Liberalization and its Consequences

Liberalization and its Consequences

A Comparative Perspective on Latin America and Eastern Europe

Edited by Werner Baer and Joseph L. Love

The essays in this volume describe, analyse and compare the achievements and the failures of societies that adopted market-based economies within a democratic polity after a long period of communist rule (Russia and Eastern Europe) or military authoritarianism (Latin America). Together, they also trace the rocky course of liberal economic policies over the whole twentieth century.

Chapter 10: Privatizing the commons: liberalization, land livelihoods in Latin America

Anthony Hall and Hadi Esfahani


Baer 03 chap 9 19/10/00 11:49 am Page 232 10. Privatizing the commons: liberalization, land and livelihoods in Latin America Anthony Hall1 INTRODUCTION Privatization has become a key ingredient in the market-based, neo-liberal recipe for development of the 1990s and beyond. Starting slowly in the South as an integral part of structural adjustment packages negotiated during the1980s debt crisis, the process of privatization has accelerated rapidly over the past decade. Privatization now forms part of a wider strategy for achieving a global free market and is considered a powerful antidote to problems associated with earlier policies of state-directed development and populism (Cook and Kirkpatrick 1995; Gray 1998). Privatization is usually considered to be synonymous with the direct transfer of government owned assets to the business sector. This normally involves the sale of companies in areas such as public utilities, mining, communications and others. However, asset transfer from the public to the private domain also embraces terrestrial, aquatic and subterranean natural resources. Such ‘privatization of nature’ (Goldman 1998) has accompanied the spread of agro-livestock activities, commercial fishing and oil exploration in the developing world. It may involve, for example, the direct sale to private individuals or companies of state-owned agricultural land held by communities, as in the cases of Mexico, Peru and Ecuador, which are discussed briefly below. This process will here be labeled direct privatization. This chapter, however, focuses primarily on another important dimension of resource control by the private sector, termed indirect privatization. This refers to the gradual...

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