220.127.116.11 Measures to Reform Land Ownership
Redistribution of Land
Requisition of land: Most agrarian reforms
include the expropriation of land. In socialist countries,
landed property is often totally expropriated whereas this
otherwise usually happens to only certain groups (e.g., absentee
landlords (Japan) and members of earlier dynasties (Egypt)).
Normally, a ceiling is set governing the amount of landed
property allowed, and any areas of land that exceed the ceiling
are expropriated. The ceiling determines the extent of the
redistribution. Fixing it is, therefore, a primary political
decision that is decided more by the ability of the government
to realize its goals rather than economic considerations.
High ceiling affect only a few landlords and are, therefore,
easier to initiate; however, in that case only very little
land is available for distribution. The lower the ceiling
is, the greater the opposition that will be met with since
larger family farms will also be included.
It must also be taken into consideration that the land ceiling
will also limit the income that can be earned from farming
which could eventually lead to the most qualified sections
of the rural population migrating. When put into practice,
it will be difficult to fix the ceiling so low in densely
populated countries that all demands for land would be met
as this would lead to the establishment of uneconomic farms
as well. Some countries exempt intensively cropped areas (fruit
plantations, intensive animal keeping) from the ceiling in
order to promote the desired conditions in accordance with
the agrarian policies (Pakistan, Iran). For similar reasons,
a higher ceiling is set in some cases for owner cultivated
land than for rented land (Japan, (Cheese).
The reform laws frequently include a stipulation that the
fixed ceiling is not allowed to be exceeded in the future
either by buying additional land, inheritance, etc. Exempted
occasionally is the farming of previously uncultivated land
(Korea). In some cases, the permitted land ceiling is lowered
in several stages so as to make the measures less radical
and, thus, lower the resistance. Inversely, some countries
discuss whether to abolish or raise the ceiling after having
reached an advanced level of development, shortage of manpower,
and progressive mechanization (Taiwan, Korea).
A number of countries would like to avoid the complicated
administrative problems involved in redistributing land and
animate landowners to sell land on a voluntary basis to tenants
or landless by threatening to initiate reforms, or by means
of tax incentives, or by granting a space of time before the
reform laws go into effect during which owners could voluntarily
sell their surplus land (Taiwan, Thailand, Egypt). Since,
however, tenants and landless do not have the means to buy
land, the land usually does not reach the hands of those intended
in this way.
The Gandhi discipIe VINOBA BHAVE's appeal within the framework
of the 'Bhoodan' and Gramdan' movement to the landlords for
land grants is a special case that was limited to India and
had very limited practical effects. Its significance consisted
of shifting the idea of social obligations involved in owning
land to the centre of the discussion.
Distribution of land: The expropriated land
can be used to give landless land or increase the size of
farming units that are too small. Since in the latter case
draught animals and implements as well as experience in managing
a farm are already available, this is often given priority.Iin
other cases as well, an effort is usually made to create farming
units that are large enough to supply a family with a basis
for their existence. This naturally limits the number of beneficiaries.
A priority scale is, therefore, frequently drawn up in which
the actual cultivator of the land is put at the top of the
list, followed by others living in the same area (Egypt, Syria).
The rights of the new farmers are usually restricted. In
some cases, the land may not be sold or mortgaged in the future
(Mexico). Usually it cannot be sold until the last installments
have been paid on the purchasing price. Some laws fix a minimal
area limit that cannot be overstepped by division, sale, etc.
(Egypt, Pakistan). In other cases, the state reserves a right
of disposition if the land is not cultivated properly, or
it insists on the land being farmed by the owner himself,
or forces membership in an agrarian reform cooperative (Egypt,
Syria, Irak) in order to ensure the success of the reform.
Financing redistribution: In socialistic
countries or in the case of certain groups (state enemies,
foreigners), compensation is rot paid for expropriated land.
On legal and moral grounds, compensation is paid in all other
cases; however, the amount varies greatly. A large compensation
hinders planned redistribution of wealth and effects only
a change in the contents and form of the wealth since the
wealth is then increasingly invested in non agricultural fields.
In practice, the size of the compensation depends to a large
extent on the state's ability to enforce its goals. Following
revolutions, therefore, compensation is usually lower than
that paid in the case of reforms before a revolution. Sometimes
compensation is cut later on or devalued by intentionally
accelerating the role of inflation (Japan).
Evaluating the expropriated land causes tremendous problems
as land appraisals are usually not available. Experiments
were made employing a percentage of the market value (Kerala
and Orissa in India), with several times the land tax (India),
and the productive value (Egypt, Korea).
Compensation is seldom paid all at one time (Colombia) but
rather in the form of an annuity over a period of 10 to 40
years. Sums that are too small are frequently not invested
but rather increase consumption and, thus, inflation. In order
to ensure that a large percentage will be invested, compensation
is paid in the form of industrial shares (Philippines, Taiwan)
or in government bonds that can be used to pay taxes or, sometimes,
to buy uncultivated land (Egypt). By issuing the bonds in
the form of quantities of staples, compensation is protected
against inflation (Taiwan).
The beneficiaries of the reform seldom receive the land free,
but rather must pay for it in installments, frequently after
a period of a few years of grace. The installments are often
fixed as high as the amount paid as compensation (Egypt, Philippines).
If surcharges are added for administrative costs (Egypt, Syria),
then the reform does not represent a burden for the state.
It should be taken into consideration, however, that the purchase
price lowers the chances of raising the new farmers' living
standards. If production is not efficient, the new farmers
cannot meet their obligations and the state has to carry a
heavy burden in its budget. In such cases, the agrarian reform
does net promote economic development, but rather becomes
a burden that the state can only escape by lowering the sooner
paid as compensation, or by planned inflation.
