Forests under adjustment in Bolivia, Cameroon, and Indonesia


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The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently commissioned 10 papers dealing with key policy issues affecting Latin American forests.

Of these, one paper already available is an overview of policies affecting forests in Latin America by Jan Laarman. The paper uses examples from throughout the region and covers both ’traditional’ forestry policies and other policies affecting forests such as macro-economic, trade, agricultural, and infrastructure policies. It points out that most policies affecting forests can have either positive or negative impacts, depending on what objective policy makers care the most about or what groups they are trying to favor.

Among some of the paper’s most notable conclusions are that:

* Governments should not give out more or larger forest concessions than they can effectively monitor and control.

* Making forest concessions longer may be helpful, but will not insure concession holders engage in forest management.

* Competetive bidding for concessions produces desirable results for pricing and revenue only where companies strongly compete with each other, rather than collude. Competitive bidding does not unambigiously advance either social or environmental objectives.

* Regulatory policies should seek to minimize the sum of transactions costs (time and money spent by governments to regulate and by landowners to respond to those regulations) plus damage costs (the negative environmental and social consequences of not regulating).

* Public funds should only be use to subsidize tree planting on private lands when this provides strong public benefits. The existence of such benefits must be demonstrated, it cannot be assumed.

* International agencies and governments should ensure that Structural Adjustment Programs do not negatively effect the capacity of public forest administrations to carry out their mission.

* Public interest groups should be encouraged to monitor the impacts of trade liberalization on the scale and environmental aspects of logging.

* Agricultural subsidies in frontier zones (tax breaks, credit, subsidized inputs, and extension services) should be eliminated to slow forest conversion.

* Tenure security alone is insufficient to encourage forest management. Nothing prevents land users with secure property rights from behaving in ways that impose social costs on others.

* Land titling for landless agriculturalists is a questionable strategy for slowing deforestation in open-access forest frontiers;

* Land taxes may be potentially effective instruments for discouraging forest clearing.


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Further reading

If you would like to obtain an electronic or printed copy of Laarman’s paper, please send a message to Kari Keipi at the IDB: If you are interested in contacting the paper’s author, you can write Jan Laarman, who is now at the PROARCA project in Guatemala at: