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February 23, 2019

Taxation on 'idle' land probably will not work

Lands cs Farida Karoney during senate committee on lands retreat at flamingo beach hotel in Mombasa county yesterday.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI
Lands cs Farida Karoney during senate committee on lands retreat at flamingo beach hotel in Mombasa county yesterday.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI

Lands CS Faridah Karoney has reiterated that government plans to introduce a tax on 'idle' land in Kenya.

In theory this is an excellent idea. Many powerful people have acquired large landholdings as a status symbol. They are more interested in showing it off than farming it productively.

In theory a tax on idle land would push them to start making money from that land. If the owner does not want to pay the tax, he should start farming the land or rent it out to someone who would.

The Philippines and Latin American coutnries have imposed similar taxes on 'idle' land but wiht only limited success.

It can be difficult to evaluate whether land is idle. Is it lying fallow? Is it being used for seasonal grazing? Is it marginal or arable? 

It would only apply to large landholdings of, say, over 100 acres. It would therefore have limited impact.

Thirdly, such taxes often fail for lack of political will. The elite who make the law are those who will lose.

So Karoney's initiative is commendable but probably not viable.

 

 

 

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