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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Land rights 'help fight poverty'
Increasing land rights for poor people is the key to reducing poverty and stimulating economic growth, a report by the World Bank has concluded.

The Bank said greater rights increased the value of land "and can greatly increase poor people's wealth, in some cases almost doubling it".

Children in Angola
East Asia
1999: 279m
2015: 80m
South Asia
1999: 488m
2015: 264m
1999: 315m
2015: 404m
Latin America
1999: 57m
2015: 47m
people with income below $1 per day
Source: World Bank
"Poor people with secure land tenure are more likely to invest in the land," said the Bank.

"They are also more likely to speak out against corruption and to demand basic services, such as health, education, roads and water."

Formal land rights can also make it easier for poor people to borrow money to start or develop businesses, the Bank said.

In worst case scenarios, failure to make progress on land reform leads not only to slower economic development but also to violence and bloodshed.

The Bank said countries such as China, Mexico, Thailand and Uganda had begun addressing land issues in ways that benefited everybody.

Although approaches varied, it said the key issues were security of tenure and ensuring land transactions were low cost.

The Bank called on governments to recognise poor people's rights to land they legitimately occupied or, where the government owned the land, to give secure leases or transfer ownership to the occupants.

Admitting past mistakes

Robin Palmer, land policy adviser at UK-based charity Oxfam, said the report represented "a major and welcome shift in World Bank thinking on land policy by offering an increased openness and flexibility in thinking, a readiness to admit to past mistakes and an avoidance of dogmatism".

The World Bank has forecast that the number of people living in absolute poverty will decline only slowly in the next 15 years, with 800 million having an income of less than $1 a day in 2015, compared with 1.1 billion in 1999.

But in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people in poverty will rise to 404 million from 315 million in the same period, making it the region with the largest number of poor people.

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