LAND MOBILIZATION PROGRAMME IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Papua New Guinea is at the crossroads. Nearly three decades of neglect of customary land management by successive governments since Independence has denied development to most of our citizens who own the country. It is time that the educated elite of the country, including politicians, bureaucrats, students and all those in paid employment, made a serious and conscious attempt to consult with their own land group. It is time to sort out where we are all going and what we want for ourselves in the next 20 years. Each land group in the country needs to develop its own vision for the year 2020 and beyond and prepare for itself its own "Kumul 2020" plan following the leadership of the government Kumul 2020 plan (GoPNG 1998). Once each group has some clear ideas as to what they want for themselves and their children then such a group would be open to intelligent and unemotional discussions as to finding ways and means to achieve that vision.
In order to develop a Kumul 2020 vision each educated member of a land group must ask himself/herself some of the following questions.
What are these questions leading to? Certain critical decisions need to be made by each land group in the country. Almost everywhere else on the globe land groups have disappeared, often at the cost of enormous social unrest, injustice, bloodshed and hardship? Will the clan system with communal property rights survive the 21st century? Some thought it would not survive the 20th century. Destruction of the clan system will surely create chaos that will keep PNG undeveloped for centuries. On the other hand, maintenance of the clan system and communal property ownership will require creative thinking and empowerment of all land group members. Modern mechanisms must be discovered to empower and extend customary management systems to evolve in a way that provides for the clan as a modern legally recognized corporate entity for the foreseeable future.
Had this legislation been implemented correctly over the last two decades millions of PNG citizens would have been more fully involved in the modern economy. Today the two acts (LGIA and LDSA) are badly implemented and the third act that of registration has not occurred. The vision of the founding fathers has not been realised. The majority of our citizens have been left to fend for themselves on the fringes of the modern economy.
Land Mobilisation: the transition of customary land to property
Customary land is held by land groups according to local custom. Traditionally customary owners never considered their land as property but as a domain for survival of land group members, past, present, and future. All kinds of social, spiritual, ecological, epistemological and subsistence values inhered in such land. However, from the business point of view in the modern sector, it is an asset with no value. It is not a "property". It is outside the modern sector and isolated from mainstream development.
In order for the majority of the population to be involved in mainstream economy the people must make a transition from being masters of a domain to being communal property owners.&NBSP; Papua New Guinea is in a position to make this transition in the space of a couple of decades if we have enlightened and strong political leadership. In England and America the same process took two to three hundred years.
We are in a much stronger position than England and America were or other developing countries are now because we have, intact, thousands of years of experience in land management. Moreover we do not yet have millions of people in squatter settlements outside both the customary land system and the modern alienated land system. As each year of inaction and neglect by government goes bye this advantage will turn into a huge handicap. Already Port Moresby has about one hundred thousand of its residents living on untitled land in villages and settlements. This arrangement disadvantages local landowners, government, and service providers. Possibly one third of the water supplied to the city by Eda Ranu is not paid for. This throws the burden on those ratepayers who do pay in the way of increased prices.
Customary land management is the "social contract" for customary land and this social contract between the members and the land group sets the terms and conditions for land use within the land group. By the Land Group Incorporation Act the government has provided the first legal artifact to empower the land group to enter the modern sector. Land registration and issue of title to the Incorporated Land Group is the next essential step. These laws will empower the group to deal with people and companies outside the group.
The customary "social contract" remains intact after registration. Ownership remains intact. What has changed? Issue of TITLE to an INCORPORATED LAND GROUP has empowered the group to convert its previously locked up and commercially valueless asset (land) to a valuable property able to be shaped and employed to the groups advantage. These two legal artifacts, the titleand the registration certificate have added great value to the previously "dead" asset. Conversion of land to "property" enables the land group (ILG) to now harness the surplus value of the asset to accumulate capital either alone or in conjunction with other ILGs who have undergone the same transition. This is the basis for capitalism in PNG, capitalism that involves the millions and not just the few, Melanesian capitalism.
Can there be such a thing? There surely can. It is up to thinking people to exploit the generation of capital while maintaining the Melanesian social contract relating to land. There are two characteristics of the Melanesian social contract in regard to land that will guide the processes of capital formation.
Land does not become a commodity that can be traded in an unlimited manner. But this does not rule out all dealings in land. The head title stays with the ILG but parcels of land may be identified by the land group to be available for capital formation in a variety of ways that will be illustrated below.
Land does not become the property of individuals but remains a corporate property, the property of the ILG. This does not mean that individuals cannot get access to corporate property. If the ILG denied individual members access to land parcels the group would stifle entrepreneurship and defeat the purpose of land mobilization in the first place. Corporate ownership entails the very real requirement that the corporate owners develop management skills that will enable them to exploit the value of their property for their mutual benefit.
Thus the fundamentals of capital formation in PNG are
Without all of these, 97% of the land in PNG and the millions of owners are doomed to stagnation and exclusion from the modern sector. Without a strong government initiative to develop these conditionalities, people will take their own steps to mobilize their resources creating a chaotic situation that will take us centuries to solve. As stated above government neglect is already creating chaos in squatter settlements in the urban areas. In the Highlands there are hundreds of businesses being developed on untitled land. People just cant wait on government. Lack of government support for customary land management forces the entrepreneurs to operate with a handicap and will take a lot of sorting out in the long term.
What are the opportunities available to ILGs with land Titles?
While customs differ throughout the country there are certain generalities that can be identified to illustrate the processes that can go ahead to involve the majority of the people in the economy. The transition that will take place over the next couple of decades is illustrated below.
