Land Reforms: Prospects and Strategies

20 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 1999

See all articles by Abhijit V. Banerjee

Abhijit V. Banerjee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 1999


The paper is in two parts. The first part tries to understand the case for redistributive land reforms. We argue that there is relatively persuasive evidence showing that redistributing land may promote equity as well as efficiency. We then suggest that it is, nevertheless, unclear, given that all forms of redistribution cost money as well as bureaucratic and political capital, that redistributing land is the best way to redistribute. The second part of the paper takes as given that we want to redistribute land, and discusses strategies for achieving such redistribution. We argue that, for the most part, redistribution should be based on a uniform land ceiling and not discriminate between different types of landlords but violations of the land ceiling may be permitted if the buyer is willing to pay a high enough price. We also argue that land reform programs should be accompanied by agricultural extension programs and emergency income support programs. We argue in favor of allowing renting out redistributed land but restricting sales of such land. Finally we argue that market-assisted land reforms and tenancy reforms are possible alternative strategies where more traditional (coercive) land reform is not an option, but have significant disadvantages which should be taken seriously.

JEL Classification: O13

Suggested Citation

Banerjee, Abhijit V., Land Reforms: Prospects and Strategies (April 1999). Conference Paper, Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics, Washington D.C.; and MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 99-24. Available at SSRN: or

Abhijit V. Banerjee (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-252D
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-8855 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

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