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Implementation concepts and practices

In order to facilitate our understanding of the land settlement programmes in the various South-East Asian countries, it may be necessary to examine first how the different implementing agencies approach the various factors usually identified as important in affecting resettlement success. Seven key factors are: (a) choosing the right place, (b) choosing the right settlers, (c) physical preparation of the site prior to settlers' arrival, (d) settler's capital, (e) the organization of certain economic activities by groups of settlers, (f ) the size of the holding, and (g) the condition of tenure (Lewis 1954, 3-11). These are only essential ingredients to the recipe. The palatability of the final outcome depends on other factors, such as the "gourmet's touch," proper mix, and proper timing.

Choosing the Right Place

The right place is one where the site as well as the location are suitable. As far as site is concerned, the physical aspects must be suitable-the soil must be fertile, rainfall adequate, drainage and environmental conditions acceptable. To enable all these factors to be realized, the planners must have adequate maps and information regarding the land available for development.

In practically all the four South-East Asian countries studied, it would seem that governments have desired a resettlement programme because of the availability of unutilized and unalienated areas under their control. Whereas land development becomes a national policy and programme, the essential administrative and bureaucratic machinery is not adequately attuned to deal with the proper implementation of the programme. Very few national governments, especially during the initial stages of planning, have the requisite knowledge of the best sites and locations for the projects. The planners are usually handicapped because none of these countries has a satisfactory inventory of its land resources. They have an idea of where lands are available, but they are usually uncertain of the quality, carrying capacity, and potential of such lands. The potential natural productivity of tropical forest lands, moreover, is still a subject of controversy. The great variety of local physical conditions to be found within them, combined with the inadequate number of detailed studies, would make futile any sweeping assumptions. One would certainly need to consider the soils, slopes, drainage, and temperature characteristics of a given locality to avoid long-term wastage. The costs to determine the quality and potential for such lands may be exorbitant, and the planners may have the task of deciding on the viability and long-term benefits of such studies. Technical advances during the past few decades could be used to great advantage in determining the quality of land before project implementation.

Since land is an important factor to any government, frequent problems have arisen from interdepartmental rivalries and jealousies. Usually, the questions of alienation, administration, and exploitation are delegated to different government departments and each tenaciously holds onto its control. The situation is aggravated when land matters are vested in provincial or state governments, which may not share the objectives of the central government. In the case of the Philippines, there were occasions when a resettlement scheme could not be carried out on schedule by the resettlement agency because the land was concurrently administered by a number of other government agencies, each with its own plans for its development (Bahrin 1973). There have also been cases in Malaysia where land colonization has been made difficult due to the conflicting interests of the state and federal governments (Bahrin 1968). issues such as these have created confusion and uncertainty among the settlers (Oey 1982, 42-44).

Given these conditions, it is no wonder that standard operation procedures and adequate preparation in selecting settlement sites have often to be put aside. It is common for the reconnaissance groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to submit reports based on casual visits and inadequate surveys. As a consequence, plans are drawn up based on inaccurately surveyed ground conditions. Two extreme examples of poor site selection in Indonesia are "two tidal area projects in Kalimantan, Marabahan and Balandean, which were opened in 1958-1959 and 1960 respectively. In both areas water and soil quality are major problems. Without high quality irrigation and drainage systems, such selected tidal areas are either inundated or have no water.... The Marabahan project is located too far from the Barito River so that neither can the swampy waters with a high degree of acidity be drained into the Barito nor can the Barito's water be used to irrigate the fields. Similar difficulties are faced by the transmigrants in the Balandean Project" (Oey 1982).

Settler Selection

The objective of settler selection is to recruit those who can best contribute to, and subsequently benefit from, the development of the project. Unfortunately, in practice poor selection of settlers is commonplace.

