Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.686938
Title: Essays on the political-economy of large-scale land deals
Author: Harris, Anthony
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Abstract:
The thesis consists of a short introduction and three self-contained analytical chapters on land policy in developing countries. Chapter 1 examines the agricultural investment choices of small-scale farmers in Ethiopia whose land will be expropriated to provide space for a large factory. I use data from a survey of households conducted before expropriation occurred, but after the policy was announced. I identify the anticipation effects of land expropriation using variation in whether households own plots located inside or outside the proposed project boundary. Households facing immediate expropriation hedge against future income risk by using less fertilizer on their plots, and and growing less risky crops. These households are more likely to grow sorghum (a safe crop) and less likely to grow wheat (a relatively riskier crop). Households also respond to the threat of expropriation by reducing long-term investments in soil quality. Using two-stage least squares I show that subjective beliefs about the likelihood of expropriation act as a channel through which the threat of expropriation affects investment decisions. The results are robust to a number of other specifications, including some that account for unobservable geographic variation in plot characteristics. Chapter 2 explores the consequences of land expropriation for small-scale farmers in Ethiopia. Expropriation of farmland is used by all levels of government in Ethiopia as a tool for providing new land for industrial investors, commercial agriculture and expanding cities. Farmers usually receive a cash payment in exchange for their land based on a fixed formula to establish the price of land. I evaluate the impact of such a policy on a group of small-scale farmers and assess the extent to which they make the transition to new livelihoods. On average, households lose 70% of their land and receive compensation payments that are about 5 times the value of their annual consumption expenditure. Using data collected before and after the intervention I examine the impact of expropriation and compensation on household consumption, productive assets, livestock holdings, savings and labour market participation. Households in the treatment group increase their consumption, start more businesses and participate more in non-farm activities than households that do not lose farmland. These households also reallocate livestock portfolios away from oxen and towards small ruminants and cattle, reflecting a shift away from growing crops. However, these shifts to new livelihoods are relatively small compared to the amount of compensation kept as savings: with the exception of a few households, most of the compensation payment is left in commercial banks earning a negative real return. Chapter 3 focuses on the recent increase in large-scale agricultural land deals across Africa and the nature of the contracts reached by governments and foreign investors. In recent years, multi-national firms and foreign governments have entered into long term contracts with host countries in which large tracts of land are purchased or leased for commercial agricultural production in exchange for promises of infrastructure development, job creation and rural infrastructure improvement. The profitability of these projects is uncertain, especially at a time of increased agricultural commodity price volatility in world markets. Based on stylized facts about land deals I present a theoretical model of land contracts reached by host governments and foreign investors that explains the policy tradeoff between investment timelines, revenue generation and uncertainty. When agricultural projects require fixed infrastructure investment and yield uncertain payoffs, firms benefit from being able to complete the fixed investment in stages. If firms can learn more about payoffs by holding off on investment, they effectively hold an option to abandon the project. The value of this option provides a channel by which uncertainty affects the terms of the land contract. When host governments determine the terms of the contract by setting an income tax, a royalty rate and an investment timeline, the value of this option will affect government's optimal policy choice. In particular, I find that if governments benefit a great deal from investment spillovers the optimal contract will be designed to encourage firms not to abandon a project. But, if governments benefit relatively little from investment spillovers, governments will choose contract parameters to extract the value of the firm's option to abandon the project. I end by examining the effect of increasing uncertainty on the government's optimal policy choice.
Supervisor: Dercon, Stefan ; Venables, Anthony Sponsor: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.686938  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economics ; Development economics ; land expropriation ; Ethiopia ; contract theory ; applied microeconomics
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