technical Justifications

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A. Land Markets: Improving Access, Efficiency and Security of Tenure

The new policies defined under the National Development Strategy are oriented primarily at providing greater security on both State and freehold lands, thus encouraging investments for improving the productivity of the land; providing greater access to land for the rural poor; enhancing the Government's revenue collection from agricultural land; strengthening the institutions of land administration; and sweeping away the accumulated inefficiencies, confusion and delays regarding the status of land and procedures for changing its status.

1. Selection Procedures for Leases on State Lands

Selection should be made using clear established criteria, like the applicant's ability to work the land, etc. Reasons for decisions should be clearly spelled out and made available to all concerned, with timely appeal mechanisms in place to deal with queries.

There is no real need for the Regional Democratic Council to be involved in decision making since it has appointed and delegated district and regional land selection committees to review applications, interview applicants and make recommendations before forwarding the application to the Lands and Surveys Department. In this light, the Regional Democratic council should be omitted from the land selection process.

The members of the land selection committees should be elected to office by the people of the district, and the regional committee should comprise elected members from each district committee, or as decided. It is important that the composition of both committees reflects the people's choice. Regional committees will no longer review applications directly, but will rather review the functioning of the district committees and once a year issue a report containing observations and recommendations, if any, regarding the process of selection.

For plots that are already surveyed, a time limit of 20 days will be established for review of each application by the district committee and 20 additional days by the L&SD. No decision within those periods will be construed as automatic approval of the application at the respective level. Applications will be dated upon submission at each level, and the date will be acknowledged for the applicant in writing. If the 20 days pass with no explicit decision, the recording secretary at the respective level will be required to write "application approved by reason of no decision before the deadline" on the application, enter the corresponding date, and provide a copy to the applicant.

The responsibility of carrying out field inspections for application purposes will be delegated to the Districts' land selection committee, since they are familiar with their specific area. The land selection committee should include in its recommendation report, the present status of the land in question.

This can remain the responsibility of lands and surveys regional representative, provided he would then have employed adequately remunerated land rangers.

2. Tenure Conditions of State Lands

a. Provisional leases pending final determination

The Land and Surveys Department should embark on a special project to eliminate the existing backlog of surveys permanently. This would involve contracting out the surveys that need to be done, and hiring temporary staff, as technical assistants and others, to do the necessary clerical work. Donor agencies can fund this project. Funds should then be recovered over a period of time from the lessees who are obligated to pay for their surveys.

According to records from the Lands and Surveys, 1,062 provisional leases exist. Already 169 have recorded plans, and upon verification will be converted to leases. The legal unit to be established in the Department should deal with such cases. Given other improvements in surveying and data, the necessary information to deal appropriately with this kind of situation will be available.

b. Terms of leases

The formulation of a new standard agricultural lease that would include the following provisions:

- Lease terms of 99 or 999 years compared with the present 25-year limit.

- The ability of lessees to transfer leases freely and fully after five (5) years of beneficial occupancy, without requiring administrative approval. The parties involved would, however, be obliged to register the transfer for accurate record keeping.

- The ability to use leased land as collateral without seeking approval from Lands and Surveys as is presently the case. Lessees would, however, be required to register the mortgage with Lands and Surveys.

- The ability to sublet in full and in part any portion of land leased, without the consent or approval of the lessor, provided that the sublease is pursuant to a written instrument filed with the Commissioner, in accordance with regulations promulgated from time to time. The lessee would then be obligated to inform the Lands and Surveys Department of such transaction to allow for accurate record keeping. This is administratively simple and effectively regularises the de facto position.

- Lessees who have beneficially occupied the same plot of land for a period of more than ten (10) or fifteen (15) years,(4) should be allowed on conclusion of the leasehold to convert to freehold consistent with established freehold criteria.

By converting the land to freehold, it is perceived that it would encourage farm investment, improve farmers' access to formal credit markets and the terms on which such credit is granted, and enhances the development of a flexible land market.

Ultimately the farmer who has demonstrated a determination to stay and develop lands, would be rewarded with greater security of land tenure.

- Similar benefits would derive from the extension of the time horizons of the leases, making them fully transferable, and facilitating subletting.

3. Lease Rental Rates

The new policy for managing leases on State lands mandates the introduction of market valued land rents, based upon relatively few aggregate categories of land, which should be determined by the land's capability, its proximity to transportation and the adequacy of its drainage and irrigation. Few categories will be defined to keep administration of the system as simple as possible and to avoid an upsurge of disputes over land classifications.

