2012.03 Nilgün Gökgür | Rwanda's Ruling Party-Owned Enterprises


In the last 18 years, large enterprises have emerged in post-conflict Rwanda, which are fully or partially owned and controlled by the ruling party – Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) – in association with state-owned enterprises, the military and the RPF-appointed managers (i.e. the new business elite).  These enterprises (i.e. ‘party-statals’) operate in key sectors of the economy, thus constituting the RPF’s business empire.  The Government of Rwanda (GoR) initially created them in order to spearhead much-needed economic development.  Over the years, however, it has expanded them in number and in size, instead of cultivating its hapless private sector. By virtue of their incestuous relationship with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Ministry of Defence and certain state-owned banks, the party-statals have become increasingly reliant on the state’s scarce fiscal and monetary resources – the latter made possible with budgetary support from development partners. The expansion of these capital and skill-intensive party-statals, with their guarantees of massive asymmetry in market access and profits through state backing, has begun to impede the growth of a more inclusive, broad-based and labour-intensive private sector. Based on newly available but necessarily limited data, this paper provides a framework with which to assess the actual and potential developmental impact of party-statals (individually and combined) on various stakeholders, including the Government of Rwanda, development partners, owners and operators, domestic and international investors, the Rwandan workforce and consumers. The paper further argues that the international donor community should insist on transparency and full disclosure of the party-statals’ financial statements, that it should monitor their fiscal activity with the state and that it should assess their impact on stakeholders and private sector development. Finally, the paper proposes exit strategies aimed at improving competitive dynamics within the domestic business environment, where competition is desirable and feasible, thereby benefiting Rwandans as investors, workers and consumers.

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2012.02Pierre Merlet and Johan Bastiaensen | Struggles over property rights in the context of large scale transnational land acquisitions. Using legal pluralism to re-politicize the debate.


A key issue in the context of increasing large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries is how poor populations can prevent their land rights being encroached upon by more powerful actors. To date, the majority of policy recommendations have been directed towards the legal recognition and formalization of land rights in order to safeguard local and historical land rights holders, as well as towards the design and implementation of ‘voluntary’ guidelines or codes of conduct which should regulate large-scale investments in land, in order to contribute to positive development outcomes. We argue, however, that these types of recommendations tend to depoliticize the debate surrounding access to land and natural resources. This paper therefore aims to reintroduce a political dimension into the analysis, by proposing a framework based on the socio-institutional definitionof land rights consistent with the legal pluralist approach. It acknowledges a multiplicity of land rights and rights holders, governed by the existence of several superimposed normative orders and social fields.It also implies that state and non-state normative orders interact to determine land management practices and, as a result, also the actual ‘rules in use’ that are followed and enforced locally.We demonstrate the analytical potential of this theoretical framework using case studies from Ghana and Madagascar, two countries with different legal traditions and distinct levels of recognition of non-state tenure systems. Our tentative analysis reveals that what is fundamentally at stake are power relations and social struggles between actors in a variety of social fields.The key is therefore to strengthen the bargaining capacity of weaker actors within certain political arenas when it comes to land. Their capacity is not unrelated to the nature of formal national and international legal orders, since these co-shape and affect actors’ bargaining position, but we should not expect a one-way relationship between formal rules and the effective enforcement of the rights of the poor. Related issues that will also play a critical role in the analysis are broader discursive struggles regarding the concept of ‘idle land’; the role of small-scale family production versus large-scale entrepreneurial production in agricultural development; and the requirements of social and environmental sustainability.

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2012.01 Sebastian Dellepiane-Avellaneda | From Property Rights and Institutions, to Beliefs and Social Orders: Revisiting Douglass North's Approach to Development


Douglass North is a uniquely creative and inspiring social scientist. The impact of North’s ideas in the area development cooperation can hardly be overstated. By stressing the role of institutions, this scholar has immensely influenced development thinking and practice, providing intellectual underpinnings to the dominant good governance paradigm. North’s landmark Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance is one of the most cited books in the social sciences. This paper contends, however, that North’s ideas are widely cited, but not always properly understood. Moreover, some of his core arguments have been overlooked, ignored, or misrepresented, not least by the aid community. This paper provides a systematic assessment of the content and evolution of North’s writings, from his pioneering works on property rights and institutions in the 1970s, to his recent scholarship on beliefs and political violence. The focus is on identifying the key analytical problems and remaining challenges of the institutional approach to development. The paper also takes issue with the inconsistencies and policy gaps of the good governance consensus. In doing so, it also reflects upon the future of the research program on institutions and development. Would the renewed emphasis on politics, conflict, inequality, and context lead to an improved governance agenda or to a shift towards a post-institutionalist paradigm?

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