Revenue up on customary leases

The Samoa Government has collected revenue of $64,276.03 of their 5% commission for the Leasing of Customary land for the last budget year. 

This is according to the Annual Report 2015-2016 for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment that was obtained by the Samoa Observer. 

The Customary Land Lease Section has been in place, since March 2012 and the government is responsible for the management of customary lands through the leasing and licensing mechanisms.

The revenue of $60,000+ is a slight increase in the revenue earned in this current fiscal year 2015 – 2016 compared to the last financial year 2014 – 2015 which earned $59,412.01. 

“This is significantly due to the effective enforcement of timely payment of leases from the lessees and, some of the leases that had already been paid in advance are due for payment in this current financial year. 

Another indication of the increase is relatively due to the additional number of new leases currently valid and are paid for in this financial year compared to the last financial year,” according to the Annual Report. 

There were 33 new leases  advertised in the Savali newspaper for this financial year 2015 – 2016 and 22 were confirmed without objections while 11 remain at the Lands and Titles Courts for hearing and determination of the rightful beneficial owner of customary lands to be leased.

According to the report, in the month of July 2015 the government received $20,561.09 which was the highest collection compared to other months where revenue was between; $1,000 to $6,000. 

In July 2014 the government collected a significant amount of $14,593.20, and the other months saw the same trend of $1,000 to $6,000. 

The Annual Report says the Land Management Division (L.M.D.) was established to focus solely on the effective and efficient administration of customary lands on behalf of the Minister who by statutory mandate is the sole trustee for beneficial owners of customary lands in accordance with the provisions of the Alienation of Customary Land Act 1965.

According to the Act, the Minister may grant a lease or license over a customary land in accordance with the purpose of usage and more importantly in accordance with its Samoan usage and customs. 

This shall be favorable and advantageous to the interests of customary land beneficial owners and public interests in general for the following purposes. The authorized purpose that is approved by the Minister includes, religious, business or for plantation purposes for 20+ years lease. 

Regarding hotels or industrial purpose the leases are 30 or more years of the lease. 

The annual report also highlighted that works carried out during  the financial year included 28 site inspections of new and current customary leases in both Upolu and Savaii. 

A total of 33 new leases were published in the Savali Newspapers and meetings with new lessees and new land owners were conducted to determine the conditions of lease agreements for Lessor’s endorsement. 

The government is also involved in preparing legal documentation for new leases while the current ones without documents are passed on to the Legal Division and the Lessor for endorsement. 

Also the government is collaborating with the Customary Land Advisory Committee in publicizing the need for the economic use of customary lands in Samoa. 

According to the report, there is a marked difference in the number of new leases for Upolu compared to Savaii. 

“This is fairly explained by the concentration of infrastructure developments on Upolu. 

“This contributed to improved welfare of people and the increased attraction or pull of people and groups to move geographically from their physical area of comfort zone to build churches and initiate developments in areas of where new infrastructure developments exist. 

“This trend is apparently reflected in 18 new leases for Upolu compared to the 4 from Savaii. 

“In this regard, there is a greater need for infrastructure developments to be pulled to Savaii in order to attract investors, companies and businesses to similarly operate there under the same mode as it had done for Upolu.

“The CLAC serves as the main focal point in promoting customary land as the vehicle for improving the economic well-being of the country by opening up these lands for development purposes that will eventually help sustain the economy and increase the livelihoods of the people. 

“In this regard, the CLAC primarily deals with the direct marketing of customary lands through the leasing mechanism in order to benefit the landowners which in event enhance the economic development especially of the rural community, “says the Annual Report. 

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