The method of determining rents should include: an assessed market value based on surveys of price of comparable freehold lands; an administration cost related to cost incurred by the Government in the administration process; and an amortisation cost, to recover monies spent on improvements to the land. The rents need to be reviewed and adjusted annually to ensure they are as close as possible to real market values. The recently approved increases in rental rates are a first step in implementing this new policy. In the next step, those rates will be increased at least three-fold on average.

Special rent provisions will be made for the rural poor (defined as families working less than ten acres of land on leasehold). These rentals will also be subject to annual adjustments.

Market valued rentals will also be achieved through auctioning lands in newly developed State lands and lands that are recovered by default, where bids would take the form of an offer to pay annually a given level of lease fees.

These new levels of rents will provide revenues to the national treasury that have previously gone to leaseholders through the mechanism of subleasing. Revenues collected by the State should go primarily towards improved land administration and agricultural development.

The higher rent levels also will discourage leaving land idle and will encourage putting it to its most productive uses.

4. Lease Management

The current status of each lease needs to be investigated and the findings recorded in a computerised lease management system. This system needs to be compatible, permitting a network with all other related data systems, e.g., land register at Deeds Registry, etc. (See below.) It may be seen as forming part of a multipurpose land information system. Such a system with the data in place will serve as a base for the billing by notice and the collection of rents. A separate unit needs to be formed within the L&SD to deal specifically with billing, collection and accounting of lease fees. This unit needs the support of a legal unit to help with cases involving defaulters. If the unit is not able to make significant progress within a year, then collection of lease fees will be contracted out to private agencies, on a commission basis.

5. Unregularised Occupants of State Lands

The Lands and Surveys Department should embark on a special project involving the inventory of occupancy, specifically to identify unregularised occupants with the intention of regularising their occupancy (granting or renewing leases) once their occupancy can be supported. The need for this can be avoided in the future by implementing the improved procedures through which the public gains access to State lands.

6. Squatters on State Lands

Given the existing problem of housing and the trend to regularise the process, squatters on State lands that show marginal or no agriculture capability should be regularised into a formal housing scheme.

Should the lands be of good agriculture quality (be it for cultivation or grazing), squatters should be removed on legal grounds.

However, being sensitive to the housing crisis, this process should be done after housing areas are identified and made available, specifically to existing squatters. The land involved should then be made available for agricultural leases.

It is also necessary that a legal unit be formed within the Lands and Surveys Department to deal appropriately with the legal aspects of removing squatters.

7. Regionalisation

Reorganise and strengthen the regional Lands and Surveys offices, to carry out an efficient service throughout the country, regionally.

This would involve centralising the functions of regional offices, so the head office can effectively deploy statutory functions, and the superintendent, a qualified surveyor, should be in charge of the operation, reporting to the commissioner and, at his request, be sent to other regions to carry out surveys. In this way, the necessary surveys will be done, helping to eliminate the backlog of surveys.

The regional offices should be staffed with clerks and land rangers as necessary, to handle applications and inspections for applications, along with the district and regional land selection committees.

The regional offices should be linked via fax machines, radio, and ultimately be a computer/ telecommunication network. The importance of being able to relay rapidly data cannot be underestimated in this sector. With improved communication the Commissioner will be able to deploy statutory functions effectively, especially that of surveying.

8. Surveys and Data Bases

Contracting out surveys that need to be done in order will help eliminate the existing backlog. Assigning a survey list to regional superintendents (qualified surveyors), as suggested earlier, while making provisions to attract and retain qualified surveyors and assistants will be useful.

An accurate land register and cadastral maps should be established. Some of the information needed would have to be acquired from an inventory, to verify occupancy on the ground with the existing title records. The acquired data should then be recorded in a computerised land register system that would allow easy access, updating and the production of cadastral index maps.

This computerised system should be compatible, permitting a network link with the Deeds Registry and other institutions as necessary.

The utilisation of a computer network to relay, transfer application data and files between institutions, will allow the necessary comments to be fed directly into the system, so saving a considerable amount of time and also reducing the possibility of misplacement and damage to actual documents.

9. Registration of Freehold Lands

a. The Property Registry

Land transactions need to be separated from those involving name changes (deed pols), business names registry, etc. This would ensure swift attention for all land transactions and eliminate the possibility of confusing the documents.

