Everyone understands that a moratorium on the sale of land is nonsense: an interview with Alexei Goncharuk

The translation was made by the editors of grain.com.ua. When copying, an active link to the site grain.com.ua is required. Original interview – Всі розуміють, що мораторій на продаж землі – це маячня: інтерв’ю з Олексієм Гончаруком,

We would like to talk to you about the land market now. The bill on land reform presented, but foreigners disappeared from it, in fact, by the decision of President Vladimir Zelensky. He announced a referendum to which the Ukrainian people come and decide everything else. Now I want to ask you frankly: do you think this is a land reform “drain” process?

Of course not. It was a common decision.

What guided you?

There are three things I want to say here. First, I believe that land reform, even in the model that is now proposed, is a huge step for the country. And it is much better to take this step, and then take the next one, than simply stop and not take this step.

Second, the president is very guided by the opinion of Ukrainians. And he doesn’t want it to look as if the interests of the Ukrainians were simply neglected, that they were simply not heeded. And he is convinced that a referendum is not a problem, it is an opportunity, but for this you just need to convince people. You don’t need to “break anyone through the knee”, you just need society to accept it, to understand the benefits of this.

Why most of people are afraid of lifting the moratorium? These are all tales that the Chinese will come, they will take our land somewhere – it’s clear that this is manipulation and fables. But people are afraid of incomprehensibility. They are afraid that after the decision is made, something irreversible will happen, that they will lose something.

Today (December 3, – ed.) I introduced the new head of the Derzhgeokadastr (The State Service of Ukraine for Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre). He has time to show that state authorities have changed, that there is no corruption, that pieces of paper have come out, that a normal cadastre has appeared, that “white spots” have disappeared and all that. All this takes time.

People need to make sure that everything is really changing. Because the appearance of the land market in the conditions of anarchy, “lawlessness” is one story. And the appearance of the land market in a civilized country, in which there is a cadastre, you can defend yourself in court, the justice authorities work – this is a completely different story, fundamentally different things.

We are now talking about the fact that in the fall the system of state authorities will already be different, during this time we will be able to change the state enough. We are talking about the fact that from August 1 to finalize an inventory of lands and add them to the public map of the State Land Cadastre, this is an important factor.

Therefore, this is a dialogue, rather, about whether we will be able to do it so quickly or not. The idea here is that you take the first step and people stop being afraid, because you did not “break them through the knee”. After that, people begin to see that nothing terrible is happening, that all these myths that some populists sold to them on TV are not justified, that there is nothing terrible here.

And in parallel there is a communication campaign that explains that this has changed, this has changed, a foreign farmer is working here, jobs have been created and so on. Why did we take this step? We believe that it is better not to “break society through the knee”, but rather step by step, not stopping to come to an open market, without social upheavals and conflicts, building trust, and not destroying fears.

Then why a referendum in this paradigm, if you are convinced that society will see everything and be convinced of everything?

This is a manifestation of trust of each other. Zelensky promised that when he comes to power, he will listen to the opinions of people. And this particular solution has advantages, there are also disadvantages, there are no ideal solutions. The authorities say: look, do not worry, without you a decision will not be made. We have no doubt that corruption will disappear and fears will be overcome.

And the discussion now is not about whether the market is necessary or not. Everyone understands that a moratorium is nonsense, they are already discussing the role of foreigners, and this is a huge step forward. I believe that Ukrainians would win if additional limits were not introduced. In terms of greater investment, more income, more land, faster technology, economic growth. But I look at society and they are afraid of it.

There are two ways. The first is to ignore this fear. Second – let’s take the first step, they will demonstrate to you that nothing terrible is happening, you will maintain confidence in us and we will take the next step together. One can argue with this approach, but we adopted this logic together with the president.

Foreigners are not the only problematic issue regarding the land market. Also, the question of limiting the concentration of land with the same owner. Do you have an understanding of what the maximum concentration level will be?

There are 4400 amendments to the second reading. In my opinion, land reform, even in a limited way, is significantly better than nothing. This is a civilization leap for Ukraine. I was in parliament at the time of the decision in the first reading, moreover, we had three days of hard work in various formats.

The vote in the first reading was convincing, in my opinion, but there was serious work behind it to convince a large number of deputies. Convincing parliament to vote for a more liberal model would be even more difficult.

Regarding limits – there are many ideas. Some believe that two hundred thousand hectares is OK. This question is not about the number of hectares, but about antitrust restrictions, for example, no more than 0.5% of the entire land in one hand. This is about the fact that the concentration cannot exceed 200,000 hectares.

Even this limit cuts a significant part of the holdings that are working now. We have holdings that process 600,000, they will need to decrease by three to four times. Therefore, the question of whether greater or lesser limits are necessary will be discussed in parliament, I have no ready-made concrete answer, and no one has it.

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