Collectivization of the land
According to the Marxist/Leninist doctrine, private ownership
of land leads to exploitation and must, therefore, be abolished.
Until now, however, this has only been done within the USSR,
whereas other socialistic states have mixed systems comprising
socialized and private ownership of land. The collectivization
process consists actually of several changes. The land (all
land or only large farms) is socialized, or rights are transferred
to specific groups. Furthermore, the farm structure is changed
so that larger economic units arise (kolkhozes, state farms).
Small plots, however, are left to the workers for their own
use. Finally, the organization of labour is changed so that
the workers have no similarity to independent farmers, but
rather assume, tire character of wage labourers.
In the single states, the collectivization process has achieved
different levels and in some cases has been revoked. Furthermore,
there are deviations from the above described scheme, In peoples'
communes, the land does not belong to the state, for instance,
but rather to the production brigades that allot the right
of use to the individual production groups. In the GDR, the
collectivized land is still legally private property and the
right of use was granted to the cooperatives by the state.
In collectivization, legal or psychological coercion has
always played a large role. This is also true in the case
of non- socialistic examples of land being collectivized.
In these instances, extreme situation or religious belief
exercised similar pressure, whereby the participation was
generally voluntary. In the case of the Israeli kibbutzim,
the land belongs to the state that leases it for a symbolic
sum to the kibbuzim. In this instance, the collectivization
comprises land utilization, distribution, parts of consumption,
and private life. The mexican agrarian reform partially transferred
land into the bands of the village community that allotted
the individual members a heritable right of use. The widely
discussed experiments with cooperative fanning, especially
in India, have until now had little practical significance.
Until the present, individualizing land has been more of
a discussion theme in the African countries south of the Sahara
than a practical measure. The occasion were the economic and
social changes that made it necessary to rearrange the land
tenure. Thus permanent cultivation replaces the traditional
redistribution and leads to indivudualization without legal
regulations. The same thing happens when as a result of dense
settlement the time land is left fallow grows continually
shorter and, finally, completely disappears. Attempts to increase
intensity demand a longer planning horizon before there is
an incentive to make investments. In addition, people with
wealth, information, and influence have understood how to
obtain a more or less legal title to areas of land. This leads
to the danger of land becoming concentrated in a few hands.
Individualizing land tenure would indeed solve some of the
existing problems; however, it might create more new problems.
In particular, there is the danger that this process will
be carried out at the expense of backward sections of the
population and put an end to the relative equality in the
society. Since individualizing demands a great deal of administration
and is expensive, as well as the fact that there is no guarantee
that the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages, only
a few countries have to date decided to undertake concrete
measures. In these instances, titles were granted in recognition
of already existing circumstances, or they were settlement
In countries in which tenancy is widespread, very many small
cultivators are not touched at all by measures to change ownership.
Since it is precisely the situation of the tenants that is
frequent very bad, most agrarian reforms include measures
to improve the conditions of tenant farming.
In some cases, they attempt to increase the tenants' security.
This can be done by making regulations governing the form
of tenancy contracts, such as stipulating that they must be
in written form (Taiwan, Korea, Irak, Egypt) or making it
obligatory to register them (Taiwan, Korea, Indian states).
Sometimes, a minimum duration for tenancy is laid down (Taiwan,
Egypt, India) and notice can only be given on specific grounds
such as self cultivation, if it can be accepted from a social
standpoint, negligence of the tenant, or permission of a tenancy
commission (Taiwan, Burma, Ceylon).
Other regulations attempt to influence farm rent, e. g.,
by changing sharecropping to cash tenancy (Korea, India).
Many countries have regulations limiting the hight of the
rent (Korea, Taiwan, India), or anulling the obligation to
pay rent in the case of crop failure (Japan, Taiwan). Abolishing
the tenants' secondary obligations is likewise a way of reducing
rent (India, Taiwan). Sometimes, compensation is promised
for investments that are approved by landlords or tenancy
commissions (India, Pakistan). Most of the laws forbid subleasing
(Egypt, Japan, Pakistan) or limit it to specific authorized
cases (India, Vietnam, Japan).
To even a much greater extent than in the case of changes
in land ownership, the measures aiming at improving farm tenancy
remained on paper. This is a result of the fact that expropriation
is a one time administrative act, whereas enforcing tenancy
laws demands continual control. Furthermore, it can hardly
be expected that those concerned will cooperate. These measures
are against, after all, the existing conditions on the land
and tenancy markets- similar to the instance of efforts to
enforce a minimum wage for farm workers. Tenancy laws have
a chance if the tenants have an alternative livelihood. The
dependent tenant who is happy to receive a piece of land to
cultivate will be willing to accept additional agreements
and relinquish his rights. In some countries, tenant associations
have indeed managed to improve the tenants' position in negotiations,
however, tenancy laws have generally shown little success.
One of the important factors here is that the landowners
have not only a landlord- tenant relationship with their tenants,
but rather they also have a labour relationship, credit relationship,
welfare relationship, and loyalty relationship with them.
It is hardly possible to separate any component from this
Owing to the limited success of the attempts to regulate
farm tenancy, some countries have given up this goal. Instead
they want to completely abolish tenancy, e.g., by promoting
owner-occupancy (Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia, India). In this
instance as well, the success is limited because landlord-
tenant relationships can be easily disguised as working relationships.
By agreeing to circumvent the law, the tenant winds up being
even more dependent. Furthermore, it is also possible that
by completely abolishing tenancy an important regulatory factor
accommodating labour, capital, and land may be done away with.