It also would be appropriate that the Registrar's responsibilities be limited to land transactions, having another Registrar for other deeds. Currently the staff is unable to address adequately all matters presented, as such there is also need to employ more staff and to set up a system for adequately responding to all matters.

b. Administration of Freehold Lands

(i) The "Transport" System

Other than the time required for judicial procedures, the time required for such transactions need to be reduced significantly. This may be done by creating a procedural system for receiving and processing transactions, grouped according to subject.

(ii) The "Land Registry" Torrens System

Lands and Surveys should embark on a short-term project to eliminate the existing backlog of surveys for both leases and freehold lands. This would involve contracting out surveys to private firms. The initial expense should be borne by the Government or by a foreign donor in the form of a grant or any other arrangement possible. After all surveys are carried out, all outstanding transactions should be confirmed and relevant paper work done to grant titles to freeholders.

c. Data handling

The registry should embark on a short term project to:

- Bind all documents that need to be bound and at the same time update filing. Documents in disrepair should be redone utilising the required paper and the manual documentation should be continued on the interim utilising the required paper.

- Refurbish storage facilities (such as broken shelves), replace broken filing cabinets and, most important, repair the vault. Specifications need to be obtained from a contractor.

- Install a data system, a multipurpose land information system, capable of storing all information involved in the administration of freehold lands. This computerised system should be linked to that in the Lands and Surveys Department, enabling easy access to all land related data, towards improved land administration. In the system, properties will be indexed by geographical coordinates, and not by names of owners, because the latter change over time. The official description of every property in the system will include its metes and bounds and a map of the property boundaries, showing at least one coordinate.

- Once the new computerised system is established, it will be installed in regional offices of the registry, to facilitate recording of property transactions and settlement of property disputes without requiring that the concerned parties make a journey to Georgetown.

d. Funding

The Deeds Registry will be established as a semi-autonomous body. Under this arrangement the Registry will be able to retain a portion of revenues generated by its services. Since many fees and charges are outdated, it is also necessary to revise and implement realistic charges for services, to put the institution on a financially sustainable basis.

e. Personnel

With available funds under a semi-autonomous arrangement, better wages and benefit packages can be offered to personnel. Entrance requirements should be raised from three subjects to five subjects. In-house training programmes will be offered in modern systems of property registry.

Personnel departments need to pay more attention to working environment, constantly creating methods to generate and maintain motivation and dedication among employees.

10. Occupation and Utilisation of Freehold Lands

The two principal policy measures designed to promote a better utilisation of freehold agricultural lands are: the elimination of unnecessary restrictions on land rental practices, which are so onerous that the land owner usually prefers to leave the property idle rather than rent it out; and institute a rural land tax, which will constitute a decisive disincentive for leaving land idle or underutilising it compared with its potential. Such a tax also will contribute to national development by broadening the Government's revenue base.

Agricultural land taxes are increasingly being adopted as an instrument of revenue policy in countries as diverse as Colombia, Argentina and Japan. In the rural environment it is difficult to collect income taxes with any precision, and so a land tax in effect is a viable substitute. The regulation establishing the land tax would allow for it to be deducted from the income tax obligation.

Difficulties of administrative implementation are sometimes adduced as reasons for not implementing an agricultural land tax, so it is important to ensure that its design respects the following principles:

- That it be levied on a per acre basis, not on an ad valorem basis. When the latter is used, valuations fall out of date rapidly and endless disputes over their levels arise.

- That very few categories of land be defined, i.e., that there be very few different tax rates per acre. Trying to approximate the land's underlying value with too much precision in the classifications again will lead to a situation of disputes over the appropriate classification of each plot of land, with consequent opportunities for administrative irregularities.

- That no attempt be made to limit the tax only to idle land, for again questions will arise in practice, this time about the definition of "idle": how many, or few, cattle per acre constitute idleness? How long may the land be in fallow? What if part of the plot is put in forest? A tax applicable to all classes of land discourages idleness, for the land must be put to work to pay the tax.

- That improvements in the land should not be taxed, lest necessary investments be discouraged.

Therefore, the new policy will entail a repeal of the Acreage Tax Act 1933, which provides for the assessment and collection of any acreage tax formally levied by the annual tax ordinance on lands not cultivated or not otherwise beneficially occupied. In practice, this Act has fallen into disuse.

In place of that Act, a new one will be developed that applies the tax on all freehold lands. This will serve as a powerful incentive for intensive land use, and provide funds for land administration and the development and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure.

As mentioned, this tax could be deductible from income tax as it is in effect a partial substitute for income tax in rural areas, where measurement of incomes for taxation purposes is difficult. Similarly, the tax on agricultural lands for cultivation and grazing should be considered for exclusion from the property tax.

