Speed up land distribution now

Shortage of serviced land for residential plots continues to dominate public discussion on the country’s economic performance. People are frustrated at the slow pace at which land is being distributed in urban areas, as confirmed by recent petitions to the Ministry of Lands and Housing, as well as court cases in which the applicants demanding to be given land.

The number of applicants for residential plots, we are told, has exceeded the population.

This creates a bad image of the authorities charged with this mandate. It is inconceivable that in this age of information technology, officers in Land Boards still do their records manually, and therefore are unable to easily detect land speculators and multiple times applicants.

Last week, an economist expressed shock that Botswana, blessed with vast land, is experiencing shortage of land for accommodation. This, he warned, impacts the performance of the economy since workers are also affected by the shortage of accommodation, as they are likely to be less productive. This problem is compounded by poorly coordinated public transport, which has created a booming market for second hand vehicles from Asia. Those with bulging pockets have found shortcut to land acquisition, through corruption.


The shortage of land, if not given attention and addressed within the shortest time possible, could potentially cause political instability. It is unbelievable and mind boggling to be told that there are applicants who have been on the waiting list for close to two decades, but our authorities seem unmoved by this arrangement. The government ought to act now. The first move could be to acquire the hundreds of hectares of land in the greater Gaborone area and develop it in the next two or three years. We are fully aware that the Ministry of Lands has already started that project as announced at a recent meeting in Gabane. Surely, it is a good move, but the ministry should also compensate accordingly the owners of the ploughing fields which it intends to acquire. Secondly, the owners are not asking for too much when they plead for concessions from the government to at least allocate a plot to a family member.

Shortage of residential plots makes us a laughing stock of the people we are hosting, some of whom are from highly populated countries with very little land. The expert also compared Botswana to Hong Kong and Singapore, which combined, are less than the total area of Botswana, yet they have managed their land very well.

We must give priority to land allocation if we are serious about economic growth and competing globally, and the time is now to act on residential land allocation.

Today’s thought

“As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.”

 

-Adam Smith

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