Lessons on land re­form from the East Asian tigers

African Independent - - OUTLOOK - WIL­LIAM GUMEDE

AFRICAN coun­tries will do well to learn from the suc­cess­ful land re­form of the East Asian tigers, which were specif­i­cally aimed at boost­ing en­trepreneur­ship, in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion and broad-based em­pow­er­ment, as in­spi­ra­tion.

East Asian de­vel­op­men­tal states im­ple­mented their land re­forms more hon­estly, more mer­i­to­cratic and linked it to their coun­try’s long-term in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. The land re­form was also aimed at break­ing an­cient feu­dal so­cial, in­come and power in­equal­i­ties, be­tween landown­ers, feu­dal lords and tra­di­tional au­thor­i­ties, and or­di­nary ru­ral dwellers.

In the 1950s, Tai­wan in­tro­duced what it called its “Land to the Tiller” land re­forms. The land re­forms were done un­der the slo­gan “use agri­cul­ture to cul­ti­vate in­dus­try”. The re­form un­leashed Tai­wan’s great in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment, dis­tribut­ing new as­sets and wealth to mil­lions more eq­ui­tably.

In Tai­wan, big pri­vate landown­ers were com­pelled to sell parts of their land that ex­ceeded an of­fi­cial acreage limit. Landown­ers who had to sell were paid by be­ing given shares in Ja­panese com­pa­nies ex­pro­pri­ated after World War II by the Taiwanese gov­ern­ment.

Land that was ex­pro­pri­ated from Ja­panese own­ers was sold cheaply to peas­ants who were al­ready work­ing on farms.

The peas­ants who bought the land had al­ready farmed, and were keen to be­come own­ers and had to pay for it, al­beit be­low mar­ket price.

The Taiwanese gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced an in­dus­trial pol­icy which was based on the coun­try es­tab­lish­ing new in­dus­tries or build­ing up un­der­de­vel­oped ex­ist­ing ones in care­fully se­lected sec­tors. The gov­ern­ment en­cour­aged farm­ers, both es­tab­lished and new small­hold­ers, with busi­ness skills to change from agri­cul­ture to set up new fac­to­ries in the in­dus­tries se­lected by the in­dus­trial poli­cies.

In South Korea be­fore its land re­forms after World War II, the land ten­ure sys­tem was based on a small elite of landown­ers own­ing the land. They ei­ther used ten­ants to cul­ti­vate the land or leased the farms out to them.

The land re­form in South Korea be­tween 1945 and 1957 changed the agri­cul­ture econ­omy from im­port­ing rice to be­com­ing self­suf­fi­cient. The land re­forms – by giv­ing land to im­pov­er­ished land ten­ants – brought so­cial equal­ity be­tween the rich and the poor in South Korea, in­creased and di­ver­si­fied agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and in­creased ru­ral in­come by over 50%.

The trans­fers were to farm ten­ants who were al­ready skilled farm­ers. The gov­ern­ment com­pen­sated the for­mer own­ers be­low mar­ket price. The new own­ers had to buy the land, al­beit on cheap terms. The gov­ern­ment put a ceil­ing on how much land any­one could hold.

South Korea in­tro­duced two sets of land re­form. The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary in con­trol of South Korea fol­low­ing the end of World War II in 1945 in­tro­duced the first land re­form which in­volved putting a ceil­ing on rent charged to farm ten­ants to one-third of an­nual yields. In 1948 the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment trans­ferred farm land ex­pro­pri­ated from the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment and Ja­panese pri­vate own­ers to ten­ants. A ceil­ing was put on the land per farm ten­ant.

The dis­trib­uted land was sold to the farm ten­ants on gen­er­ous terms.

In 1950 the new South Korean gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced a new Land Re­form Act, which in­tro­duced a new round of re­dis­tri­bu­tion. The new land to be re­dis­tributed was purchased by the gov­ern­ment and also gov­ern­mentvested lands – which in­cluded land owned by ab­sen­tee land­lords, re­main­ing lands con­fis­cated from the Ja­panese, farm­lands not be­ing cul­ti­vated, farm­lands ex­ceed­ing a ceil­ing of 3 chungbo (2.5 acres) per house­hold, and own­er­less farms.

The 1950 land re­form had the dual in­ten­tion of turn­ing for­mer own­ers into en­trepreneurs who would cre­ate busi­nesses in the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors the gov­ern­ment had iden­ti­fied for de­vel­op­ment. The gov­ern­ment also guar­an­teed low-in­ter­est loans for them get­ting into busi­ness.

The land was re­dis­tributed to re­cip­i­ents un­der strict con­di­tions. Would-be ben­e­fi­cia­ries were assessed based on a score­card.

The out­stand­ing cri­te­ria were that they would ac­tively farm the land. Land was trans­ferred un­der the re­dis­tri­bu­tion re­forms to those farm ten­ants who were ac­tively farm­ing at the time of the re­forms, es­pe­cially those who were farm­ing small patches of land. Re­cip­i­ents of re­dis­tributed land could only sell or do­nate it when they had paid it off. The gov­ern­ment could take the land back from re­cip­i­ents who fell in ar­rears with their pay­ments.

After World War II, from 1946 to 1950, Ja­pan im­ple­mented the

Land re­form must be done hon­estly, and not cor­ruptly, in or­der to se­cure cred­i­bil­ity


LAND PLAN: Tai­wan plans to re­store about six per­cent of the is­land’s farm­land, un­used for more than a decade, to bol­ster food sup­plies, of­fi­cials said.

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