Where a tax fails to stimulate the productive use of the land, efforts should be made to repossess the freehold lands that have been idle or not beneficially occupied for the longest while (exact years can be determined upon legal advice and will be specified in regulations), under the State Land Resumption Act Chap.62:02 and the Acquisition of Lands (Not Beneficially Occupied) Act 2 of 1984. The repossessed land should then be offered for sale or lease.

In respect of land rentals, measures will be undertaken to guarantee that landowners can charge appropriate rental rates for their land, and that they have absolute security of being able to recover possession of the land upon the termination of the rental contract. As a first step, the Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Act needs to be abolished because its mechanism of assessment boards does not function and, in addition, it is exclusively focussed on the rice sector. In its place, a new and brief act would guarantee the freedom of owners and renters to enter into any contractual arrangement that does not oblige the renter or his or her family to provide personal services besides working the land, and it would emphasise the owner's inalienable right to recover the land upon the expiry of the contract. This will encourage owners to put the land to productive use, via the rental mechanism, during temporary periods when they are unable to work the land directly.

11. Unregularised Occupants of Freehold Lands

The State should embark on a land registration process to regularise those who have legal claims to parcels of land but have no title to confirm this. The process by which this is done needs to be revised to ensure its efficiency, this would mean the revision of the Land Registry Act. (See appendix Land Registration Act Chap 5:02 for specific recommendations.)

12. Squatters of Freehold Lands

In the presence of the freeholder, this is really a problem between the freeholder and the squatter, where the land owner has legal grounds for requesting, and in extreme cases, removing squatters.

In the case of absentee landlords where the lands may be considered abandoned, the State should repossess the lands, and may offer them, by way of lease to the present occupant, if he is desirous. This can be done by way of prescriptive title.

If occupants are not interested in entering into agricultural leases, Government should remove them, possibly offering a place elsewhere in the case of need of housing, while agricultural lands should then be offered for sale or lease to interested investors.

13. The Shape of Agricultural Plots

The Government will continue implementing a policy to persuade farmers to realign their properties into shapes that are more practical for the labours of cultivation, starting with lands in the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary area. It must be recognised that one of the origins of the problem of distorted shapes of plots was a desire to assure access to irrigation and drainage canals, so improvement of that infrastructure must go hand in hand with the process of rearranging plot boundaries.

14. Amerindian Lands

The policy under this Strategy is to survey and mark on land and maps all the Amerindian community boundaries. This can be done by either one or both of the following alternatives:

Alternative No.1

- Since a greater portion of the Amerindian lands boundaries are natural features, such as rivers, creeks, etc., the General Boundary System can be used, whereby the land boundaries will be cut to a width of ten (10) feet and permanent marks established to demarcate its course and limits. This land boundary line should be surveyed using simple surveying methods to be defined on a map or photo map produced from aerial photography.

Alternative No. 2

- Surveys can also be done using the Global Positioning System that is currently being used internationally and soon to be used by the Lands and Surveys Department.

Community policing groups should be encouraged to support regional authorities to deter or arrest those who illegally occupy reservation lands.

Since many land-related resources are found within Amerindian land holdings, land development programmes should be carried out as part of a National Land Use Plan, with priority given specifically to benefit (economically and other) the indigenous peoples. Here the proposed Amerindian Development Fund will be especially relevant; see Chapter 22.

Where foreign investors seek to utilise land that falls under indigenous holdings, it should be treated as a matter between the landlord (the indigenous community) and the possible tenant (the prospective foreign investor), subject to general Government investment policies.

The existing Amerindian Lands Commission Act Chap 59:03 Act 23 of 1966 needs to be revisited to determine its relevance and possibly enacted upon. See Chapter 22 for additional aspects of these questions.

15. The Sugar Industry

It is necessary to make an assessment of the status of all lands held by GUYSUCO, to determine immediate and future needs, and to develop a programme for relocation of lands to other users. Following the recommendations in Chapter 33, lands that have gone out of sugar cane cultivation should be sold to cane workers who have lost their jobs or, if there are none such interested, to rural landless or small farmers. The sales prices should be explicitly subsidised for these classes of beneficiaries, and title should be given in freehold. This will help promote Guyana's agricultural diversification, giving the country a more secure economic base in the future, at the same time that it helps alleviate rural poverty.

16. Prospective Investors

L&SD will start a central data base where information to guide prospective investors can be accessed, such as land capability maps. The process of applying for land should be improved and opportunities for funding or credit should be sought by providing full documentation on the land to banks.

