- Oakland Institute report is based on six case studies including SL on global push to ‘unlock the economic potential of land’
- Says MCC project will extensively map and digitise land records of up to 67% of SL
- Says land project focuses on mapping and digitising State lands for explicit purpose of stimulating investment and increasing its use as an economic asset
The Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank based in the US, in a recent report said the compact between Sri Lanka and the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) could potentially shift millions of hectares of land in the country into private control.
“A land project focused on mapping and digitising State lands has the explicit purpose of stimulating investment and increasing its use as an economic asset. Motivated by the difficulty the private sector currently faces in acquiring land in Sri Lanka, the project will extensively map and digitise land records of up to 67% of the entire country,” stated the report titled ‘Driving Dispossession – The global push to unlock the economic potential of land’.
“Civil society groups have called on the Government to reject the compact and warned that it will result in ‘land grabs by creditors, the transfer of prime land to multinational corporations, [and] the loss of livelihoods for local farmers’. For dispossessed groups and ethnic minorities, the prospect of the Government determining what land is vacant poses an enormous threat given the country’s history of war-related displacement, internal colonisation, and landlessness,” the report said.
The Oakland Institute did case studies of six countries including Sri Lanka to show how governments pass new laws, create land markets, conduct land reforms, and sign Public Private Partnerships to open more lands and natural resources to exploitation. “This trend is largely encouraged by Western governments and private foundations, as well as international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”
Through six case studies – Ukraine, Zambia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Brazil – this report details the various ways by which governments – willingly or under the pressure of financial institutions and so-called donor countries – attempt to privatise land and make it available for exploitation.
The report added that as people’s very presence and resistance is seen as an obstacle to investment and business, many governments around the world have been prompted to adopt the Western capitalist notion of private land ownership.
“This includes the creation of land markets so that land can be leased or sold and put into so-called ‘productive use’ to ‘unlock its value’. The World Bank is a key factor in the push to privatise and commodify land.
“In 2017, its Enabling the Business of Agriculture report prescribed to governments the series of measures they should take to ‘enhance the productivity of land use’ and encourage agribusiness expansion,” the report said.
It added that the key policy prescriptions included formalising private property rights, easing the sale and lease of land for commercial use, systematising the sale of public land by auction, and improving procedures for expropriation.
The report was released last week.