10 Nov 2009

IMF and World Bank in Fiji talks

4:16 pm on 10 November 2009

The IMF and the World Bank are both in Fiji to look at requests for assistance from the interim regime over its plans for land reform.

The interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has said land reform is needed to save the sugar industry and open up more opportunities for tourism and agriculture.

Plans for change have been unsuccessfully discussed before.

But Professor Biman Prasad, Dean of the Faculty Economics at the University of the South Pacific, believes land issues are less sensitive now that they were in the past:

"The issue of ownership will not be on the table, no one is talking about changing the ownership of land in Fiji. I think the debate has always been about the use of land and how effectively a leasing arrangement can be devised so that it is more sustainable, it is more secure, it is more certain, at the same time it provides better return for the the landowners."

Professor Prasad says he would like to see leasing legislation discussed so that leases for agriculture purposes are increased from the current 30-year maximum.

He says the state needs to have some role to ensure that land is put to good use and that land owners receive a fair return.