If you can get yourself past the swine flu media frenzy, you might just find a few headlines about the marathon elections going on in the world’s largest democracy, India. The third of five stages ended on April 30, and like many elections in democracies of various developmental stages, the competing parties have completely ignored one of the most important issues facing the vast majority of voters – in this case, the lack of respect for property rights across India’s rural areas, home to 70 percent of its 1.1 billion people.
In this election, the issue of land acquisition for SEZs is a priority for the voters of the Raigad and Maval constituencies, where several are planned. However, most political parties have not made it a part of their manifesto and as a result the election atmosphere is low key.
About 22 villages in Raigad stand to lose 5,700 acres of land for an SEZ proposed by Reliance industries. Read the rest of the story from the BBC….
The government has offered to compensate the farmers at rates they estimate to be one-tenth of the market value, according to the story. Ironically the government is also already building a nearby dam to provide power and irrigation for the very farmers it now threatens to disenfranchise. The promise of the dam led over 80 percent of the farmers to oppose the new SEZ, in a rare public referendum last September that has since been disregarded by government officials.
The poor face this same problem all around the world, as most of them are rural entrepreneurs of some kind, with a variety of informal businesses that governments consistently disregard. All across sub-Saharan Africa, elected officials are taking advantage of growing biofuel markets and scarcity leading to higher food prices by striking land deals with foreign investors.
A rural entrepreneur in Africa
While the investment will bring jobs and productive capacity, these governments are granting property rights to foreigners without regard or compensation for rural entrepreneurs that have lived and worked the land for generations.
In Ghana, rural entrepreneurs are gaining presence as a political constituency. The Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF), a CIPE Partner, is an umbrella group of private sector organizations that has several programs designed to bring rural entrepreneurs into the political process. Anna Nadgrodkiewicz details PEF’s efforts in the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, “Private Sector Associations as the Engine of Reforms in Ghana.” With a greater political voice for rural entrepreneurs, the people in poverty can lead the charge to eradicate poverty.
Article at a Glance:
- With proper resources and training, farmer-based associations can become an effective voice for rural entrepreneurs.
- Engaging the private sector in the legislative advisory process provides a vital opportunity for dialogue on reform issues with policymakers.
- Private sector associations are important for improving Ghana’s business climate and making the broader business community a part of democratic decision-making.