Despite having the common aim of raising income and standard of living of the rural landless through land settlement, there are variations in the details of the implementation of land settlement programmes in individual countries. As indicated earlier, in Indonesia and the Philippines, although improvements in living standards are the ultimate object, the redistribution of population is an equally important aim. With more of the latter objective in mind, the Indonesian planners have divided the country into two categories: the problem-source areas, where people need to be removed for resettlement, and the solution-recipient areas, where these people are resettled. In Repelita II, priority source areas were determined, which fulfilled the following criteria: (i) critical areas and those which are to be rehabilitated; (ii) natural disaster prone areas; (iii) areas where densities exceed 1,000 persons per square kilometre; and (iv) areas which are to be inundated following the construction of a dam. Repelita III contains similar specifications of the general criteria for source areas and also states that priority is to be given to kecamatan (sub-districts) which are densely populated, relatively poor, and experiencing environmental deterioration and acute problems of unemployment (Oey 1982). Areas usually falling into the source category include Java, Madura, Bali, and Lombok; all other areas, especially South Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Barat, are included as the major receiving areas.

The criteria used in selecting individual transmigrants have not changed very substantially during the past 50 years. The transmigrant must meet the following conditions:

(i) he should be an Indonesian citizen;
(ii) he should not have been involved in the 30 September 1965 attempted communist coup or be a member of a prohibited political party;
(iii) he should be a farmer or have other relevant skills;
(iv) be between 20 and 40 years old, with no member of his family less than 6 months or more than 60 years old;
(v) be legally married and his wife not more than three months pregnant;
(vi) be of good health and physically fit;
(vii) adhere to a religion;
(viii) be well behaved, have no criminal record, and never transmigrated before;
(ix) he must go voluntarily; and
(x) be subject to regulations governing the implementation of transmigration (Oey 1982).

There is ample evidence that these guidelines have not been strictly adhered to. In the case of the Philippines, although the policy on the intake of settlers is based on similar regional considerations, priority being given to applicants from the problem provinces in Central Luzon and the Bisayas, the actual implementation is not as rigid as in Indonesia. Officially, settlers must meet the following selection criteria:

(i) be qualified under the Public Land Law (CA141) to acquire agricultural land through a homestead; (ii) be landless or the holder of a farm too small to be economically viable; (iii) be capable of cultivating the land personally or with the aid of his family; (iv) be of good moral character; (v) a settler must not have secured any homestead rights from any homesteader; and (vi) he must be willing to work the land in accordance with the conditions provided in the agricultural settlement (Land Authority 1969).

Since the number of applicants at any one time exceeds the number of available lots or the financial capacity of the Department of Agrarian Reform to resettle, some order of priority in the selection of settlers has to be instituted. Consequently, in practice the DAR generally gives priority to those actually occupying and personally cultivating the land in the project and to qualified or deserving farmers in the province where the settlement project is located. Thus? it may be observed that, although one of the major objectives of resettlement in the Philippines has long been the reduction of population pressure in congested areas, in practice this has ceased to be a serious consideration in the selection of settlers. There is no evidence that applicants from declared or recognized congested areas are given preference. In Malaysia and Thailand, where the redistribution of population as such is not an important objective in the land settlement strategy, the geographical or "provincial" origins of applicants have not been given especial consideration as no region has been spotlighted as a source area of settlers. In fact. it seems that resettlement efforts are concentrated rather within the state boundaries. For example, some of the Thai projects, such as the hill tribe resettlement schemes, are established in the locality or province in which the settlers are recruited. Similarly, the resettlement projects implemented by the state governments in Malaysia are intended to benefit only the people in the state concerned. Even in many of the FELDA schemes, birthplace is featured in the agreement between the authority and the various state governments. This is done because under the Malaysian federal system, a state government exercises control over land matters, and it is agreed that not less than 50 per cent of the settlers in any scheme shall be comprised of the residents of the state in which the scheme is located. In schemes in states such as Negri Sembilan, Malacca, Kedah, and Perak, where pressure on the land is greater, nearly all the settlers are recruited from within the state.

