Network Support Calls to stop land grabs

Source: The National

The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) is backing non-government organisations in demanding for the World Bank to end its support for land and resources grabbing in Pacific communities, under the pretext of making customary land more productive.

PANG said the terrible outcomes of such business environments include the illegal land grab taking place in the country, with over five million hectares of customary land taken from local people without their consent for commercial use.

Over 180 organisations, including NGOs, unions, farmers and consumer groups from over 80 countries have demanded the World Bank to use its recent meeting in Washington to end its concept of “Doing Business rankings” and its support of illegal resource grabbing by major foreign corporations.

PANG coordinator Maureen Penjueli said the World Bank was facilitating land grabs in the Pacific by putting the interests of foreign investors before those of the people.

“The concept of World Bank’s Doing Business rankings encourages Pacific Island governments to ease processes for foreign investors with the so called aim of creating a sound and good environment for business.

 “What’s good for business however aren’t necessarily good for the Pacific people, their land and their environment. In fact much of what the World Bank endorses as good for business comes at the expense of the Pacific people.

“We have seen how the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking is clearly linked to our own government’s policies of freeing up land for productive use.  It has pushed people further into poverty by taking away land and people’s way of life,” she said.

Penjueli said: “Doing Business ranks economies based on the regulatory environment that exists for establishing and operating businesses. The rankings include indexes on registering property, protecting investors, paying taxes and trading across borders amongst others. In most cases the fewer regulations that are in effect the higher the rank.

 “A total of 189 countries were ranked and the “Pacific is generally scoring badly, one of the reasons being our customary land tenure systems which is perceived as an impediment to economic development and a barrier to foreign investment. 

“For Pacific Island Governments to improve their rankings they have to “make land productive”, “make land work” and so governments are reforming customary land tenure to facilitate foreign investment and to ease foreign investors doing business in the Pacific. 

 “Essentially land grabbing is then occurring when these systems are undermined and exploited by processes like Special Agriculture Business Lease in Papua New Guinea (SABL), and other land reform schemes enforced in the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu”.