New law in Bolivia to regulate land ownership by foreigners, January 2012

Pagina Siete reports about a new law that will affect foreigners who own agricultural land:

The Government confirmed the wording of a draft law that will restrict the access and sale of land to foreigners, a proposal that emerged in the Social Summit in 2011.

The Deputy Minister of lands, Edgar Valeriano, reported yesterday that the land is for Bolivians, but currently there are many properties that are in the hands of foreign citizens by lack of sovereignty and presence of the State border and other efforts of government responsibility.

According to the authority in the ATB network, working on a project that was presented at the Social Summit, it will regulate the sale of land to foreigners and if trafficking can be verified, reversion will take place.

“Is our duty as State authorities to enforce the rules from the political Constitution of the State (CPE);” “there is no obligation on the part of the State to provide land to foreigners,” said Valeriano.

According to the book Concentración y extranjerización de la tierra en Bolivia (concentration and foreign ownership of the land in Bolivia), by Miguel Urioste, the Brazilian presence, for example, has been growing in the ownership of land in Santa Cruz.

This book points out that in the last 15 years Brazilian investors increased progressively their planted lands of soybeans up to 40% of the cultivated national total. 28.9 % is in the hands of Bolivians, 20.2 % under the ownership of the Mennonites, 7.1 per cent of the Japanese (see graph to the right, Foreign presence between 1994 – 2007).

According to the study carried out by Urioste, the sown area of soybean in Bolivia borders a million hectares, “it is easy to deduce that land for oilseeds, alone show Brazilians are the owners of nearly half a million hectares of the best agricultural land in category I (intensive agricultural use) and II (extensive agricultural use), not counting those that are at rest, rotation”, among others.

http://www.paginasiete.bo/2012-01-07/Economia/Destacados/8Eco00107.aspx

La Prensa also reported on the subject:

The Deputy Minister of Lands, Édgar Hugo Valeriano, proposed on Friday a law prohibiting the sale of land to foreigners in the country, initiative, said, was raised in the plurinational meeting developed in December, in Cochabamba.

“It has emerged in this Summit, to regulate, through a Bill, or a law of the State, which may regulate that land can not be given to foreigners”.

He explained that this rule must also punish and penalize the traffickers of land and improve agricultural registries in order to complete the sanitation process.

For its part, the peasant leader Rodolfo Machaca indicated that this policy should be implemented immediately in the country.

http://www.laprensa.com.bo/diario/actualidad/economia/20120107/extranjeros-no-podran-tener-tierra_16491_26964.html

In principle and as reciprocity with other countries, I like the idea. If Bolivians cannot own the land in other countries, those individuals shouldn’t own a square meter inside ours. However, those foreign investors come to Bolivia with expectations, if they are willing to settle in, rise their families and mingle, then they should stay, as they do not only bring capitals, but know-how, and markets.

In agroindustry there is a concept, any food producer should own around 30% of their agricultural inputs and seek 70% from surrounding smaller farmers. They need that 30% to secure the operation of their industry, but to reach full production and potential they rely on the supply from other farmers. Seeds, pest control, quality and quantity levels are driven by the larger company and the farmers around do benefit from all of that. Similarly, in the case of foreigners coming to Bolivia to invest in our lowlands should be engaged in a similar type of arrangement.

While I empathize with Mennonites and Japanese settlers (I know there is also a Russian group in the Chapare, who came long, long time ago), i must say that those groups tend to avoid mingling, they remain inside their own, some of them have lived for more than thirty years and do not even speak the language. If we care to look back at other countries who received migrants, they have melted and with their mix, gave the nation additional value and that is what we need here.

So, I do not think extremes are good, those individuals who came here to invest and have become part of our society should be allowed to continue, we need more migrants like them. However, it is only to take advantage of their proximity, not pay taxes, and they only take back home the revenues and just “mine” our resources, then, only then we don’t need that type of foreigners.

A word of caution, given the nature of some “social movements” and how anarchy has taken over in the last six years, government should know better and not let some of those groups invade those lands who have been greatly improved over the years. In Bolivia we must learn to respect private property, enough with violent land takeovers! Some politicians encourage or promise land, and migrants from the highlands come down and want to take over land which is already ready for agriculture, has water, road access and has at time also higher commercial value.

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