By Kemol King
The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) has been lagging far behind target on the preparation of Guyana’s National Land Policy.
During an end-of-year press conference at the Commission’s Durban Backlands office, Commissioner Trevor Benn, who gave an update on the body’s work for the year 2019, told reporters that the Land Policy, Planning and Projects Division has supported the “acceleration” of the process for the development of a harmonised National Land Policy and legislative framework, and that consultations with key stakeholders are taking place.
This is sure to surprise persons who have been keeping up to date with developments at the Commission for the past few years, as it was in December, two years ago, that Benn announced the organisation’s intention to prepare the policy and have it completed in the earlier half of 2018.
Benn had said that regional and national consultations will also be undertaken before the process wraps up, having the policy emerge out of a highly consultative process.
2019 is almost over, and the consultation stage has not progressed as it should.
Commissioner Benn had told Kaieteur News earlier in the year that the GLSC only conducted two consultations, after which, the work was stalled by the other aspects of GLSC’s work plan. He had said that consultations would continue in the “coming months”, but he could not identify a timeline in which the policy could be drafted.
Benn said during Monday’s press conference that the absence of a comprehensive land policy leaves a vacuum which is only filled by challenges in tenure security and efficiency for many Guyanese. It has also resulted in unclear responsibilities in land administration and management, and overlapping mandates for Government agencies.
The policy is meant to describe a national vision for the land sector, define Government and citizens’ rights and responsibilities, and set priorities, as well as set out the legal basis for agencies of the land sector.
The Green State Development Strategy: Vision 2040 has much to say about the importance of the policy. The pertinence of the policy to the strategy is far-reaching. The strategy is supposed to guide Guyana’s sustainable development for the next 20 years.
The GSDS: Vision 2040 states that, as the premier resource, “land requires careful and thoughtful use, with planned allocations in accordance with an agreed framework”. It noted that demand for land is significant and growing from a range of competing economic uses: mining, forestry, agriculture and transport infrastructure; as well as housing and settlements, drainage, water production, indigenous claims, among others.
And through all this, there are about a dozen land and/or resource use management agencies that fall under the jurisdictions of various ministries; Natural Resources, Presidency, Agriculture and Communities. They all have a stake in land use and/or resource management. An expanded list includes Amerindian and local government bodies and other agencies.
The issue with there being so many agencies working in this regard, the GSDS notes, is that they all have separate mandates that could, either, overlap or conflict with each other. That issue is one that has existed for many years.
The GSDS strategy refers to the need for the land policy to be a guiding policy for those agencies.
“This remains urgent.” The strategy notes.
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