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Foreign land Bill a ‘setback’ for economy

Author: Thalia Holmes

South Africa cannot be compared to other countries that forbid foreign ownership of land, say economists in response to a government proposal to prevent noncitizens from owning farms.

The Land Holdings Bill, which will soon be introduced to Parliament for approval, will also stop any individual from owning more than 12 000 hectares, with the government undertaking to buy and redistribute excess land.

The Bill, which was confirmed by President Jacob Zuma in last month’s State of the Nation address, is part of the government’s attempt to show that major strides are being made in the area of land reform. Unsurprisingly, it has drawn criticism from property ownership groups and economists.

But the government has highlighted that limiting foreign ownership of land is becoming an international norm. “It is not unusual. In fact, many, many countries in the world do not allow foreign ownership of land, including developed countries,” Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, a former land affairs minister, told reporters.

Brazil, Argentina, India and the United States have all recently moved to tighten restrictions concerning foreign ownership of farmland in their respective countries. In Switzerland, would-be foreign landowners face various hurdles and restrictions, depending on where in the country they want to invest.

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