Saturday, June 6, 2009

Does Land Redistribution = Economic Opportunity in South Africa?

Rightly or wrongly, the election of ANC presidential candidate Jacob Zuma has opened a healthy debate about the promises or perils of land redistribution in South Africa. Whites who make up a small minority of the nation's population, own around 87 percent of the land. While the new Zuma administration is apparently endorsing an agenda favorable to the poor, the president has been hesitant to announce any steps toward resolving the question of land ownership. 

Land redistribution and reform is likely an effective strategy for poverty eradication, according to a new paper by noted development economist
 Professor Michael Carter. The research paper, which evaluates the impact of land redistribution in South Africa, was written as a part of the BASIS Research Program on Poverty Inequality and DevelopmentThere is more research to be done in this particular study on land redistribution, but you can read an abstract of the paper here

According to statistical analysis, the impact of redistribution on household per capita consumption ( a measure of purchasing power) is positive and has shown the potential of helping families escape poverty in the short-term. Around 40% of the South African population today is found in rural areas, where the deepest cycles of chronic poverty are found.

The election of Jacob Zuma has ignited a renewal of black hopes and white fears for radical agrarian reform. A comprehensive agrarian reform agenda could be the key to asset redistribution and sustainable economic development for the less well-off rural population. For now, South Africa continues to be one of the most unequal societies in the world. Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the nation has ranked consistently among countries with the worst GINI coefficients--an indice which measures inequality in the distribution of wealth.

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