Monday, March 9, 2009

Address at the Closing of 2007 Stock-Taking Conference and Directions Setting for 2008 and the years ahead of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban P

Phnom Penh, 25th March 2008

Your Excellencies, Deputy Prime Minister, Senior Ministers, Ministers, Members of the Royal Government,

Your Excellencies, Municipal-Provincial Governors,

Dear Participants!

Today, I have a great pleasure to join with Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen here again in the Annual Stock-Taking Conference of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC).

Taking this opportunity, I would like to compliment the efforts of leaders, managements and all hierarchical officials of the MLMUPC and relevant institutions that have produced positive outcomes which contribute to the implementation of land policy of the Royal Government (RG).

The RG fully aware that land is a fundamental and important natural resource, which can be utilized for socio-economic development and poverty reduction, especially in rural area. In implementing the Land Law and land policy, the RG has concentrated its efforts on strengthening land use, management and distribution system for equity and economic efficiency. These has been done through land registration to assure security of land title, land distribution, eliminating anarchic land holding, introducing suitable policy against unused and unproductive land. The RG has been reviewing vacant state land or state land that has been possessed by people without proper legal standard and procedure. The RG have put high priority on strengthening the property rights for people who need land for residential purposes and for household agriculture cultivation under the framework of social land concession based on the principal of helping the poor and vulnerable group. At the same time, the RG has been reviewing economic land concession to assure transparency and economic efficiency of land management following the policies and regulations in effects.

- Your Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen!

Before discussing on the practical implication of land issues, I would like to briefly highlight the history of land reform in Cambodia, which has been the most sensitive reform due to the complex legacy that remain from the past.

We must keep in mind that the Khmer Rouge regime has completely taken out the root of private property rights. In that regime, private rights on movable and immovable property were totally abolished. Legal documents of property rights were destroyed and physical possession were prohibited. This is the worst legacy inherited to us from the Khmer Rouge. Based on the chaos situation of property rights coupled with the lack of production means, during the second half of 1980s, government of the former State of Cambodia allowed private rights through distribution of agricultural land. Indeed, to begin such reform, required a strong courage during both difficult and dangerous period. It was “difficult” because of the legacy from the Khmer Rouge. It was “dangerous” because of unfavourable environment within the country and abroad. During that time, the government led the reform in the context of cold war internationally and hot war domestically. In this regard, the reform produced different views among leaders as well as the socialist countries, who were then, the donor countries and they had not make any reform in their own countries either. Putting such reform in such historical context, we can understand the value of our willingness, courage and tremendous efforts to overcome many challenges to make reform so far and in the future.

- Your Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen!

I would like to congratulate the outcome of systematic land registration which is an important contribution to the strengthening of land title’s security, improvement in land market, increased national revenue and the reduction in land conflicts. I would like to compliment the improved competency of experts in these works and I would like to congratulate the geographical expansion of the systematic land registration from 11 to 15 provinces/municipalities and, especially for the establishment of Systematic Land Registration Team in Svay Rieng by using solely national budget.

At the same time, we have made a significant progress in the areas of land management, urban planning and construction, especially in construction sector. During the recent years, because of political stability, good public order and high economic growth, both local and international investors’ confidence has been dramatically improved which results in rapid investment on Real Estate and development projects. Large construction projects such as satellite cities, high-rise buildings, housing complex, condominiums, villas, business centres, office buildings, shopping centres, hotels, factories, warehouses, petrol stations, etc. have surged rapidly in cities, urban areas, and at special economic zones. The construction of residential houses also increases. In 2007, according to the reviewing and issuances of construction permission, both at national and provincial/municipal levels, there were 1942 construction projects, amounting to an estimate of 3,211 million dollars, an increase of 169% compared to 2006. This sector makes a significant contribution to poverty reduction by employing a large amount of people either as technicians, personnel, skilled and unskilled workers in construction sites across the country.

I would also like to congratulate the effort spent on land management at regional, provincial/municipal, district, and local levels and urge the continued attention on national policy for urban development, which has primarily been drafted, and work closely with JICA to produce an integrated coastal zone development policy and master plan for Sihanouk Ville which has the potential to become a new economic pole.

In particular, regarding land distribution, the RGC has been pushing hard the implementation of social land concession aiming at alleviating poverty, ensuring social stability, and achieving sustainable, transparent and equitable national economic development, and supporting decentralization and de-concentration policies. Apart from major land distribution programs in 1989 and 1998, the RGC has gradually distributed land within the framework of new relocation sites, implementation of the use of cleared land-mine, legalization of illegally encroached land by poor people to 27,000 families on a total area of 12,391 hectares from 2002 to 2007. (Specifically, in 2007 alone, a total 8,000 hectares of land were distributed to 7,000 families, comprising of 2,000 families in Kampong Cham, 684 families in Kratie, and 1300 families in Battambang province. In Phnom Penh, 1,500 families were distributed with land from 2006 to 2007.)

