From the President

Gregory K. Ingram, October 1, 2005

The Lincoln Institute has long been involved in international activities that deal with land policy and land taxation issues. In the 1970s those activities focused mainly on training and education. For example, Institute faculty have taught joint courses in land and tax policy issues with the International Center for Land Policy Studies and Training (formerly the Land Reform Training Institute) in Taiwan for nearly 30 years. Sponsorship of international congresses on land policy in the 1980s involved the Lincoln Institute in the dissemination of research and analysis by colleagues from both industrial and developing countries. This work heralded further international expansion in the 1990s involving both the Institute’s training programs and its support for research and analysis, particularly in developing countries.

Over the past ten years, the Institute has expanded its program of training and research in Latin America that deals with planning, property taxation, urban development, and land markets. Its program in China, begun in 2001, involves government officials, academics, and researchers with a focus on urban land markets, land taxation, and city expansion issues. The Institute has been active in many Eastern European countries, where it has been involved mainly in training on tax policy and administration. It also has contacts and modest levels of involvement in other countries, including Cuba and South Africa, which face particularly demanding or unique land and tax policy challenges.

The initial motivation for the Institute’s international work was to share its knowledge and expertise in land policy issues with others, as in transition economies seeking to establish land markets and property tax regimes. The Institute provided training in land market fundamentals and policy issues, and in the technical requirements of databases containing cadastral, ownership, and development information.

As the Institute expanded its activities abroad, academic and policy research on urban development and local public finance documented many commonalities across countries in the development patterns of large cities, in the behavior of households and firms, and in the tradeoffs households and firms face when making decisions about location, transport, space consumption, tenure choice, and local services. Predictions based on urban economic theory proved to be robust across both rich and poor countries.

The consequence of this commonality of problems and behavior is that the flow of knowledge is no longer in one direction. Solutions to problems in one city can help inform policy makers in other cities about new approaches that have worked elsewhere. For example, experience with new ways to use benefit charges to finance infrastructure, design exclusive bus lanes, structure new development, or reform housing in one country is of great interest to others. International experience also reinforces old lessons, such as the advantages of property taxation as a local revenue source or the impact of infrastructure on development.

In sum, the Institute’s international work has enriched its own knowledge and expertise as much as it has benefited those who have participated in our training and research programs.