|Without funding, Asian governments' land reform push 'futile'|
If you want to see whether your government prioritizes land reform, you only have to look at the national budget. It should come as no surprise that governments with poor performance in land reform allot minimal funding to improving people's access to land, said the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) and Land Watch Asia.
"The budget earmarked specifically for agrarian reform is indicative of the degree of importance governments attach to it. Laws and programs that facilitate improving access to and control over land, but without the corresponding funding, are futile," said the two in a report monitoring land reform programs in Asia. "Agrarian reform – or at least enhancing access to land – requires official government allocations for its implementation."
A separate report from Land Watch Asia, a loose coalition of civil society groups pushing for genuine land reform in the region, said inadequate budgets constrain implementation.
According to the group, most governments have shown dismal performances in land reform distribution.
In cited that only about 20% of Bangladesh’s khas or state-owned land has been distributed.
In the Philippines, the remaining balance for land distribution — some 1 million ha — comprises private agricultural lands, which are the most difficult to subject to the agrarian reform program.
And Indonesian civil society groups speak of the non-existence of agrarian reform, and the constant flouting of the 1960 Basic Agrarian Law by other succeeding laws, the report said.
That's why infusing more funding is one of the most frequently made recommendations to push the agrarian reform agenda, according to the ANGOC and Land Watch Asia report.
"Funding is not the be-all and end-all of agrarian reform implementation, but it remains a significant avenue to achieve results in agrarian reform."
In countries like Bangladesh, no budgetary head or line item such as “agrarian reform budget” exists, according to the report. For the first time in the country’s history, the national budget of FY 2010-2011 declared that 5,534 acres (2,250 ha) of khas land will be distributed among 34,452 landless households for the year – but this is not matched by any figure in the budget.
Nepal’s national budget allocates 0.01% to its Ministry of Land Reform and Management, the report noted. Of this, 70% is spent on human resource and administrative expenses. The rest of the budget leaves very limited scope for actual land reform program implementation, the report said. This "goes to show that it is not so much the budgetary figure or allotment that is important, but rather where the money actually goes and how it is spent."
As such, the Land Watch Asia report proposed for the Nepalese government to set aside a budget for comprehensive land reform and agriculture. The report said the Himalayan nation must invest in the program and invest revenues from land taxes in land management, i.e., land productivity. "Efforts to enhance agricultural productivity will only be meaningful following a progressive land reform program."
According to the ANGOC and Land Watch Asia report, the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) had observed that over-releases from the agrarian reform fund were made – coincidentally or not – during election years (2004 and 2007). The Philippine Department of Agrarian Reform’s budget was almost Php20 million in 2010. From 2007 to 2010, more than Php63 million was allotted. Land tenure improvement received the lion’s share - 61% - of the budget for agrarian reform. In contrast, 35% was allocated to support services delivery, and a meager 4% to agrarian justice delivery. Given that the average cost for land acquisition and distribution is Php92,600, and that some 1 million ha await redistribution, the government still needs Php96 billion to complete land acquisition and distribution, the report said.
Findings from budget monitoring in Cambodia showed that an average of mere 0.45% of the annual total budget in 2005-2010 was allotted for the land sector. In absolute terms, the budget for land rose, from nearly $2 million in 2005, to $6.5 million in 2010, though in relative terms the budget for land as percentage of the total national budget has remained fairly constant, the report said.
In Indonesia, some Rp23 billion was allotted for the National Program on Agrarian Reform. According to the Revised State Plan on Revenue and Expenditure Budget, 2010, the total budget for the National Land Agency (BPN) stood at Rp2,951.6 billion. An additional Rp7 billion was allotted, part of which would supposedly fund draft acts and government decree on land issues such as the agrarian reform government regulation for the implementation of Land Reform Plus and socialization government regulation on idle land policing. "The amount allocated to agrarian reform implementation forms a small fraction of BPN’s budget – a manifestation of government’s lack of commitment to agrarian reform," the report said.