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Government targets tardy commercial leaseholders

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, March 4, 2008) - Arrears for rental on State land for the past five years have reached FJ$15 to FJ$20 million [US$10 to US$13 million], says the Lands Ministry.

Lands permanent secretary Dr. Rohit Kishore said most of the arrears was owed by commercial lot occupiers. He said more than 100 firms had outstanding rentals, although some of those companies had partially paid up.

His statement comes as the ministry launched a nationwide lease arrears collection drive and lease renewals, starting this month.

Kishore said the aim was to update and verify State land lease records in an attempt to improve delivery of services to customers. He said the ministry started the initiative last month and expect to collect arrears within six months.

Kishore said about 50 percent of the rent each year had been allowed to become overdue.

"Some of the tenants are good while some are reluctant in paying," he said.

He said if tenants did not adhere to lease terms the ministry would take land back from them and re-lease it.

Meanwhile, the Native Land Trust Board will be giving details of rent subsidies to the Committee on the Better Utilisation of Land, NLTB spokesman Ro Alipate Mataitini said.

The Committee on Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL) has been set up by the interim Government to look into ways of using idle land for economic development.

Cabinet approved the formation of a Committee on Better Utilisation of Land last month.

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