Govt. passes new laws restricting sale of land to foreigners

  • Two separate regulations for freehold and leasehold transactions

downloadBy Ashwin Hemmathagama Our Lobby Correspondent
New laws were passed yesterday in Parliament making necessary provisions to stipulate restrictions on the sale of land to foreigners.
The new regulations cover foreign companies and certain institutions with majority foreign shareholdings subjected to certain exemptions.
According to the Government, new laws were needed to continue development policies being promoted in the backdrop of a globally-integrated environment where prudent use of land is a must.
Moving the Bill, Minister of International Monetary Co-operation and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning Dr. Sarath Amunugama highlighted the requirement of a national policy to regulate land in Sri Lanka.
“The proposed laws will limit the ownership of the lands of this country to Sri Lankans. In par with Monetary Law Act of 1983, 100% tax was imposed on the transfers of land ownership to foreigners. This was repelled in 2002 by then Government allowing lands to get transferred to non-nationals. After we came to power, in 2004 we imposed the 100% tax, which lead to certain complications demanding a national policy. The new laws will provide two separate regulations for freehold and leasehold transactions,” said Minister Dr. Amunugama.
The provisions of the Act are expected to come into operation with effect from 1 January 2013 prohibiting transfer of title of any land to a foreigner, to a company incorporated in Sri Lanka under the Companies Act where any foreign shareholding exceeds 50%, and to a fully owned foreign company.
However, any land title which is transferred to a Diplomatic Mission, to international, multilateral or bilateral organisations in terms of the respective Act, condominium parcels situated on or above the fourth floor of a building specified under the Apartment Ownership Law, lands transferred to foreign investors by Cabinet decisions, any land title of which is transferred by intestacy, gift or testamentary disposition to a next-of-kin who is a foreigner, any lands transferred to dual citizens and titles transferred to banks with over 50% foreign shareholdings will be exempted.
Joining the debate, UNP Member of Parliament Sajith Premadasa commended the ruling party for drafting a Bill to safeguard the lands in Sri Lanka regardless of the wide-apart declaratory policy and the action policy of Government.
“Minister talks about a broad picture whereas Chinese are given land neglecting the laws. These companies enjoy considerable tax exemptions compared to levies imposed on locals. Is this the development you propose? The company you engaged in building the Colombo Port City is blacklisted by the World Bank and the ADB for fraud in Philippines, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Uganda, and Papua New Guinea. We are not against the laws tabled to limit the foreigners from purchasing land in Sri Lanka. But remember to secure the land rights of the locals,” said Premadasa.