Palmed Off: Incentive Problems with Joint-Venture Schemes for Oil Palm Development on Customary Land
The oil palm boom has prompted governments and plantation companies to find ways to incorporate customary landholders in large-scale plantation developments. This paper examines the joint-venture model that has been widely promoted in Sarawak, Malaysia. Principal–agent theory is used to analyze the structural relations between the actors in joint-venture projects—the landholders, the government agency that acts as their trustee, and the private investor. The analysis shows that unequal access to information and influence has compromised the stated objectives of the joint-venture schemes, leaving customary landholders vulnerable to significant exploitation and losses. Thus there has been a systematic failure to achieve the anticipated developmental outcomes.
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