Lost land deal offers gov’t cash windfall

Public coffers are expected to get a boost of more than 1.5 billion euros if Parliament approves a draft law, to be submitted in September, allowing people who have illegally claimed state land to buy it, sources said yesterday. Officials at the State Accounting Office estimate the government could sell up to 50,000 pieces of property, or 325,500 hectares, and end an issue that has troubled successive governments. The change in law will allow those who have taken over the land to obtain a title deed and transfer its ownership. Residents who have taken over state land either in or out of town-planning zones can qualify for the scheme. The price they must pay will be based on market rates but will be determined on a sliding scale, depending on how long they have used the land. Payments can be made to local tax offices in 10 equal, bi-annual installments, after sale approval. A special panel set up by the Finance Ministry found that of the 97,029 plots of land belonging to the state, some 89,288 plots are now in the hands of private owners who have paid nothing for them. Government officials expect the largest demand to come from the Dodecanese islands, where people have illegally claimed 27,000 plots. Everyone who has encroached on state land and taken the matter to court has won the case against the government but only after lengthy legal battles. The move will help the government lift budget revenues, which six months into the year are falling well short of annual targets.

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