Once a land group is incorporated the members will need to look upon their land holdings with from a different point of view. They will need to begin to realise the following:
The estate of the land group can be viewed as follows
A simplified diagram shows this arrangement in Figure 1.
Transition to modern clan use. As the land group begins to formalise access by members to clan property certain changes will eventuate.
As land group members begin to exploit economic opportunities we will see a shrinking of the clan commons.
The trends identified here are not theoretical. Already in high density population areas of the Highlands, all the arable land has been privatized for centuries. Though the land is privatized the landholder is bound to the land group by a complex web of obligations and privileges dictated by custom and the history of the land parcel. As time goes by these arrangements may be formalised to promote the modern clan commons.
Eventually one could envisage the time when all the land belonging to a land group will be locked up with the following possible arrangements.
This vision of group land holdings in PNG under Melanesian capitalism poses a very significant challenge to each and every clan member and to the PNG Government if it is to stand a chance of happening. One gets the impression that many have already chosen the pathway to "independent" individualism. On the other hand when clan members are directly questioned they almost invariably stick to the customary system of communal ownership.
There is a great need for these issues to be discussed throughout the nation to help people develop creative choices for the future of PNG. To do nothing, as at the present, is a choice for ultimate chaos and continued de-development. The choice is ours!
Urbanization and customary land management
Let us apply the above ideas to address two related land management problems that affect every town in PNG. Former landowners are crying out for renewed compensation while present landowners are unable to mobilize their urban and peri-urban land.
All round the country former landowners of "alienated" land are crying out for further compensation. K5 million for Goroka Teachers College, K2.7 million for Vanimo etc and a host of claims not yet addressed. State instrumentalities are rushing round tripping each other up slapping grease on the squeaky wheels but never fixing the problems and wasting a lot of grease in the meantime. Landowners everywhere are frustrated because they are hampered by the State in trying to bring development to their clan members based on their land.
In fact these problems can be fixed relatively simply even within existing legislation. In reality these issues are two sides of the one coin and both can be addressed by some creative thinking by politicians and bureaucrats. In order for progress to be made in mobilizing land for development in Papua New Guinea there needs to be a change in mind-sets of the DLPP bureaucracy away from the alienated/customary land dichotomy. DLPP needs to develop the realization that the State is in a position to provide services to customary owners, that is, the State can work with landowners, rather than against them by trying to acquire their land and get them out of the way. No informed land group today wants to sell off its patrimony to the State and then take a backseat while cashed up entrepreneurs reap the returns from development. Thus the existing portfolio of alienated land that the DLPP is so busy managing round the country is a diminishing asset beset with problems of administration and backlash by landowners.
A little lateral thinking can offer creative solutions that will clear up the present mess and pre-empt the continuing hassles from disenfranchised land groups crying out for involvement in the modern economy.
This problem suggests a mechanism to solve the constant strife over alienated land and at the same time offers a model to mobilize much more land into the modern sector. The steps that need to be taken include the following:
Just as a rental sharing arrangement can address problems associated with the existing "government" land a similar approach can be applied to certain classes of customary land in a way to meet the development requirements of a modern nation state. Since businesses require secure title for multi-million kina investment, it seems that some form of state title is required. How can state title be acquired in a way that does not disenfranchise the customary owners?
At the moment there is no Land Registration Act for registration of customary land but solutions can be found to business opportunities even under present legislation. Since it is not possible for the landowners to accurately forecast their requirements for the future they should set about creating the "modern clan commons" as development opportunities present themselves on a piecemeal basis and not as a blanket alienation of their land. Take an example:
This is a win win win situation all round for government, landowners and developers. For detailed practical examples of this type of approach to urban customary land management see Aldridge 2000.
Prerequisites for such an initiative
The State must develop an institution that has qualified staff and adequate resources to manage customary land matters. Whether this is an authority like the Investment Promotion Authority or a special Office within the DLPP needs to be studied carefully. Requirements for this organization have been described in another paper Power in press.
Aldrich, B. 2000 Current Land Situation Report Report presented to the Special Parliamentary Committee on Urbanization and Social Development, Port Moresby
GoPNG 1973 Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Land Matters, Port Moresby
GoPNG 1975 National Constitution of Papua New Guinea
GoPNG 1983 "Report of the Task Force on Customary Land Issues" Chairman Kere Moi.
GoPNG 1995 "Land Mobilization Programme: General Institution building Review of Land Dispute Settlement organization and Mechanisms" Report by Norman Oliver, consultant DLPP Port Moresby
GoPNG 1998 Kumul 2020 Preparing Papua new Guinea for Prosperity in the 21st Century A Report of the Planning the New Century Committee, Department of Planning and Implementation, Port Moresby
GoPNG 2000, "Appeal in respect to the Gobe, South East Gobe customary Land Ownership Dispute", Land Titles Commission, Port Moresby
Power, A. P. 1986 "The Future of Clans in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century", Proceedings of the 17th Waigani Seminar pp 156-74
Power, A. P. 1991 "Policy Making in the East Sepik Province", in Larmour, P. 1991 op.cit.
Power A P 2000a Land Group Incorporation: Village and Legal Guides AusAID Port Moresby
Power A. P. 2000b Land Group Incorporation: a Management System AusAID, Port Moresby.
Power, A. P. in press "Development Denied: Customary Land Management Neglect and the Creeping Balkanization of Papua New Guinea" Paper delivered at Conference on Problems and Perspectives on Customary Land Tenure at University of Queensland in 2000.
Larmour, P. ed. 1991 Customary Land Tenure: Registration and Decentralization in Papua New Guinea. National Research Institute, Port Moresby
Fingleton, J S 1991 "The East Sepik land Legislation", in Larmour, P 1991 op. cit.
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