17. The Landless

The strengthening of the Lands and Surveys Department and the Deeds Registry to deal efficiently with applications and granting leases and processing transports, respectively, is an essential measure. Its importance cannot be overstated.

At the same time, Government will identify and open new frontiers for agriculture development. The necessary infrastructure can be made available through:

Alternative No.1

- Granting land to those capable of providing the necessary infrastructure on condition that a portion is released to small farmers without charge, except annual D&I maintenance fees paid to a users' group.

Alternative No.2

- Under land development schemes initiated by the Government, subsidise access to land for poor households. A specified portion of newly developed lands (and lands that the Government recovers from default of payments), should be made available to farmers who currently possess less than 10-acre plots, via leasehold of at least 15-acre plots or other criteria to be determined by selected committee. The rentals should be subsidised throughout or for a specified period of time. Either way, the lessee would enjoy the same opportunity to convert to freehold after ten years and the right to effect transfers after five years of beneficial occupation.

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B. Land Use Planning: A Strategy for Attaining Improved Land Utilisation

1. Coordination and Communication

Government will carry out an institutional analysis of current land administration, including non-agricultural lands as well, eliminating existing overlaps and giving the responsibility to the institution most related to and involved with each function. Given the historical role as manager of the land resource, and that the Commissioner of Lands and Surveys is the custodian of all lands, the Lands and Surveys Department should be the final clearing house regarding land use.

A communications network will be established, with each institution feeding data into their relative systems, which are then fed into a central system housed in the Lands and Surveys Department that would be accessed by all.

The new measures for institutional strengthening described in earlier sections of this Chapter also will be vital to improve land use planning.

2. Land Use Policies

The formulation and implementation of a National Plan on Land Use, based on present land use patterns and possible opportunities, are critical in this effort. This plan should take into consideration physical, environmental, economic, social, cultural and demographic factors from a Guyanese perspective.

As a prior step, there is need to undertake a special project to acquire and research all data necessary to develop a national policy on land use.

3. Information Systems

Building on the improvements in agricultural land registry systems, a computerised national data base will be established, in effect a multipurpose land information system that will provide for central storage of all land-related data, cadastral plans, cadastral index maps, planimetric and topographic maps, State and Government land titles, freehold land titles, etc. All related agencies will then access the data via a network link.

Since the available data is inadequate occasionally, it is necessary to undertake an inventory of soil types, existing land use patterns, temperature, rainfall, topography, indigenous settlements and population, infrastructure, land tenure, etc., which would then be fed into the land information system. The resulting multipurpose land information system should be updated regularly.

NARI and other related organisations, institutions and specialists can be contracted to collect the necessary data. Utilising the data base, land capability maps can be produced and be made available upon request. These land capability maps should be produced at a scale of 1:50 000 for the entire country and 1:10 000 for the coast.

Efforts should be made to acquire a full set of the land capability maps produced by the FAO during the 1960s, these can then be reviewed to determine their relevance and information taken from them selectively.

As a result of this work on an information base, the National Land Use Plan should be able to identify suitable areas for agriculture development in the longer run, and also areas that should be reforested.

Maps and descriptions from this national data base will be made available (at an appropriate fee) to farmers, investors and others who wish to make their production and investment decisions on a more informed basis.

4. Environmental Concerns

The national land use plan should employ the concept of sustainability, to protect all lands, in this instance agricultural lands, and it should strive to make that concept operational in as many instances as possible. It should take the lead in defining sustainable land use practices.

Where needed, environmental regulations should be incorporated into leases or title conditions, regarding proper waste disposal, replanting, etc.

Environmental impact assessments need to be carried out for existing large-scale land uses (agriculture, effect of D&I on soil erosion) and they should be mandatory for any proposed land development scheme, before granting permission, and as a method of monitoring land use regards environmental degradation of the land resource. See Chapter 18 of this Strategy for further information.

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VI. Recommended Legislative Changes

In order to implement some of these new policies it is necessary to review and amend existing legislation, in keeping with improved land administration and management. These include legislation addressing land tenure and land law in general including: land registration and transport, land acquisition, planning, taxation, tenancies (particularly agriculture), land rents, squatting and prescriptive rights, laws of evidence (in particular the acceptability of electronically stored data), mortgages and credit, and leasehold enfranchisement.

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A. The State Lands Act - Chap 62:01

This Act is outdated, the fee, royalties and rent schedule provided for in it are unrealistic. It also establishes the unnecessary separation between Government lands and State lands.

