Explaining Rural Poverty Persistence in Tunisia from the Perspective of Path Dependence Theory

Since independence in 1956, Tunisia has experienced a significant reduction of poverty and improvement of social indicators. Yet, regional and socio-economic disparities remain significant. The issue of regional disparities was at the core of the social unrest in the Mid-East regions that are essentially rural regions and have led to the revolution of January 14, 2011. Persistence of poverty among rural population questions rural development policies based on modernization and agricultural development. However, the modernization policy has always favored the exclusion of poor rural population holding small farms. Based on these observations, this paper aims to analyze of rural poverty persistence as “path dependency process”. We first argue that land tenure is a key of the puzzle for examining the interaction between institutional framework regulating agriculture and economic outcomes of different rural social classes. Whereas, land tenure system is a result of agrarian reforms occurred in the 70’s that aimed to clarify private property rights on land. In that perspective, we review historical evidence about institutional reforms of land tenure in Tunisia since independence, and we argue about their consequence in terms of rural development. Thus, during the decade 75-85, big farmers, benefiting from institutional arrangement have developed “learning through institutions” and competitive strategies. The cumulative process would create “institutional path dependency”. that would structure the economic game through time and would result in “economic path dependency”. This framework in terms of path dependency explains not only economic performance of large scale farms but also the trap to poverty of the rural population. Key Words- Rural poverty- land tenure system- agricultural modernization- path dependency- Tunisia.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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