Long-term lease to be allowed
KATHMANDU, Aug 22: In a new arrangement, the government is preparing to introduce a policy barring newcomer foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations from owning land premises.
A cabinet meeting held recently has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to submit detailed criteria for giving permission to diplomatic missions and international organizations to own land only on a ´long-term lease´ basis.
The cabinet meeting held on July 29 had taken the decision concluding that the existing provision of transferring the ownership of land to foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations was not in the long-term interest of the country. Most other countries in the world allow diplomatic missions and international organizations to own land only on ´long-term lease´ basis.
MoFA officials said they are currently studying international practice regarding the matter for developing a criterion as directed by the cabinet.
The same cabinet meeting for one last time had given permission to the Swiss embassy to buy additional land and also waive land registration taxes.
The government´s decision comes in the wake of the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Authority (KVTDA), which is currently expanding roads in the capital, complaining that it faced problems in its expansion drive due to the presence of diplomatic missions in certain road section.
Officials said the decision was taken in view of the limited open space in Kathmandu and international practices relating to the ownership of land belonging to diplomatic establishments. "We have limited land in Kathmandu. We cannot do anything to the property the missions already own. The new provision of long-term lease will give the newcoming diplmatic missions only possessory rights of the land," MoFA spokesman Arjun Bahadur Thapa said.
Kathmandu hosts diplomatic missions of various 28 countries and dozens of other international organizations and these missions currently own own their land premises. The latest government decision could affect the plan of Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are mulling purchase of land to establish a resident mission in Kathmandu.
Diplomats have termed the government move as ´positive´. "Better late than never. The government should have come up with this policy long ago," said a retired diplomat asking not to be named. "But as most diplomatic establishments based in Kathmandu have already owned land ownership, this policy won´t bear much meaning now."