Land and Wealth

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

Old time colonial governments have always resisted the intervention of the ruled in the economic affairs of their territories. This has been typical of the Government of Mauritius of the past.

A group of experts appointed a few years ago by the United Nations to inquire into the economic development of under-developed countries made the following statement:

An overall increase of 60 to 90 per cent in the harvest in one year for a country the size of China is a phenomenon absolutely without precedent in the world’s agricultural history. Pic – China Dialogue

“In our judgment there is a member of under-developed countries where the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a small nucleus class, whose main interest is the preservation of its own wealth and privileges, rules out the prospect of much economic progress until a social revolution has affected a shift in the distribution of income and power.

“There cannot be rapid economic progress unless the leaders of a country at all levels — politicians, teachers, engineers, business leaders, trade unionists, journalists, priests — desire economic progress for the country, and are willing to pay its price, which is the creation of a society from which economic, political and social privileges have been eliminated.

“On the other hand, given leadership and the public will to advance, all problems of economic development are soluble. We wish to emphasize that the masses of the people take their cue from those who are in authority over them. If the leaders are reactionary, selfish and corrupt, the masses in turn are dispirited, and seem to lack initiative. But if the leaders win the confidence of the country and prove themselves to be vigorous in eradicating privilege and gross inequalities, they can inspire the masses with an enthusiasm for progress which carries all before it.”

The group of experts made certain recommendations to provide the preconditions and institutional framework of economic development. In their opinion the government of an underdeveloped country should:

  • Make clear to its people its willingness to take vigourous action to remove the obstacles to free and equal opportunity which blunt the incentives and discourage the efforts of its people. Under this head is included land reform, abolition of privileges based on race, colour, caste or creed, the establishment of taxation upon a progressive basis, and a programme of mass education;
  • Survey the ways in which production, distribution and finance are organised in each of the major sectors of the economy and the measures to improve their efficiency;
  • Survey the prospects of creating new productive employment by industrialization, by bringing more land under cultivation, by developing mineral resources, or by other means; and announce its programmes for expanding employment;
  • Survey the possibilities of increasing agricultural yields and announce the measures it proposes to adopt in order to effect rapid improvement of yields.

A programme of putting a ceiling on the amount of land a family of five persons should hold is being put into operation by the Government of India. The acreage of land the family is allowed to hold is approximately 30 acres. The ceilings are fixed on the basis that they will enable the family to get an income of Rs 3,600 or Rs 4,500.

The programme of ceiling is thought in terms of social justice, of giving land to landless people and of higher production. Those who have more than a certain quantum should give that to the state and be compensated.

The Americans, who are in no way wedded to socialism, brought about this far-reaching land reform in Japan during their occupation. That was the only way for them to get out of a certain feudal and semi-feudal set up which prevented growth.

According to various non-communist and independent observers, what is happening in China is the most impressive agricultural advance of human history. The Chinese harvest of 1958 is considered the greatest event of the year as the Sputnik was of 1957. China now has at her disposal about half a ton of grain per head. Compared to 627 lb in 1957, she has thus gone beyond Europe in grain.

The 1958 crop of grain is estimated to yield between 300 and 350 tons i.e., an increase of more than 300% on the 1957 сгор. Production of raw cotton will be doubled; Peanut production has risen by 124 per cent; wheat 70%: Rice 40 %.

An overall increase of 60 to 90 per cent in the harvest in one year for a country the size of China is a phenomenon absolutely without precedent in the world’s agricultural history. How was this increase of 60 to 90% attained?

The first and decisive factor is unquestionably irrigation.

In 1949 China had 53 million acres of irrigated land. In 1956 the irrigated area rose to 66 million acres. In 1957 it rose by another 19.7 million acres. In 1958 the area under irrigation is reported to have been further extended by over 74 million acres. It would appear that 56% or 160 million acres of the 286.5 million acres now under cultivation are in fact irrigated.

The second factor was the extensive use of fertilizer. The third factor is investment of labour.

In many parts of the country the Chinese peasant works more than 300 days: in the country there are only two days’ rest a month. This high rate of investment of labour was facilitated by the framework of cooperatives which do not pay wages but whose members receive remuneration based on the number of “work-days’’, which are proportionate to the crop harvested.

The Chinese peasants’ enthusiasm and sacrifice is prompted by the thought that he is labouring for himself, for his family and for his country. The wealth of the country is his now and not the landlords for whom he was compelled to sweat for a pittance. This is a revolution which has no parallel. It has a lot to teach Mauritius.

6th Year – No 252
Friday 12th June 1959

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