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.

Individualizing land

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 projects.

Improving Tenancy

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 complex.

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.