Underaged indigenous landowners whose land have been leased out have had $26.3 million put into the Home Finance Company (HFC) Bank on their behalf by the I Taukei Land Trust Board (TLTB).
The TLTB oversees the administration and regulation of all Native land, which accounts for over per cent of Fiji’s total land mass and notes that the investment was carried out as per an equal rent distribution policy incepted in 2015.
“Minors funds are invested at the rate of 2 per cent and will be released with interest earned once minors turn 18 years,” said general manager, Tevita Kuruvakadua.
TLTB notes that out of the total investment at HFC, some eight minors have over $100,000 in their bank accounts, with two having a balance of over $50,000 in their bank accounts and 209 with a balance of more than $10,000 in their accounts.
“At present, a total of 33,060 have their money invested and the total to be shared amongst them is $26.3 million. Currently, a total of 5,068 minors with a balance of less than $10 have been withheld by TLTB and investment will only be made once it can earn an interest as planned. This has resulted in TLTB’s increase in annual turnover which has almost increased three times from $55m to $70m which contributed to the $26m in lease funds for minors at the HFC Bank.”
The TLTB has also announced a waiver to all payment of interest on land rent and fees for tenants who take advantage of a grace period running from January to June 30.
Kuruvakadua said this was initiated by the Board so tenants could recover arrears that had been accumulated over the years and give landowners what they’re owed from the use of their land.
“Land rental arrears outstanding at 1st January 2018 stands at $18.3 million and more than 20,000 tenants’ need to pay this up as they are due. All TLTB tenants are reminded once again to ensure timely payment of their rent by 1st January and 1st July every year. For tenants to qualify for the waiver, they must pay their current rent and also settle their arrears of previous years,” the general manager added.
He has urged tenants to clear their arrears immediately in order to avoid court action and possible eviction from their lease, which he noted was an unpleasant situation that the Board wants to avoid.