2. Ceilings and Redistribution of Land
The majority af Asian countries have issued laws fixing
the maximum size of land holdings. Ceilings have been fixed
||200 ha irrigated or 400 ha non-irrigated land (reduced
1972 to 150 acres irrigated or 300 acres non-irrigated
||about 3 family holdings varying with the conditions
||75 ha (in 1971 lowered to 24 ha);
||5—15 ha irrigated land, 6—20 ha upland,
to population density;
||varying with different regions from 2.7 ha to 16.4 ha
owner-cultivated holdings, and from 0.5 ha to 2.7 ha for
3 ha (this restriction has been relaxed subsequently).
In some countries, expropriation of land of absentees was
higher than that for resident landlords, or the absentees
were even totally expropiated as, for instance, in Japan,
Taiwan and Indonesia.
These ceilings, which are rather high in view of the shortage
of land in most countries, are even further raised in a number
of countries by special concessions in favour of landowners.
Sometimes, orchards, seed farms, mechanized farms, etc. are
exempted (West-Pakistan). Quite often landlords are permitted
to redistribute land among the members of their family or
to organize cooperative farming societies before the application
of the ceilings law. Often landlords can decide what part
of their land they want expropriated, so that they can choose
the least productive land. Thus, a great deal of waste land,
cemeteries etc., useless for distribution, has been confiscated.
Compensation has usually been fixed at a high level and only
a few countries provide for its investment to the benefit
of the general economy. The best known example is Taiwan where
part of the compensation was in shares of industrial undertakings,
and the Philippines, where the interest rate for government
bonds increased proportionately with the period during which
these bonds were retained without being sold.
To prevent an increase in the number of uneconomic holdings,
some countries have fixed minimum size of holdings, it being
provided that holdings of a minimum size should not be further
reduced by partition due to inheritance.
Implementation of ceiling laws was often prevented by the
vested interests of landowners, who took advantage of political
power, lack of records on ownership and the shortcomings in
the administrative system. Especially in South and South-East
Asia, ceiling legislation has therefore not been very successful.
The area expropriated and redistributed to new owners is limited.
Some tenants, usually those belonging to the privileged class
of occupancy tenants, became owners, i. e. land was distributed
mainly to those who already possessed rights on the land.
Ceiling legislation hardly affected inequalities at the village
level: the laws did not seriously affect the rural upper class
(except some absentees or very big landlords). The peasant
landlords could retain their property and power. At the same
time, the law rarely benefited sharecroppers, and nearly never
improved the situation of landless labourers. Due to a variety
of factors the limited area available for redistribution,
the desire of the rural upper classes to have access to cheap
labour, and the high purchase price for land asked from beneficiaries,
sharecroppers and labourers were prevented from becoming landowners.
Consequently, the ceiling laws had only a limited influence
on production: in some cases, the former occupancy tenants
may have invested more after becoming owners and landlords
may have developed more interest in agriculture after changing
to self-cultivation, but these cases are few and far between.
The frustration of the rural poor, whose hopes had been raised
and who were disappointed by the meagre outcome of the land
reform laws, is a factor of much greater importance. Even
worse, the emphasis placed by propaganda on ceiling laws to
quite an extent diverted attention from other measures which
would have benefited much larger numbers of rural population.