JIS News

Land and Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke, has said that the Ministry would be moving to “rapidly and significantly increase the pace at which new parcels of land are brought under registration”.
To this end, he informed that the Ministry and the National Land Agency (NLA) “are finalizing arrangements to undertake a diagnostic look at the entire land titling process with all stakeholders, with a view to substantially increase the number of titled properties in the country”.
“My first priority is to make a significant difference in the area of providing titles for the over 20,000 parcels of land islandwide in land settlement schemes, some of which date back to the 1940s and some of these persons have already paid for their land and cannot access their titles. We have to do something about that”, Minister Clarke said in his contribution to the 2006/07 Budget Debate in Gordon House yesterday (May 3).
He noted that of the 650,000 parcels of land on record in Jamaica, 50 per cent were unregistered and in reality, the number might be greater, based on the large number of informal subdivisions.
Meanwhile, the Minister disclosed that some 54 schemes across the island, totaling 3,277 lots, were awaiting parish council approval and the process of obtaining the necessary approvals would be expedited, so that the titles could be released within this financial year.
In addition, he informed that an additional 75 properties, comprising 8,871 lots, would be surveyed and subdivision approval obtained. Noting the “slow pace at which the surveys have been carried out over the years,” Minister Clarke said some $5 million had been identified in the current budget to commence the surveying work in some of the more critical schemes.
“I am prepared to do all in my power to obtain titles for these lots within the shortest possible time including invoking the provisions of the Special Provisions Act,” he told the House.
In the meantime, Minister Clarke said there were a total 6,500 titles in respect of land settlement schemes, which could not be issued, because the allottees could not be located or have died, and the beneficiaries have not obtained a grant of probate or letters of administration in their estates.
To solve this problem, the NLA would be extending its pilot programme to assist land settlement scheme beneficiaries to administer their estates, which was instituted in St. Thomas in 2005.
On the matter of squatting, Minister Clarke said the “problem had become too pervasive for the government to ignore” and posed environmental problems and security risks. He noted that in Clarendon alone, there were more than 120 informal settlements.
To address the problem, he said that the land management division has already mapped all known informal settlements and established the “critical ones for which immediate action will have to be taken”. In the meantime, interim guidelines have been formulated and approved by Cabinet to deal with the problem.
Meanwhile, Minister Clarke said that interviews were being conducted to fill vacancies in the new Squatter Management Unit and the unit “will commence working on some of the most critical informal settlements, which might have to be removed because of threat to the environment and vulnerability to natural hazards”.
While informing that the unit will coordinate with stakeholders to regularize the settlements where appropriate, he said, it “will not have resources to upgrade squatter settlements in terms of providing expensive infrastructure. Our role will be to coordinate.mindful of the contribution that informal settlers must make to their own salvation”.
The Land and Agriculture Minister further called on “all important land owners on the side of the state to be vigilant in monitoring their portfolio of land, to ensure that they are kept free of squatters and that at the first hint of illegal occupation, the matter is dealt with swiftly and humanely”.
He also emphasized the role of local authorities in preventing such settlement, noting that every building required a permit.