Inequality and Economic Inclusion

Thursday, 01 January 2009

How tenure security can increase access to economic opportunities to poor people

  • Year: 2009
  • Organisation: TIPS
  • Author(s): Lauren Royston
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

The paper argues for a broad based access to property, broader than access to title allows, with the potential for wider, quicker and more sustained reach. It motivates for a place for tenure security in the second economy strategy as a means for securing access to property, a pre-condition for actualizing the potential that property has to increase access to the economy by the poor. An over-emphasis on access to title has neglected other property based economic opportunities. The paper identifies the ways in which property may increase access to economic opportunities, shifting the emphasis from the dominant focus on the secondary market and capital gains to a more balanced and relevant consideration of opportunity in relation to the concentration of the country’s households on an income poverty continuum. These options are less promising than the beguiling prospect of bringing dead capital to life, or making capitalism work for the poor (de Soto, 2000). But they are more realistic and offer pragmatic and pro-poor avenues of support.

The argument is underpinned by a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of “the urban poor” (or alternatively a more pro-poor approach) than currently prevails in the policy discussions. The paper re-focuses attention on land based livelihood opportunities because of their relevance to the majority of the urban poor. It is a sobering, but realistic, perspective on the accumulation potential of property, and the deep rooted causes of poverty, rather than its symptoms (of which lack of title is an example). This approach is much more appropriate to a second economy strategy which seeks realistic opportunities in response to deep seated problems, rather than grandiose and unlikely achievements. The paper’s understanding of exclusion leads to intervention areas that include action in the “first economy”, rather than merely the imposition of mechanisms that are working for the wealthy, onto the poor. This approach opens the possibility of dealing with causes, rather than symptoms, and to alter the terms of incorporation into the economy in ways that benefit the poor more.