Turkey has radically transformed its land title registration system, and decreased the turnaround time for recording property transactions to just two hours.
I remember my first visit to the agency in 2007. The agency is heavily staffed (15,000), has more than 100 branches and its main headquarters had once almost fallen apart. In my first visit, the head of the agency gave me a nice surprise: he showed me a land book that dated back to the 18th century, and included a record of my great-great-grandfather’s land title in Palestine.
The head of the agency had great plans to transform the agency by improving land records, introducing computerization and integrating the system into the overall e-government program, and setting a time limit of one day to register land transactions. Based on that an ambitious reform agenda, we worked together over a few months’ ‘time to prepare the cadastre modernization project. The Bank partly financed this reform through a $100 million loan, while the Turkish government funded the rest of the program. The project started in 2007, and I moved on to other positions later that year.
This time I had a second surprise. The institution is completely transformed. The main office has been completely and beautifully renovated. It now resembles any other government office in the US or Europe. The agency presented its achievements. It was amazing to see what had been accomplished in 8 years. The government is about to complete the renovation of the cadastre and the computerization of all land records, including historical records from Ottoman times. Service delivery has improved dramatically, with property transactions now being registered within 2 hours. They also integrated cadastre registration into the overall e-government program, which allows any Turkish citizen to access the record of their land/property online. Above all, customer satisfaction has reached 97% — something unheard of for land agencies, often known to be among the most corrupt agencies in many countries.
It is increasingly recognized that well-defined property rights are crucial for realizing the benefits of market exchange and that such rights are not exogenously given but evolve over time in response to economic and political forces. The reduction of expropriation risk and the facilitation of market transactions are the two main categories through which property rights systems affect economic outcomes. However, the mechanisms by which these two categories affect outcomes differ in important ways.
I recently had the opportunity to organize and take part in an exchange learning visit to Thailand and Vietnam. The visit was aimed at improving the effectiveness of Ethiopia’s land administration system by enhancing stakeholders’ understanding of the sector’s policies and institutional constraints and how to address them through integrated but multi-faceted reforms and programs.
Over the past decade, Ethiopia has successfully implemented the worlds’ largest rural land registration program. The registration is implemented equitably and with clear positive impacts on conflict, productivity, investment, and rental market participation. However, constraints still exist. There’s a disconnect between urban and rural registration and administration, stagnant policy revisions remain, and there is often weak institutional capacity to act on and implement innovative ideas with the required speed.
When I first entertained the idea of heading to the Far East to learn from the experiences there, I was very skeptical and thought Vietnam and Thailand were just way too far… and I don’t just mean geographically. Once I arrived there, I realized that I was wrong and was pleasantly surprised to discover lots of very useful lessons that can help to initiate, improve, or at least reaffirm the course of Ethiopia’s land administration system.