Thursday, October 1, 2009

Development Terms of Reference

Excuse the rant, but I have a couple of points to make about TOR writing and expectations of donors, land reform in particular - one of my principal areas of expertise.

One. Land reform that aims to help the public in general and give the poor access to capital in particular, relies on only one key component. Secure tenure. All the rest is fluff.

Two. Secure tenure can be achieved within the confines of two key structures. The first is title registration (I exclude clearly successful deed recording as in South Africa or the United States) and second, effective enforcement mechanisms through the courts or other institutions.

Three. Title registration - the love of donors and particularly the World Bank - is not rocket science.

Four. Surveyors can be the enemy of rapid registration of title, especially in poorer countries where land is worth nothing but the surveyors insist on five to ten centimeter accuracy - in rural areas. Taste reality. People on the ground know where their boundary runs. Don't interfere. I have been in too many countries where no boundary disputes existed before the surveyors landed in their mother ship.

Five. Donors need fewer agricultural economists and surveyors driving secure tenure because the vast majority (except for a few, really, really smart practitioners) don't have the slightest regard of the foundations of the policy of secure land tenure. Valuable land is located in urban areas. That's why everyone is moving there and creating, as in Africa, slums at the rate of five percent a year. Give these people tenure first. The wilderness can come next.

Finally. Donors should not permit the release of a TOR that ignores the edges. In other words, don't target one area for reform without looking at the other sectors that directly or indirectly feed into that one area. That is not negligent. Or lazy.

It is stupid and a waste of money.

End of Rant. Thank you and my apologies to agricultural economists and arm-chair reformers.

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