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The Horns of a Dilemma in Colonial Policies : Rice, Rubber and Living Standards in the Malay Peninsula

Papaioannou, Kostadis LU (2018) In EHES Working Papers in Economic History
Abstract
The effects of colonial policies on the living standards of smallholder farmers have been widely debated. The ‘dependency’ view of local farmers becoming increasingly vulnerable due to exposure to international market volatility has been contrasted with the neo-classical view that suggests that this exposure was counteracted by an increase in surplus revenues generated by export crop specialization. The controversy becomes even fiercer when the debate is centred around the impact of the Great Depression on the material conditions of rural households. This article addresses this controversy by studying the most important agricultural policy in the British Malay Peninsula around the years of the Great Depression (1924-1937), using new... (More)
The effects of colonial policies on the living standards of smallholder farmers have been widely debated. The ‘dependency’ view of local farmers becoming increasingly vulnerable due to exposure to international market volatility has been contrasted with the neo-classical view that suggests that this exposure was counteracted by an increase in surplus revenues generated by export crop specialization. The controversy becomes even fiercer when the debate is centred around the impact of the Great Depression on the material conditions of rural households. This article addresses this controversy by studying the most important agricultural policy in the British Malay Peninsula around the years of the Great Depression (1924-1937), using new fine-grained data on harvest yields, mortality and hospitalization rates at the district level. On March 1, 1931, the colonial government enacted the New Rice Policy, encouraging local farmers to substitute rubber cultivation with rice fields. This new policy was not implemented at the same time throughout the Malay Peninsula, nor was it enacted in all districts. We build our empirical approach around this temporal and spatial variation of the new law, and compare the mortality and morbidity responses to harvest failures before and after the New Rice Policy was in effect. The adverse effects of harvest failures were reduced in districts where the new rice policy was enforced, and remained largely unaffected in districts where the new rice policy was never implemented. Our findings underscore the decisive impact of the New Rice Policy in achieving widespread food security for local farmers while securing the general health of the population. To address potential endogeneity concerns, we also use rainfall variability as an instrumental variable to proxy for harvest fluctuations and harvest failures. (Less)
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author
publishing date
type
Working Paper
publication status
published
subject
keywords
agricultural history, living standards, health outcomes, rice, commodity trade, colonial history, Southeast Asia, colonial policies, food security, N55, Q17, F18, N35, Q18, N15
in
EHES Working Papers in Economic History
issue
122
pages
49 pages
publisher
European Historical Economics Society
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
3cb052c7-1ec9-4770-b045-89edc277711e
alternative location
http://www.ehes.org/EHES_122.pdf
date added to LUP
2018-01-15 14:40:54
date last changed
2018-05-29 10:15:51
@misc{3cb052c7-1ec9-4770-b045-89edc277711e,
  abstract     = {The effects of colonial policies on the living standards of smallholder farmers have been widely debated. The ‘dependency’ view of local farmers becoming increasingly vulnerable due to exposure to international market volatility has been contrasted with the neo-classical view that suggests that this exposure was counteracted by an increase in surplus revenues generated by export crop specialization. The controversy becomes even fiercer when the debate is centred around the impact of the Great Depression on the material conditions of rural households. This article addresses this controversy by studying the most important agricultural policy in the British Malay Peninsula around the years of the Great Depression (1924-1937), using new fine-grained data on harvest yields, mortality and hospitalization rates at the district level. On March 1, 1931, the colonial government enacted the New Rice Policy, encouraging local farmers to substitute rubber cultivation with rice fields. This new policy was not implemented at the same time throughout the Malay Peninsula, nor was it enacted in all districts. We build our empirical approach around this temporal and spatial variation of the new law, and compare the mortality and morbidity responses to harvest failures before and after the New Rice Policy was in effect. The adverse effects of harvest failures were reduced in districts where the new rice policy was enforced, and remained largely unaffected in districts where the new rice policy was never implemented. Our findings underscore the decisive impact of the New Rice Policy in achieving widespread food security for local farmers while securing the general health of the population. To address potential endogeneity concerns, we also use rainfall variability as an instrumental variable to proxy for harvest fluctuations and harvest failures.},
  author       = {Papaioannou, Kostadis},
  keyword      = {agricultural history,living standards,health outcomes,rice,commodity trade,colonial history,Southeast Asia,colonial policies,food security,N55,Q17,F18,N35,Q18,N15},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Working Paper},
  number       = {122},
  pages        = {49},
  publisher    = {European Historical Economics Society},
  series       = {EHES Working Papers in Economic History},
  title        = {The Horns of a Dilemma in Colonial Policies : Rice, Rubber and Living Standards in the Malay Peninsula},
  year         = {2018},
}