The government has formed a new policy group to develop strategies for land reform, a topic that is expected to be the focus of today’s donor-government follow-up meeting.
The Land Policy Council, an inter-ministerial group headed by Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim, met for the first time on Thursday.
“We have to manage our land in the whole country, even if we need to borrow money from the international community,” said Im Chhun Lim.
“It’s a very important issue. We cannot develop our country without any proper land management in place,” he said.
For example, the lack of proper boundaries marking state and private property has caused several private investment projects to fail, said Soun Soth, secretary-general for the Council for Development of Cambodia’s private investment board.
Tram Iv Tek, secretary of state for the Public Works Ministry, said state property such as ports, roads and rivers also must be properly marked.
National road projects are often delayed, he said, because squatters claiming land along the road have to be relocated.
“We had to spend $1 million for families living along National Route 5,” Tram Iv Tek said.
He suggested that the country develop compensation standards for relocation and establish a list of land values.
Land reform has been an ongoing focus of donors and NGOs. The government recently has begun paying more attention to the issue and at the Consultative Group donor meeting last May, officials appealed to donors to support a comprehensive land management and administration project.
The topic is expected to receive special attention at today’s donor follow-up meeting, where Im Chhun Lim will report on recent progress in land reform.
The government has drafted a new land law that is awaiting debate in the National Assembly. But critics have said more needs to be done on issues such as property registration, zoning, taxation and demarcation of forest land in order to solve the growing number of land disputes and increasing landlessness among the poor.
The Land Policy Council is expected to be a driving force behind a 10-year, $100 million land management project. The government wants every piece of land to be mapped and registered under a national land title registry. Japan has committed $600,000 to help design the project, while the World Bank will coordinate the donors.
“We applaud the government efforts,” said a spokesman of the NGO Land Study Group.
He said land reform is complicated because it is related to all aspects of the country’s development including demobilization, decentralization, judicial reform and poverty reduction.
“It’s such a complex issues that so many things need to be done,” the spokesman said.
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