Apart from the above land distribution, the RGC in the Third Legislative of the National Assembly is pushing for the implementation of social land concession distribution program for 10,000 families, including 240 poor handicapped veteran families in Kampot province, and about 100 poor veteran families in Siem Reap, a program which I directly lead by using the generous fund from donors. We plan to implement the program for 800 families in Kratie, more than 1000 families in Preah Vihear, 100 families in Steung Treng, and at least 400 families in other provinces/municipalities. Taking this opportunity, I would like to appreciate provinces/municipalities that have made efforts to solve the landlessness problem, and at the same time, I would like to remind other provinces/municipalities to concentrate on preparing land for social land concession in accordance with the plan issued through government’s notification No. 06, dated 8 November 2007, on the implementation of social land concession plan.

- Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

According to the above achievement, the RGC will remain committed to complete the remaining tasks in the implementation of its policies and the “Rectangular Strategy”. Taking this valuable moment, I would like to raise some recommendations concerning the implementation of land distribution policy for 2008 and the years ahead that the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction, and other related agencies must pay attention to as follows:

Firstly- we must continue to strengthen the security of land ownership by registering all properties (either private or public), and registering the transfer of land ownership. Land registration must be conducted in accordance with the principle of good governance, transparency, decentralization and de-concentration, simplicity, and affordability. In order to speed up land registration, we must give attention to expanding operational group of systematic land registration on the basis of human and financial resources to implement this program across the country, especially in potential areas by examining the implementability of the Royal Decree on the Establishment and Operation of the Special Operation Agency.

Secondly- We must register all transfer of land ownership clearly by coordinating public services at a transparent and easily accessible “Single Window” to minimize time wastage in accordance with the spirit of the RGC in improving the public services. Regarding state land registration, we already have 118 decrees and some directives. Hence, the provincial/municipal governors who are the head of state land management’ committee to enhance the implementation of this work effectively so that state land can be used for socio-economic development.

Third. Gradually and precisely produce inventory of state’s property in a single data system. This is a huge task requiring total force and source of finance, but it is the most important task for the state to manage and use the land.

Fourth. Create land and property evaluation system, which is participatory, transparent and official by gradually following the international standard in order to provide the basis for taxation, sale, purchase, lease, transfer, use as collateral, confiscate of land, and court order etc. for investment and compensation.

Fifth. Create and enforce necessary legislation for the future such as expropriation law, law which allows the state to purchase cheap land before anyone else, land development which require review of law and legal standard according to the current national development.

Sixth. Pay great attention to co-ownership registration, especially for new constructions which are mushrooming in suburb and urban areas and registration of land belonging to minority community.

Seventh. Establish Land Information system as the foundation for National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Doing so will promote accessibility of information and transparency in land market.

Eighth. Strengthen and accelerate out-of-court solution mechanism of land dispute such as land commission of all levels, especially towards those disputes that involve several parties.

Land management, urban planning and construction

Land management must ensure environmental sustainability and social and economic development of equity in urban and rural areas by protecting land and regulating construction development, resettlement following decentralization and de-concentration policy and in conformity to the hierarchy of planning and relevant legal procedure. In order to achieve this target we must do the following:

First. Carry out land management planning through defining the essence and ecclesiastical rank of planning such as national strategic plan for municipality development, assigning the authority to take charge of making and executing plan and producing legal standard which is essentially supportive to the implementation of the plan.

Second. Should establish a mechanism to identify land use zone based upon land use plan, and manage and control land use according to land regulation such as land management plan, urban and rural areas development plan and monitoring development.

Third. Should prepare the code for construction and urban planning and construction standard in order to respond to rapid development of this sector.

Fourth. Integrate land development and use plan with the participation from all relevant institutions and speed up the preparation guideline for land use to support the decentralization and de-concentration policy of land arrangement by local authorities under the auspice of national level technical assistance.

Fifth. Institutions which have the mandate right to state land must provide annual fiscal record of state land to the Ministry of Economy and Finance in order to report the current situation so that the general public can access the information from relevant institutions. Institutions receiving the mandate to use state land must take the responsibility with municipal/provincial state land management committee with respect to the protection and ensuring accountability in management of public land and state private land.

Land distribution

The objective of land distribution is to ascertain social stability and facilitate investment in order to sustainably develop the economy, to prevent land concentration and encourage efficient use of land.

First. Encourage the collection and binding of state land record for rationale land distribution and use at the present time and in the future. Cities/provinces must formulate and implement strategies as well as long-term and short-term land distribution framework in order to distribute and use land aiming at social and economic development in parallel with the national and sub-national plans by ensuring transparency to avoid creating adverse effect to the society and environment.

Second. Promote land distribution for social development and prevent illegal encroachment of state land.

Third. Try to implement partnership between farmers with small landholding and big farms and corporation in agricultural production, and between economic land concession and social land concession through land distribution in the framework of rural development.

These are some recommendations for consideration as input for wide land policy documentation and take measures for implementation. Indeed, participants of this meeting are the one who live in the local area and practitioners, hence they might see other additional factor to be included in the land policy.

In the end, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and myself, I would like to once again convey my compliments to Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen for achieving the government-assigned tasks and duties.

Along with the closing of stocktaking conference of year 2007 and directions setting for 2008 and the years ahead of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, I would like to wish Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen with five Gems of Buddhist Blessings.


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