Experts yesterday asserted that the exclusive protectionist approach to land ownership has only perpetuated poverty in Sri Lanka at the sixth Annual Symposium on Poverty Research title “putting land first – exploring the link between land and poverty.”
“Although the different land laws were introduced in Sri Lanka to secure the rights of the landless it is a bare-bone law and the lack of an additional resources allocation framework needed to enhance land productivity has prevented it from achieving the goal of poverty alleviation,” Centre for Women’s Research (CENWOR) Director Prof. Savitri Goonesekere said.
However, she noted that “if you have pure market policies, and expect the trickle down effect to work, it has never worked in any country.”
Hence, Prof. Goonesekere urged policy makers not to devise “ad-hoc legislations merely motivated by Millennium Development Goals, but rather to make it a consultative, transparent process with the involvement of the private sector.”
Accessibility to agricultural land is seen as a core issue in rural poverty. Although Sri Lanka boasts of a unique Paddy Land Act, according to research findings presented by Central Bank Director of Statistics Dr. Anila Dias Bandaranaike, “one third in the agriculture sector face underemployment due to low land productivity, which has resulted in low incomes and rural poverty.”
“Of the 9% of the population who are unemployed only 1% desire to move to the agriculture sector,” Dr. Bandaranaike added.
As such, it was noted that the narrow focus of the current land laws, limited to only providing accessibility to land needs to be reformed to ensure not only poverty alleviation but also gender equality. Dr. Goonesekere highlighted that “many of the local legislation which attempts to be gender neutral nonetheless involves a degree of discrimination. However, gender equality is a crucial factor in poverty alleviation and cannot be considered in isolation.”