Timber trees, tree tenure and sharing of benefits – the case of Ghana
The thesis addresses the research problem: Why is it that national governments, most of whom have declared their commitment to sustainably manage their nation’s tropical forest resources, adopt policies and sanction the implementation of policies that have harmful consequences (ecologically, economically and socially) for the societies they govern? The research problem is addressed in the specific case of governance of timber resources in the High Forest Zone of Ghana, and with an empirical focus on the period from 1994. This year coincides with the adoption of the Ghana Forest and Wildlife Policy. The study further demonstrates that the revenues from timber related fees and taxes are far below the value of the resource. It illustrates that the taxation level has been low throughout the post-independence period and that attempts to reform the fiscal regime since 1994 (with donor support) have not had the expected result. The thesis suggests that these outcomes may be explained through a model formulated by Bates (1981) that emphasizes the interests of politicians. It assumes that politicians are rational decision makers with the overriding objective of staying in power in order to pursue a host of other objectives which may be societal, personal or a combination hereof. In order to stay in power, politicians need a political support base. It is alleged that discretionary control over allocation of timber rights in combination with low forest fees provide politicians control over valuable rent-seeking opportunities which can be exchanged for various forms of political support, e.g. votes or campaign contributions, through patron-client networks, where the clients (timber firms) come to owe their favourable position to their political patrons.