The International Property Rights Index, inaugurated in 2007 and produced every year by the United States-based Property Rights Alliance (PRA) and its partners, ranked Zimbabwe and four other countries in position 109 with a score of 3.2 out of a possible 10 and Bangladesh in the last with a score of 2.5 against 2.9 in 2008 and 2.6 in 2007. Angola trails Zimbabwe with a score of 2.8, while South Africa leads African countries in position 24.
Finland ranked first for the third year running with its score 8.7 out of 10, up 0.1 points from 8.6 in 2007, followed by Denmark and Netherlands.
According to the report, the highest scores tended to coincide with more developed countries with high GDP per capita while the least scores coincided with least developed countries with the world’s lowest GDP per capita, indicating that strong property rights regimes promote a country’s economic well-being.
“Creating an environment where both forms of property (physical and intellectual) are safe and legally enforceable contributes to increased levels of stability and encourages the free exchange of goods and ideas,” said Kelsey Zahourek, the executive director of the Property Rights Alliance.
The index focuses on three areas — legal and political environment, physical property rights and intellectual property rights — that provide an international gauge of private property rights protection.
The first two aggregates look at land titling and highlight the importance of improving the legal security of land tenure by emphasising the need for simple, clear and accessible policies and an efficient and transparent land administration system that underlines unfettered participation in the land market.
IPR on the other hand evaluates the protection of trademarks, patents, copyrights and other knowledge assets, which directly determine a country’s competitiveness in multilateral trade and investment markets.
PRA defines private property rights as one’s right to use their property, engage in lawful transactions related to the sale, purchase and mortgage of that property, and enjoy one’s property to the exclusion of others.
According to the report, lack of independence of the judiciary, absence of the rule of law and political unrest contributed to Zimbabwe’s poor score as it undermined both the respect and protection of property rights.
“Property rights protection is one of the most important indicators of the strength of a country’s regulatory environment,” says Thomas Sakutukwa, a Harare lawyer. “Clear property rules and their protection and enforcement are therefore critical.
“That is why institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank take the matter seriously in formulating their lending policies.”
The World Bank’s Doing Business report also regards property rights protection as key in ranking countries in terms of the ease of doing business.