Factoring Land Policy Indicators in Human Development: Global Land Index


This paper was presented at World Bank conference on land and poverty in 2016 and developed through a Master Class conducted at World Bank, Washington DC
The Context: Land, climate & human are the major critical actors of world history & development. “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore”, said Mark Twain. Land is a precious resource, the bedstead in which seeds of development are sown. Every activity on the earth requires land as founding support. This research is (1) an attempt to develop framework for global indices based on land policies among nations to investigate its impact on presence or absence of development (2) To develop Global Land index. The objective of developing Land Index is to improve the lives of people around the world, particularly the bottom of pyramid, by helping government, the private sector and the civil society to collaborate more effectively and make better access and use of the scarce but constant resources to solve economic, social and environmental problems.

In recent years, international organizations, think-tanks, and the social sciences have contributed to a dramatic expansion in the range of composite indices measuring concepts such as human development, corruption perception, worldwide governance, and social capital index etc. A composite measure has the ability to summarize complex or multi-dimensional issues in a simple manner. Though rich literature on land exists, large gap exists between the recognized policy importance of tenure and ability to measure progress on land polices. Despite very many indicators being proposed by different stakeholders, piloted and used in different contexts, globally comparable data sets on key issues, such as measures of land per capita, fertility level, tenure security and the distribution of access to land do not exist. The data is collected and used in various literature but the indicator definitions and methodologies vary greatly. The land indices may be of great help in designing appropriate land policy to the States. In light of discussion aforementioned, a global index on land is need of the hour to help advocating sound policies framed on objective criterion.

Available land area per person, composition and type of land and land fertility defines wealth of the society. Equitable land distribution policy among citizen is important dimension to major equality. Policy on tenure, type and composition of ownership, transferability, gender, mapping system, record & documentation and restrictions on use/transfer/creating charge leads impact on development. The analysis suggests that the risk for household poverty is reduced with increased access to land, in particular when this land is secured by a title. Land improvements and irrigation provide additional improvements in human development outcomes. The sensitivity analysis of the report indicates that 16% poverty reduces if full reforms are undertaken. Access and marketability of land has a distinct and profound impact on agriculture, housing, poverty reduction, gender balance, economic upliftment, infrastructure development, wealth creation and so on. The available land area and fertility has direct relationship with productivity. Larger per capita land or higher fertility will lead to larger production.

Increased industrialization, urbanization & sound financial market requires innovations in recording of rights, mapping and managing land utilization data for optimum benefits. For equitable and inclusive growth, land user composition plays vital role. Land rights from gender perspective and affordability to mass is stepping stone for sustainable growth. Understanding of tenure rights has also advanced in recent years. It is widely agreed that legitimate tenure rights should be seen as going beyond narrow categories of ownership and formally registered rights, to include a continuum of tenure rights. Particularly in many post-colonial contexts, a high proportion of legitimate land users rely on customary or informal forms of tenure that do not enjoy legal recognition and or protection. Recognition of a continuum of tenure implies recognizing such rights as legitimate and taking measures to enhance their protection, including through different forms of recording, as well as through legal reform. Although this has always been an issue of concern, it is becoming more pressing in the context of intense investor interest in land in developing countries and hence making land as integral part of investment decision may be more meaningful. Understanding most critical land indicators for agriculture, housing, industrialization, commercial, infrastructure, public use and security purpose could help deigning appropriate land cluster policies.

The scores may be assigned to countries based on ordinal rankings. The ranks of countries for variables included in the index may be used to assign equivalent values to countries with equivalent ranks. The missing data if reasonable should be replaced by proxy, but the country should be omitted if it is not so within the reasonable range. This research will provide lead for researchers and development institutes to build ‘Global Land Indices’.


Keywords: Land Index, Land Development, Land & Poverty, Productivity
JEL Classification: A00

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