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Keep Transparent in Land Sales
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Public interests cannot be ensured without transparency in land transferals, says a signed article in Beijing Youth Daily. An excerpt follows:

According to an official from the Ministry of Land and Resources, a new regulation governing the money from land transfers is to be launched.

This regulation raises the standard for taxes and fees collected upon land transference and puts the money under the supervision of local people's congresses.

In recent years, many localities have sold farmland to real estate developers for profit. In this process, few of the farmers who used to make a living on the land could get adequate compensation while the property developed on the land became more and more expensive because of price hikes on the land.

Certainly the new regulation will change the current pattern of how the money collected from land transference is divided among stakeholders. But its impact on farmers who lost their farmland and those who plan to purchase a house remains a question mark.
The public's biggest expectation for the new regulation is that it offers more aid to farmers and help rein in the ever-increasing property price.

Rural and urban citizens would thus both benefit from the land sales, and some localities and property developers would stop manipulating land prices for profit.

The new regulation, however, is unlikely to fully meet their expectations.

In the plan designed by the new regulation to divide the money, no clause mentions farmers losing their land. Nor does it change the means of giving the money to the farmers through local governments, which leaves room for localities to embezzle the money.

The increase in taxes and fees collected by the government upon the land transference may only push up the land price further, to be added into the estate price and paid by the property owners.

Meanwhile, the local people's congresses' supervision over the money is unlikely to be strong enough to prevent local governments from abusing the money when the substantial interests of local government are involved.

The property purchasers and the farmers who lost land in the transfers do not have a say in policy-making.

Before the land transfer is carried out under total transparency, there is still a long way to go to fully fulfill the public's expectations.

(China Daily October 17, 2006)

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