Government wants to expand leases to cover 20% of Papua New Guinea

Lands and Physical Planning Minister, Lucas Dekena, has confirmed the government has handed out 99-year leases covering more than than 5 million hectares of customary land and revealed that the government intends to double the number of leases so they cover 20% of Papua New Guinea's land mass.

The Minister has rejected the widespread criticism of the Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL) and said the state had no choice as it wanted to free up land for development because more than 95% of the land was owned by the customary landowners.

“In order to allow customary landowners to free up the land, the government had to come with policies that created an opportunity for development on customary land. The policy is vital for the progress and development and for greater landowner participation and benefit."

While the Minister claimed the leases "empower the landowners" he failed to respond to criticism that most landowners are totally unaware their land has been taken from them and have not given their free, informed consent to the deals.

The Minister also failed to explain HOW the leases will lead to 'development'; what that development might look like, or how local people would 'participate' and 'benefit'.

The Minister also claimed the media has misled people and that land will not be taken away or sold - which seems a clear case of the Minister himself not understanding what the agricultural leases mean or of he himself trying to mislead the public.


Yes, they (Planning) have put in absurdly large targets for crop production increases in the DSP. So then DAL uses that as their excuse for pushing these SABLs as the 'only way' to deliver these targets, and sending their staff running around the world finding investment partners. Clear past evidence shows PNG missing out on benefits from past mining and other developments, and pushing heaps of LNG and mines all to commence around the same time horizon ensures poor absorption and low benefits, whilst the negative aspects still occur. We need more phased development and strong emphasis on transparent project discussion, negotiation and agreements, and major commitment to education and training, including for landowner companies. Not all these mining projects need to occur (some the costs outweigh the benefits) and some should be staggered, to ensure benefits really occur.
With the land deals it should be the interests of the customary landowners which should be primary, not some agenda set in Waigani. These are largely disguised logging operations, by-passing the requirements of the forestry act and the revised Lands legislation, which is designed to empower landowners. The revised law allows landowners to set aside some of their land, as they determine, for more commercial development (with their clear consent) but these SABLs in many cases are signing away their entire land and that of their neighbours, including land where villages, gardens and existing tree crops are growing to business entities, at least some of which are foreigners or other outsiders, as with all teh Morobeans claiming title to the Oro land near Collingwood Bay, or the one landowner groups being vested with the land of many of their neighbouring clans and house-lains (not a ticket for community harmony).

The World Bank has sponsored this some years back in 1996 where land registration or mobilisation thing came about which brought about nation wide protests led by Uni Students. Now the world bank is still having a go at it, mobilising or grabbing land away from customary owners through its agent IMF. What is the underlying reason of such a misconceived program by a government that is supposed to protect its citizens interests. My first personal oppinion is that the government is borrowing too much money from IMF that the World Bank (or IMF) is putting a condition as collateral against the goverment's loan is LAND GRAB. Infact, that is what the World Bank did some years back under Sir Julius Chan's leadership, Land Registeration was a condition by World Bank as collateral against government borrowings. SABL is the same tactic applied in a slightly different program through the same department though. My second oppinion is the government in its wisdom and using the mandated capacity to decide for the country's future, decided to grab land for the sake of development, this is actually what they are preaching now. If the people of PNG want to develop, then customary lands must be freed up for the state's use and to promote investor confidence. This is ridiculous because by adopting this strategy, they are saying other established systems and procedures of doing business on customary lands are worthless. It means ILGs, commercial registration etc etc... and such established procedures are overuled by SABL. My third opinion is pure greed and avarice that is playing at the minds of the corrupt previleged few and they are driven to overdrive mode in their obsession for material wealth that simple common sense is nonsense to them. IMF sponsored land grab is deceitful.