Adding a Dose of Realism
Finally, a large degree of pragmatism has to accompany initiatives such as the allocation of minimally serviced plots to poor people. Well-intentioned proposals will not put an end to the occasional savageries of the marketplace or the vagaries of the democratic system. The distribution of minimally serviced land can be, and has repeatedly been, used for less noble purposes than meeting the needs of the poor.
Controlling the abusive practices of developers and service providers who use socially motivated land repartition schemes to increase their own profits is a very real challenge. Subsidies can simply increase the price of land. The international record of land banking is admittedly poor. Successful pilot projects often flounder when brought up to scale.
Less important, people who are not poor will worm their way into any distribution scheme to make a profit. Some beneficiaries will move on as soon as their property acquires exchange or monetary value—though this is not necessarily negative, since it becomes a form of social mobility. Distribution of publicly owned or appropriated land can fall victim to unscrupulous economic or political schemes. They can even increase the social and geographic distances between the haves and have-nots.(25)
The possibility that they may be exploited for economic or political gain should not impede socially motivated approaches to serviced land. Other social and political forces, supported by better information and improved communication, will have to come into play to denounce deceitful and ruthless manoeuvres that can stand in the way of improvement in the lives of the poor.(26)