SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — There were peals of laughter and loud applause as Bull Savannah land owner Rupert Mullings made his pronouncement at the top of his voice.

"LAMP is good," he shouted, "LAMP is good!"

He was referring to the Land Administration and Management Programme (LAMP) through which he received the registered title for his land, after many years of struggling.

The programme, which was created by the Government in 2000 to deal with the overwhelmingly large number of unregistered land parcels in the island, launched its second phase in Junction, south east St Elizabeth recently.

There, Mullings and others like him spoke of how the programme had enabled them to get registered titles within a matter of months, as opposed to years doing it privately.

Title applicants under LAMP need only show proof of land ownership for 12 years rather than 30 years as was required prior to the passage of the Special Provisions Act of 2005 which circumvents some aspects of the much criticised Registration of Title law; and title registration fees are based on the unimproved value of the land on the tax roll, rather than improved value. Additionally, the LAMP programme, does not require subdivision of parcels up for registration, as was the case under the Local Improvement Act.

Project director of LAMP, Gloria Brown, told journalists that LAMP not only accelerated the process, but cut out some of the costs.

If things flow as they should, a registered title can be had within a five-month period, she said. And it could cost as little as $50,000, inclusive of survey costs, for land that is valued at $500,000 on the tax roll.

In 2009, under phase one of the project, 3,000 registered title applications were processed, with an 88 per cent success rate for first registration applications. In the second phase, the process will be greatly accelerated, with more than 12,000 parcels being targeted in St Elizabeth alone, over 24 months. Other parishes are slated to be drawn into the programme.

The value to individual land owners aside, Brown said the LAMP programme was having a significant impact in regularising the land portfolios of the bauxite companies and public sector entities such as the National Housing Trust, the Ministry of Water and Housing, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund and the National Irrigation Commission.

Experts say that despite its high farming productivity relative to other parishes, St Elizabeth has the greatest percentage of unregistered parcels, about 80 per cent of an estimated 56,000 parcels. That, according to Prime Minister Bruce Golding, was the reason for starting the second phase in the western parish.

It is estimated that there are more than 800,000 parcels of land in Jamaica, of which only about half is registered and titled. The effect, Golding said, was "an enormous amount of wealth locked away" and incapable of being used as collateral.

The prime minister calculated that if an average unregistered parcel were to be conservatively valued at $500,000, "it means there is $200 billion of economic power that is plugged out to drive business, investment..."

State Minister in the office of the Prime Minister, Robert Montague, who plays a supervisory role in LAMP, told journalists that LAMP II is to run for two years but that a longer term arrangement may be forged to address titling across the island.

He said the programme would provide employment for members of the community, but that a key longer term value for the country would be significantly increased inflows of property taxes.

Currently, property tax compliance in Jamaica is said to be 51 per cent but falls to 45 per cent in St Elizabeth.

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