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Land law under spotlight

Update: June, 18/2013 - 09:04
Farmers transplant rice seedlings in Nghe An Province. Nearly 7 million individuals and organisations had their say on amendments to acquisition provisions under the Land Law.— VNA/VNS Photo Le Ba Lieu

HA NOI (VNS)— National Assembly deputies yesterday discussed the many issues surrounding the land acquisition process in Viet Nam, as proposed amendments to the country's Land Law came under the spotlight.

In the build up to the debate, nearly 7 million individuals and organisations had their say on the issue.

Given the fact that a majority of land-related complaints and disputes have revolved around land acquisition and reclamation, it is widely expected that the amended law will adopt a more balanced approach ensuring the process is as fair as possible for all parties concerned.

Lawmakers discussed the fundamental issues of how the Government can justify that it is necessary to take back land lots and how it can ensure that fair and proper compensation is given to land users.

If the amendments to the law is adopted, the State will only be able to acquire land if it is needed for projects that are important to defence and security, serve the public interest, or benefit socio-economic development.

Deputy Nguyen Thanh Thuy from Binh Dinh Province broadly agreed with the suggestion, but called for more specific terminology to justify how a project could be considered as in the public interest. In cases where a project serves only the economic interests of investors, she suggested that potential buyers and sellers be left to negotiate deals by themselves.

Ngo Van Minh from Quang Nam Province declared that solving the land issue was important to the National Assembly, Government and the public because there were currently legal loopholes that allow corrupt officials to take advantage for their own gain.

He said he welcomed the latest attempts by lawmakers to introduce more concrete regulations, citing the example of the clearer description for socio-economic development projects that are eligible for land acquisition by the State. According to the amendments, approval for these projects will be the direct responsibility of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister or provincial People's Councils.

However, Duong Hoang Huong from Phu Tho Province warned that difficulties in distinguishing between socio-economic development and commercial projects may create inconsistencies in law enforcement.

Many deputies also touched on compensation and resettlement for land users.

Deputy Nguyen Sy Cuong from Binh Thuan Province used anecdotal evidence to show how unfair the current compensation scheme was.

"When I talked with my electorate, they said they gave up hundreds of hectares of land to develop a project, but with the money they received in return they could hardly afford any new land at all," one deputy said.

Deputy Tran Ngoc Vinh from Hai Phong City bluntly stated that he saw no major breakthroughs in the land evaluation mechanism.

"There are still no concrete criteria for appraising how much land is worth. It all comes down to the Government, which has tried to invent a price frame for local authorities to follow. However we all know that hardly any transaction on the market actually refers to this Government price frame when valuating land".

Thuy supported Vinh's argument, stating that costs presented in the land price frame were only 40 per cent of the market price. In big cities such as Ha Noi or HCM City, the ratio was even lower, at between 18 and 30 per cent.

Vinh, with the support of other deputies, called for the establishment of a land value appraisal commission, independent from the land management authorities, to ensure fairer prices. He also reminded his colleagues about how land acquisition could affect local people, sometimes forcing them to change their livelihoods, and urged a revamp of the compensation scheme to reflect this.

A majority of the NA agreed to keep the land ownership principle unchanged, with land owned by the whole people but managed by the State on their behalf. They also agreed to extend agricultural land allocation from 20 years to 50 years when the new law comes into force.

As many as 45 deputies had a chance to speak during the discussion, which lasted the whole working day. Given the importance of the law, the debate was broadcast live on national television and radio.

Closing the discussion, NA vice chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said the assembly would take into consideration the opinions of all the deputies before making a final call on whether the proposed amendments to the law should be approved this time. — VNS


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