Out of communal land: clientelism through delegation of agricultural tenancy contracts

Crawford School of Public Policy
Photo by Kasman70 on Wikimedia Commons

Event details

ACDE Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 15 June 2021


Weston Theatre, Crawford School of Public Policy, No 132, Lennox Crossing, The ANU


Firman Kartaadipoetra, Australian National University

Do local institutions influence the nature of political clientelist exchange? We find a positive answer in the context of a village institution prevalent in Java since the Dutch colonial rule, where democratically elected village heads receive usufruct rights over a piece of communal village land (bengkok land) as a compensation for their service in lieu of salary. To formulate how limited-term private ownership of bengkok land promotes clientelism, we model a timely delegation of agricultural tenancy contracts to villagers-cum-voters as an incumbent re-election strategy. Based on a household survey fielded in 2018 across 130 villages in Java, Indonesia, we find that the chances of a bengkok plot being rented out increase by 6 percentage points as the time of the next election becomes closer by one year, and sharecropping is preferred to a fixed-rental contract as the election approaches. The empirical results are statistically significant and remain largely unchanged against a series of robustness checks. We also find suggestive evidence of short-term efficiency loss from clientelist politics over bengkok land.

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