Environmental Governance and Development Policy in Southeast Asia
Studies of environmental governance and political economy in Southeast Asia have long focused on the roles of the state and market. Yet the 21st century is seeing novel forms of governance emerge, involving combinations of new actors like private capital, state-owned corporations, regional governments, and transnational social networks. The papers in this panel propose to look at the political economy of environmental governance in Southeast Asia through new lenses, focusing on contemporary dynamics such as the transformation of the rural countryside by the financial, energy, and food crises since 2007-2008; mega development projects of building industrial complexes in peripheries to cater to the needs of the global economy; policy switch to neoliberal, capitalist development in transitional countries; and foreign aid and development policy that promote foreign direct investment in farm lands. These emerging issues and interests focus our attention on the politics of environmental governance and development policy in new ways. One neglected area that these papers address is permeability between politics and policy. The papers examine how the interaction between politics and policy shape policy outcomes particularly in development. By employing the methods of empirical case studies, the papers address environmental governance and development policy from both a regional and local perspective in Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Paper 1: Food Security and Agrarian Policies in Indonesia
Agriculture has regained currency in development. Concerns with population growth and high food prices have brought policymakers’ attention to agriculture as a vital means to achieve food security, poverty alleviation, and rural development. In response to the world food and energy crises of 2007-2008, Indonesian President Yudhoyono, under the slogan “Feed Indonesia, Feed the World,” called for a new form of public-private partnerships in agricultural development, aimed at increasing agricultural production through technological breakthroughs, innovative financing, and partnership programs between transnational corporations and smallholder famers. This article examines the characteristics of the new form of agricultural development by situating it in political and historical context of the last sixty years where agrarian policies reflected the interests of donors, international organizations, and philanthropic foundations. It argues that important shifts in agrarian policies arose in the 1990s as part of neoliberal restructuring following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-1998. The case of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) illustrates this shift toward corporate-financed model of agriculture development. Implemented in 2010, the MIFEE is a mega development project that is to transform local agriculture into agribusiness through large-scale corporate investment in food crops and biofuels for domestic and foreign markets. This article further argues that this corporate-financed model of agricultural development displaces social and political struggle for land reform from the development agenda, while provoking resistance from local community. The particular trajectory of Indonesia’s agrarian policies is, however, relevant for other developing countries around the world.
Paper 2: Market-led land reform: the Samal Island case
Viviane Ferreira Lopes
This paper discusses the outcomes of the World Bank Community-Managed Agrarian Reform and Poverty Reduction Program – CMARPRP implemented in the Island City of Samal, Philippines, from 2002 to 2007. Drawing on the World Bank’s enthusiasm for the project and on the criticism presented by Saturnino Borras, Danilo Carranza and Jennifer Franco, it brings an investigation of how the people of Samal has experienced CMARPRP. It also provides insights about how market-led land reform programs operate. Land reform has been a core concern in the struggle for food security in the Philippines, where over half of the population live in rural areas. Market-led land reform is a format designed to guarantee land ownership to smallholders without the political costs of traditional land reform. However, power relations are at the root of land transfer mechanisms and politics will have a definitive role in the implementation of the program.
Paper 3: New forms of territorialization and capital accumulation in transitioning Burma: the Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ)
Myanmar has undergone dramatic political and economic changes since March 2011 when the government declared reforms after 50 years of military rule. In April 2012, by-elections placed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Parliament and showed leaders were ready to embark on economic reforms under the guidance of international institutions such as the IMF, ADB and the World Bank. The transition marks a change in discourse and forms of implementing ‘development’. The Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ) is part of this increased economic liberalization. The new industrial estate region and deep seaport is set to transform the local economy with supposed contribution to employment. Along with increased investment, there has been wide-scale dispossession of previously established communities to make way for construction, initially in the road link to Thailand, and for speculative purposes in the surrounding areas. These have been met with civil society mobilization and forms of resistance that are emerging with greater political freedom. This study seeks to understand the new political economy of dispossession, as land in the SEZ in converted for real-estate construction and commodified for speculation. It seeks to investigate the different actors involved in the process and the discourses for legitimization. Drawing on the concept of “accumulation by dispossession” by Harvey, it aims to understand the particular forms of agrarian changes that happen under SEZs, similar in nature to the commodification of land present in transformations toward industrial agriculture and “green grabbing’, but different in form as it is made into real-estate. It also considers issues of land governance in the context of state-expansion and territorialization.
Paper 4: Neoliberalism and state-led development in Vietnam
Nguyen Le Minh
The coffee production in Vietnam has been criticized for its social and environmental impacts even though it has been widely considered as an important part of economic development as well as a mean for poverty alleviation. In the Central Highlands region where 79% of coffee farmers in Vietnam live, many people, particularly ethnic minorities and small-scale farmers still live under poverty. Furthermore, large area of forests were cut down and replaced by coffee plantations, leading to various environmental issues. This process is accelerated with the rapid expansion of the industry under policies promoted by the government. During the 1980s, Vietnam implemented Doi Moi, a radical economic reform program that saw the country transit from central planning to a market-based economy, or more accurately, a Socialist-oriented market economy. Many state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were equitized or privatized, creating a new generation of more effective private companies. After joining the WTO, international trade has been liberalized through deregulation and reduction of trade tariffs. These implementations have also allowed the establishment of private companies the coffee industry, which opened up a new era in coffee production in Vietnam, transforming the traditional farming method to large-scale, industrial agriculture and marginalizing small-scale farmers. In this research, the case of coffee production in the Central Highlands of Vietnam is used as the mean to illustrate how state-led neoliberal policies and corporate actors helped facilitate the development of the industry and how the development in turn play, a role in causing social instability and environmental degradation.