ALTA LAND LEASES NOT BENEFICIAL: FIJI REPORT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (Sept. 27, 1999 – Fiji Broadcasting Commission)---An economist's report on the land issue says native land leases under ALTA (Agricultural Land Owner and Tenant Act) have failed to mutually benefit both the landowners and tenants.

Professor John Davies says that landowners have not benefited because the rents are extremely low.

In his report, titled "Reforming the Lease and the Use of Agricultural Land in Fiji: An Economic Incentive Approach," Professor Davies says that ALTA is a problem and not a solution to both landowners and tenants.

The report says that the most immediate consequences of the legislation are that it does not provide any incentive to the landowner to lease his land.

Professor Davies, who heads the Economic Department at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, says with the low rents even the most inefficient landowners and farmers would lose nothing by cultivating their own land, as opposed to leasing it.

The study sees the solution in the creation of an institutional mechanism that will enable a leasing transaction to be based on the consent of both landowners and tenants.

It says, in the process, leasing arrangements will be beneficial to both parties.

On the structure of rent, the report says that there should be one that provides incentives to landowners to lease the land.

It says tenants also should be rewarded with a fair share of gross agricultural proceeds.

In addition, the study recognizes that future land policy in Fiji won't just be about leasing. Professor Davies says it must also be about facilitating the desire of some mataqali to resume cultivation of their ancestral lands.

And on the sugar industry, the report says instead of the end of ALTA being the crisis that many fear, it offers a wonderful opportunity to modernize and re-organize the industry for the new millennium.

Professor Davies says it offers a clean break from the many counter-productive incentives, practices and attitudes that have been dulling innovation and crippling farm productivity.

The report says that moving to a marker-based leasing system not only maximizes leasing opportunities to tenants, it also offers for the chance of the best farmers acquiring the best leases and to increase their land holdings.

Landowners will also be able to engage in sugar production on a larger scale.

The report concludes that these developments offer sugar a realistic opportunity of accommodating itself to the market realities of the new millennium.

For additional reports from The Fiji Broadcasting Commission, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources/Fiji Live.

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