Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The derivatives contract in slum housing!

Slumania is a squatter slum in the Urbania Municipality of Corruptionland. It houses nearly 500 families in 3 acres of government land. Like other such slums, it has all the features of un-planned growth - small and irregular lanes, no side drains and sewerage network, leaking water lines, unhygienic surroundings etc. The election promise of Aya Ram, the local MLA, was to get a multi-storied housing colony sanctioned with roads, water and sewerage lines.

Finally, thanks to the his efforts, as part of the National Urban Development Mission (NUDM), the Government have sanctioned multi-storied (G+3) housing units with all infrastructure facilities. The Urban Community Development wing of Urbania Municipality does the Socio-Economic Survey (SES) to document the list of beneficiaries. Possession Certificates (PCs) of all beneficiaries are prepared and kept ready for distribution.

Simultaneously, Aya Ram's cronies swing into action. They demand that Rs 10000 be paid by each household to ensure registration. This is despite their name already having been cleared in the SES conducted by the Municipal authorities. Now, Rs 10,000 is not a small amount for the beneficiaries. Most of them already face an uphill struggle to pay the Rs 10000-20000 beneficiary contribution required to get the house sanctioned. Despite this, they immediately pay Aya Ram's extortionary tribute.

Why do people pay the premium despite their name finding place in the SES list and the assurance of a formal government mandate, the PC? This requires an examination of the post-sanction risks faced by the PC holder. After the sanction, the processes of tender finalization and completion of work, would take atleast 12-18 months. Even the process of physical allotment has numerous uncertainties associated. This is a long enough window for several risks to surface - the local muscleman may arm-twist the beneficiary off his PC, Aya Ram's cronies may collude with officials to issue duplicate certificates on the same house (thereby robbing the beneficiary off his allotted house), and so on. So here is the economic rationale behind the exorbitant premium,

1. The premium is a hedge against these risks. It is the cost of buying protection against these uncertainties. The contract is a form of derivative - beneficiary being the protection buyer, Aya Ram the protection seller, and protection against dispossession is the risk being purchased! The payment made to Aya Ram's cronies is proportional to the perceived risks to obtaining final possession of the house. In many respects, it is the simplest of insurance contracts.

2. The willingness of the beneficiaries to pay an exorbitant premium, despite possessing a government issued and legally valid certificate (the PC), is a reflection of the credibility deficit of government contracts. In other words, the premium is a measure of the cost of the contract (even government ones) enforcement in such environments. Higher the premiums, greater the institutional credibility deficit or weaker the contract enforcement conditions.


Aditya said...

Very well explained market principles of corruptionland. In the end it all boils down to prevalence of law and order and the efficacy of the judiciary. Only if the law was followed meticulously and the cases were expedited in the courts such markets would find no (or few) investors and the brokers would shy away from such business.

As of now places like Municipalities/ RTO offices / Courts/ PWDs / Electricity depts / are like the stock exchanges for proliferation of such markets.

Would the Lokpal bill provide a breather or it will provide another set of marketplaces for the same?

sai prasad said...

Is there a transparent procedure for selection of such beneficiaries of government largesse. Are these the most deserving guys. Have they been in the line the longest. Is there no one else who is more deserving ?

Of course, all these questions are unanswere in all government selections. We go by the principle of localization. Ie the one who grabs the property first is likely to be the beneficiary.

Since these "poor" have come into the land by subverting the law, at least to some extent, they are not sure of their rights to valuable property. I think, that this is the prime reason for their paying the rents that you have describes.

All the issues that you raised are also certainly relevant and play an important role in the matrix of the decision process.