Australia and Kenya propose ways to settle claims
New laws to heal past injustices
Some places, citizens get to hear their leaders boldly advance sharing the commons. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) Kenya’s Daily Nation, May 18 on surface land by John Ngirachu and (2) Australia Network News, May 13 on buried resources (via reader Bryan Kavanagh).
by John Ngirachu and by Australia Network News
New law ‘to heal past injustices’
The proposed constitution will give Kenyans an opportunity to correct historical injustices on land.
The chapter on land, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said, was among “the most carefully considered” ones in the draft despite some politicians saying it was controversial.
“The draft has dealt with the issue of land in such a manner as to enable the correction of historical injustices and prevent abuse in the future,” said the PM.
He said those opposed to the draft on the basis of provisions on land were trying to protect their interests as they had land acquired illegally.
Among the provisions of the chapter land is the creation of a National Lands Commission to replace the office of the Commissioner of Lands.
The commission shall initiate on its own initiative or on a complaint, into present or historical land injustices and recommend ways they can be corrected.
Said Mr Odinga: “This provision recognizes the fact that a large portion of the Kenyan peoples have lost their land in circumstances they don’t consider fair. I find no fault with that.”
The National Land Commission will become operational through the National Land Commission Act to be prepared if the proposed constitution gets the greenlight at the August 4 referendum.
The Lands Ministry also launched an Integrated Land Rent Information System, which will enable people to pay land rent using mobile money transfer services.
Mr Orengo said the ministry’s main goal now was to fully implement the National Land Policy adopted by Parliament on December 3, last year.
It was impossible to implement the policy under the current laws, “which are varied and complex,” he said.
Four of the existing Acts -- Registration of Titles, Registered Land, Government Lands and the Land Titles -- will be merged into the Land Registration Act.
According to Mr Sammy Mwaita, a former Commissioner of Lands and current Baringo Central MP, the provisions on land would hurt owners of small pieces of land.
The proposed constitution says Parliament “shall enact legislation to prescribe minimum and maximum land holding acreages in respect of private land”.
This, says Mr Mwaita, means that those with land smaller than the minimum MPs will set will have to consolidate their land with others to get title deeds.
Mr Odinga said the proposed law viewed land as a factor of production and, “it is only fair that it be shared equitably.”
JJS: We can only hope the Kenyan politicians get it right. In the past, other nations got it right by simply taxing the rental value of land. The higher overhead spurred owners of vast holdings to sell off their excess at prices former tenants could afford. Overnight land was distributed without bloodshed. One of those nations was Australia and they are turning to what works yet again.
Rio Tinto 'likely to shelve projects' over Australian tax
In response to Australia's new mining super profits tax, mining corporation Rio Tinto will review all its new capital projects in Australia.
CEO Tom Albanese condemned the Government's proposed tax, saying Australia the company would not have invested so heavily over the past 40 years had the tax been in place earlier.
"For good reason, people are beginning to use terms like nationalization and expropriation for this new partnership," he said. "This will not help Australia's future investment climate."
Analyst Peter Strachan says there is no doubt Rio Tinto could delay or shelve some projects. "These companies have operations in South Africa, in South America, in North America, some of them in Asia.
"Rio Tinto particularly... they'll be really shuffling their money around and taking that money to where they can do best for their shareholders."
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd brushed off the mining companies' concerns, saying the angry complaints from big miners were "entirely predictable."
"What we want to ensure and what I believe in is that all Australians, because they actually own these resources, deserve a fair share back from these resources," he said.
"It reminds me, very much, of the debate which was kicked off back in the mid '80s when we brought in the petroleum resource rent tax."
"If you were to go to the Financial Times in those days there were [reports] similar to the ones you read out to me about the impending collapse of all future investment in offshore projects in Australia.
"As we know, that didn't happen.
"Some of the large mining companies and some other companies are going to say all sorts of things as we sort out the detail of this.
"But again, it reminds me of a campaign which was run against the Labor Party in the lead up to the last federal election about how the abolition of Work Choices would fundamentally destroy the mining industry.
"Well that hasn't happened, nor did the introduction of the petroleum resource rent tax 25 years ago. So we've got to deal with these things on their merits."
JJS: Such a lucky nation, to have a leader like that. Here in the US, the government does not even bother in some cases to recover the royalties that extractors owe!
The situation is a win/win for Australia. Either the people get the resource rent they are owed. Or extractors abandon some sites, to use others more intensely, leaving the first sites some breathing space to recover their ecological integrity.
The public recovery of natural values is one of the few things in economics that actually does work as advertised. It’s how we can make the market work right for everyone. And it’s part of the grand policy shift of geonomics.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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