A chartered valuation and estate surveyor, Kwame Obeng Adjinah, has made a strong case for government to put in mechanisms geared toward collecting ground rent – a source of revenue he believes assures the state more funds than the newly introduced sanitation tax.
According to him, ground rent – which by law is an annual amount persons and institutions which have acquire state lands for private developments are expected to pay to the Lands Commission – is revenue that governments over the years have not given the needed attention.
He is of the view that government can rake in enough to use for addressing sanitation issues, provision of basic social amenities, and construction and maintenance of community road networks; rather than depending on the central fund to undertake these exercises.
“Ground rents are funds government need not struggle to collect, because it is in the agreement that exists on leases of persons who have acquired state lands. If you take East Legon ambassadorial area alone, there are thousands of acres of land there. If they are paying, for example, GHȼ500 per acre of land and you have 20,000 acres of land there, you can tell how much government would be getting annually – and that is just one small area,” he said.
He added that ground rent is essential because it serves as a source of periodic income to landowners even after they have transferred the land to others. He is of the conviction that when ground rents are properly managed they can be a great source of economic stability for landowners, since market interest rates may have an influence on the rents if periodic reviews were agreed as part of the lease.
Despite significant lands in the country owned by stools, clans, families and not the government, Mr. Adjinah stressed that government can still raise revenue from these other lands.
“The Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands (OASL) is in charge of collecting ground rent for the stool lands; and after collection there is a percentage reserved for government coffers, the stool and the office for their administrative upkeep. So, if government is able to put in the mechanisms for collection, it stands to benefit more,” he said.
To aid in the collection of this revenue, the expert urged that the mechanisms for collection must be flexible and convenient. “The set-up must ensure the sending out of rent demand notices regularly, and convenient payment schemes must be adopted. Many people are ready to pay, but they are not comfortable with the status quo so they are forced to pay when they want to use their land for some transactions and need approval from the Lands Commission.”
He further intimated that the private sector can be called in to help in the execution of this task if the Lands Commission is overwhelmed. “There is also an opportunity to collateralise the revenue that will be coming through, and the monies can be used to leapfrog socio-economic development,” Mr. Obeng Adjina said.
State lands constitute about 20 of the country’s landscapes, while Customary lands (Stool and Family lands) constitute about 80 percent: “This 20 percent is actually in millions of acres, and already a lot are in private hands; so, the revenue generation prospects are huge,” he said.
Samuel Abu Jinapor, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources