Govt to transfer 2.6m acres to landless farmers in five years

Source: The News Internationl

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
By By Mehtab Haider

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to transfer 2.6 million acres of state land to landless farmers, which will provide land to 58 per cent tenants of the country, reveals the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2010-15).

Under the plan, the government will take measures for enhancing provincial autonomy, abolishing the concurrent list, devolving more services to the local level and deepening local government reforms.

Devolution plan 2001 will also be reviewed to ensure effective decentralisation of administrative and financial power of local governments. “Judicial reforms that ensure inexpensive and quick justice as well as e-governance and information technology will be given a big push to increase transparency, fair play and make the system faster and user friendly,” it added.

According to the approach paper of the 5-year plan, which was approved by the National Economic Council (NEC), the copy of the paper is available with this scribe, civil service reforms inclusive of police would be undertaken to foster professional competence, merit-based induction and market-based salaries. Emphasis will be placed on promoting culture of professionalism, staff rationalisation, enhancing competence, productivity and accountability. “Needed action will be taken to revitalise and further strengthen key state institutions including the Federal Board of Revenue, Federal Bureau of Statistics, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Competition Commission, Office of the Auditor General, Pakistan Railways and the State Bank in the next five years,” it stated. On the issue of transferring land to tenant farmers, the document states that the government decided to transfer 2.6 million acres of state-owned land to landless masses in the next five-year period. “While it could provide land to 58 per cent of existing tenant framers, the remaining 42 per cent will be able to buy land through credit and institutional changes in the land market,” the document states.

Thus all existing tenant households could become owner operators who could play a strategic role in generating a faster and more equitable agriculture growth. “The government can make a significant difference to the position of landless, poor and socially marginalized by ensuring secure tenure or title to residential or homestead land in rural areas,” the document states and added that such provision could be a significant non-fiscal measure for enhancing social protection, reducing inequality, and unleashing the productive potential of the poor.

Programme of regularization of Katchi Abadis, which often relate to the regularization of existing settlement on land owned by the government or government owned enterprises such as the Railways should be reviewed, revived and expanded.

On the issue of integrated planning for energy development, the approach paper states that the North of Pakistan and the Indus river system has the vast potential of generating as much as 50,000MW of hydro electricity.

Sites are available for the very large to small storages-cum electricity generation sites and run of river and canal sites. The vast reserve of coal at Thar estimated at 185 billion tons awaits mining and exploitation.

There are plans to set up two to three plants of 1,000 to 1,200MW each, based on imported coal, in the coastal region of Sindh and Balochistan.

To address the issue of energy shortages, the strategy for the tenth plan will be designed around exploitation of indigenous resources, energy security, conservation and development of alternative energy sources.

The strategy will focus on fast track development of Thar coal through environment friendly technology not using open-pit exploitation methods, fast construction of gas pipeline to import Iranian gas, develop an energy trade corridor with Gwadar as hub and rationalization of power tariff to lower the cost without affecting efficiency.

Serious infrastructure constraints have, however, emerged especially in the energy sector which has adversely affected utilization of scarce resources and future economic growth prospects. Energy shortages appear on account of inability to pay importers, inefficient use of scarce energy sources, improper pricing that encourages over consumption, inappropriate gas policy that does not reflect declining reserves and best use of scarce gas resources. These issues will be systemically addressed in the 10th 5-year plan, it added.

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