Experts envisage new opportunities that amalgamated territorial communities may get if and when the land market is unlocked.
Land is a key tool for development of the amalgamated territorial communities (ATC). Major part of lands is privately owned by rural residents who lease it. When and under what circumstances the land market can be unlocked, how communities can become owners of the lands that are outside the populated areas, how the communities will benefit from taking the land inventory – these were the issues in focus of the expert discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Ukraine has not yet formulated its land market policy. Whether the land will be owned by a large group of companies with a limited number of employees, or the state will embark on de-urbanization and will focus on the people who actually work on the land by introducing the subsidies for farmers. “There needs to be a state-defined vector for the development of the country’s agricultural sector. Should the communities get the powers to use the land according to the first scenario, the role of the local self-government will be minimized,” said Ivan Fursenko, first deputy head of the executive management of the All-Ukrainian association of village and town councils.
It’s the communities that will be in charge of taking inventory of the land plots. Unless the communities make it clear where the lands are and whom they belong to, who is responsible and who needs to pay taxes, they lose a considerable amount of revenue into the local budget. “Communities are already taking inventory by spending their own money. It increases their revenue several times,” said Yuriy Hanushchak, expert of the Project Office for Sectoral Decentralization at the Ministry for Regional Development, Construction and Housing. In addition to the land cadaster, communities need to have respective urban planning documentation – special basis for the land tenure, the plan of the community’s area. “Only when the urban planning documentation (is properly arranged) and the law introducing control over due land maintenance (is adopted), there comes the issue of land tenure. Administrative and spatial planning reform needs to be finalized. Until then the talks about the open land market are too early and harmful,” Hanushchak said.
Arranging the land into an inventory will make it possible to hold open e-auctions accessible to everyone. It will also lift the corruption risks. Strong amalgamated territorial communities will be leasing land on transparent terms, as to the land sales, the transparent procedure will prevent the situation when land is sold cheap to the interested persons. “Open auctions need to be introduced so that every Ukrainian can take part in them. It will help avoid abuses on the part of some interested actors. Security is to be guaranteed by the up-to-date blockchain (software). It will help protect the bidding from interference. The technology is supposed to increase the trust on the part of the ATCs and Ukrainians in general. We expect a 10-15 per cent increase,” said Victor Vyshnyov, Director General of “SETAM” state-owned company (operating e-system for sales of some categories of assets).
Ninety per cent of the communities’ land is outside of populated areas. The community is not managing these lands. “Major part of the lands are intended for the agricultural purpose and are managed by the State Land Cadaster Service. The community does not have a decisive role in setting up the fee and term for land lease,” noted Serhiy Kubakh, expert of the USAID Agriculture and Rural Development Support Project. The draft law no.4355 addresses this problem and foresees that the amalgamated territorial communities get lands in municipal ownership outside of the populated areas. However the support for this law is weak for now. “There will be practical results when the draft law is also promoted by the local self-government. Village and town councils have taken up a passive position and are waiting when the ‘rain of powers’ showers over them. Until there is a consolidated position on this issue and people gather outside the Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament), it will be very difficult. Despite the fact that the law is on the agenda and is supposed to be voted for by the end of the year,” said Serhiy Bilenko, expert of the Reform Support Office of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy and Food of Ukraine.
Apart from the economic function the land has also got social and ecological ones, if they are ignored, serious consequences will follow in 10 years. However if the communities are empowered and take control over adherence to the ecological standards, negative consequences can be avoided. “The market of land for agricultural purposes is state-managed everywhere. The approach ‘I do what I want’ is not in use. Fifty six EU regulations and the rules for the use of agricultural lands need to be incorporated into our legislation, while the village councils are supposed to get regulatory rights,” said Lyubov Moldovan of the Institute for Economics and Forecasting of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.