4. Conclusions

An attempt to evaluate the results of twenty-five years of agrarian reforms can result in differing conclusions depending on the viewpoint held.

a) In view of the existing political situation in most countries, especially
the prevailing power structure, and considering the level of administration
at the time of the enactment of land reform laws, one cannot but appreciate
the progress made in the change of land tenure in Asia.

  • In most countries, feudal and semi-feudal tenures and intermediaries have been abolished. The tenants now hold their land direct from the State and thus exploitation and dependence have been partially abolished.
  • As a result of ceilings legislation, big landlords and especially absentees have been expropriated, their power reduced and their land distributed to tenants and small owners.
  • In some countries, as a result of tenancy legislation, a large number of
    tenants acquired ownership rights and had their rights recorded or improved their security in other ways.
  • Last, but not least, the reform laws have had an important psychological
    effect. Their enactment has acted as a warning to landlords, so that many of them realized, for the first time, the limits of their power. To small peasants and tenants, it was an indication that they are not completely at their landlord's mercy. This recognition was, in many cases, an important step to improve the relations at the village level.

b) An evaluation of the achievements may result in quite different conclusions if one takes into account the need for tenure changes, the increasing
tension of the political situation in many countries, the fact that the under
privileged people are becoming more and more aware of their condition and
the rapid population growth which increases continuously the problems of
rural Asia.

  • Taking these factors into account, one has to admit that little has been
    accomplished which has brought really penetrating changes in the rural
  • It must be admitted that the rural upper class, except its top-most strata,
    has hardly been touched. The situation of the peasant landlords has some times even been strengthened. A noticeable improvement has only been achieved in respect of some rural middle-class sectors, especially the privileged tenants who became owners of their land. The conditions of the small peasants have hardly changed.
  • There has also been little change for the lower class in rural areas. Tenants of lower standing have usually not improved their situation and have been evicted in large numbers. The same is true for share tenants and croppers who, often, are not even mentioned in the reform laws and wage levels, too, have not been much affected.

Summing up the results, one can say that

  • maldistribution of ownership has changed little;
  • the rural power structure and exploitation are about the same;
  • economic power is based on control of resources and is an important factor in determining political power;
  • distribution of income and wealth remains about the same;
  • the uneconomic size of holdings and lack of supporting services results in poor output, poor income and indebtedness;
  • the few changes in tenure did not create enough incentive for the masses to do more work and to increase their investment in agriculture;
  • because of lack or insufficient supporting services, agriculture in most
    countries has generally retained the status of traditional agriculture without technological change.

Judging from this line of thinking, one cannot help feeling that the past twenty-five years of agrarian reform in Asia have not met the challenge.