The fees, royalties and rent schedule should be amended to enable the institution of new rates, those approved by the Cabinet in September 1994. Provision should be made for future increases by executive action.

The land classification on which the new rents are based needs to be included in the Act. A single and standard lease document should be developed and put into effect.

Government and State lands should be placed in the same category for all purposes, and one uniform name attached to them.

The requirement of Cabinet approval for each sale of State land must be eliminated, fot it makes the process of conversion from leasehold to freehold unworkable.

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B. The Lands Department - Chap 59:01

Unrealistically low fees are charged for services provided. The aerial photographs for awarding titles and conveyancing as enacted in 1970 has fallen into disuse.

It is necessary to revise the fees and amend legislation accordingly, allowing for future increases in fees, to keep up with inflation, without requiring recourse to new legislation.

Provisions need to be made for the enforcement of the use of aerial photographs for awarding titles. Amendments to provide for the new Lands and Surveys Commission should be implemented.

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C. The Land Surveyors Act - Chap 97:01

The surveyors are paid unrealistically low fees for the surveys. The fees should be reviewed and amendments made accordingly, again allowing for future increases by executive decision.

Amendments should be made to provide for the use of international system of measurement, or metric units, and the use of Global Positioning Systems should be authorised.

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D. The Land Registry Act - Chap 5:02

The process is confined to the registration of land within the area for which there are no existing title documents, and existing transport deeds are merely recorded and endorsed with the Act.

The legal tradition of having title to land is handled by a land court, which is time consuming, in fulfillment of legal procedures.

This Act should be amended so that it deals with conveyancing only. A "Land Adjudication Law" should be enacted, stipulating that only disputes will be referred to a land court judge for adjudication and award. This law can be patterned after the Cayman Islands' Land Adjudication Law.

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E. The Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Act

The landlord should be able to regain possession of his rented lands upon the termination of the rental period. Likewise, rents should be negotiated freely between landlord and tenant, hence rentals should be deregulated, leaving the contracting parties to determine the amount payable.

The present situation inhibits freeholders from renting their lands, thus hindering agriculture production. This Act should be abolished because it has not produced the intended results owing to administrative failures (non functioning of assessment boards; its exclusive focus on the rice sector and its incompatibility with existing farming practices). Any aspect of the Act that is important should be incorporated into the Landlord and Tenants Act.

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F. The Landlord and Tenants Act

In some ways it overrides the Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Act, so this Act may be used in place of the Rice Farmers Security of Tenure Act. In cases where the Landlord and Tenants Act conflicts with the recommendations made above for agricultural land, it also should be revised.

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G. The Accusation of Lands Act (not beneficially occupied)

This law has fallen into disuse. It needs to be enforced, allowing the State to recover and re-adjudicate lands for which taxes and lease fees are in default. The procedures of recovery should be applied in as objectively as possible, while still providing the State with the necessary grounds for intervention in these cases.

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H. The Acreage Tax Act- Chap 81:22 (1970)

This law has fallen into disuse and should be replaced by a new Act authorising a general agricultural land tax as described earlier in this Chapter.

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I. The Property Tax Act

This law imposes a progressive tax on all the assets, including land. Should a land tax be introduced, there should be no need to include for taxation under the property tax, land for grazing and agriculture. The property tax should then be amended to make the exclusion.

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J. The Capital Gains Tax

This law has fallen into disuse. The revitalisation of this Act can serve as another instrument to stimulate beneficial occupation of idle lands.

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K. Land Use Planning Act

Currently there is no such act, but ultimately, there should be a Land Use Planning Act. It would give legal authority to the land use planning function of the Government. It should define structural and functional relationships, and inter-agency relationships. Also, it should create levels of planning geographically, levels of authority, and the relationships between these levels. The drafting and passage of the planning act needs to be accompanied by amendments to existing legislation to eliminate the overlaps and conflicts that now exist.

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L. The Local Democratic Organs Act

The existing regional system, its legislation and institutions, need to be reviewed and amended where necessary so that regional development and regional planning will be a part of a comprehensive land use planning structure.

See the Chapters on Amerindian Policies, on Flood Control and Water Management, and on Housing and Urban Development for related legislative recommendations.

1. The practice of issuing 99-year leases was initiated in 1905 on British Crown Lands.

2. One rhynland rood = 12.356 feet.

3. The laws of Guyana also recognise land titles in the form of Letters of Decree and Judicial Sales Transports.

4. Fifteen years including time on existing leases prior to 1996, or ten years counting foward on new leases.

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