A policy common to all South-East Asian governments, excepting Thailand, is the priority given to applicants who have large families. The idea seems reasonable, since more people can thus be removed from overcrowded areas. On closer examination, however, problems and difficulties are revealed. First and foremost, although Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia generally are not in favour of considering applicants over 45 years of age, invariably applicants who have large families are already in their late 30s or early 40s. They are often found to be less energetic and more difficult to supervise than the younger settlers. Second, in many of these families a large proportion of the children are of school age and, as the majority of the schemes are newly opened, facilities for education in general and secondary education in particular are limited, and it is inevitable that the education of the settlers' children will be disrupted.

In recent years there seems to be an implied preference for smaller families. In Malaysia, FELDA has reduced the maximum age limit for a settler from 45 years to 35 years, and at the same time no extra incentive point is awarded to any settler with more than five children. In Indonesia, an indirect limitation has been introduced whereby rations are supplied to each family during the first 12 months (18 months for tidal areas) in the project calculated on the basis of a maximum of five members, husband, wife, and three children.

Preparing the Site

There seems to be a great amount of debate regarding the amount of site preparation to be done by the government and the settlers respectively. The practice in South-East Asian countries differs widely, consistent with the stand taken in the debate. Considerations regarding this factor range from leaving the work of land preparation entirely to the settlers themselves, to having the government undertake completely the clearing and developing of the land, as in the case of the FELDA projects; the question revolves round the availability of funds. Thus, in cases where funds allocated for resettlement are small and need to be utilized to resettle as many people as possible, site preparation has largely been left to the settlers. The practice seems to vary widely, not only amongst countries but also between projects of the same country.

Turning to Indonesia, ground preparation has been extremely unsatisfactory in the past, for sites were never prepared prior to allocation to the settlers; the settlers had to build their own houses, clear their land, and even construct irrigation channels. After 1973, the policy was modified somewhat such that the low-lying areas were made ready prior to the arrival of the settlers, and besides the construction of houses and an infrastructure, 2 ha of land were cleared for each family before emplacement. Implementation of the modified policy has been far from satisfactory (Guinness 1977, 53).

Similar observations can be made for resettlement projects in Thailand, the Philippines, and even in the Kelantan State schemes, where a "self-help" concept was adopted but has now been abandoned. It may be noted here that in the newly created Nuclear Estate Smallholder Programme, the private sector has been asked to develop the land and provide the essential infrastructure, to be paid for by the Transmigration Department (Habir 1984).

In the FELDA projects in Malaysia, on the other hand, settlers are not brought in until the jungle has been cleared and the fields planted, including several months' maintenance, the houses completed, and other social facilities such as schools, community and health centres have been prepared. No doubt due to its record of better performance, implementing agencies from neighbouring countries tend, more and more, to adopt the FELDA system. Lewis (1954) observed earlier that the advantage of this system is that it makes the settlement more attractive and thus easier to get and hold settlers. Needless to say, if the settler has to do these things for himself after he arrives, it will be some time before he can get down to the business of farming, and he may have to spend two or three years on the land before he gets a self-sufficient crop (Lewis 1954). Failure to begin their agricultural work immediately because of the time required for site preparation has forced the settlement agencies in the Philippines and Indonesia to extend the subsidy period and consequently prolong the settlement process (Bahrin 1973). In brief, to attract and retain settlers, the projects must appear promising as a place of work and residence. New rural settlement schemes must be able to compete with other potential destinations. More often than not, this is more easily said than done, considering the many constraints that implementing agencies face.

Group Economic Activity

The issue here is how much of the economic activity of the settlers is to be left to individuals and how much is to be organized or guided in groups. Experience in SouthEast Asia appears to be varied, ranging from complete freedom of the individual settler to do whatever he likes to strict control of activities. Those associated with the former include the pre-1973 transmigration schemes in Indonesia and the pre-1975 Kelantan State Land Development projects in Malaysia; in these cases, only the land was provided, leaving the bulk of the physical development of it to the settlers. The main consideration regarding the choice is basically the availability of funds, which is sometimes cloaked in the need of creating "self-reliant" communities in these new settlements. In the FELDA projects and in some of the newer projects in Thailand and the Philippines, it has become necessary for work to be done collectively and under closer supervision.

The question of greater or lesser group work will depend to a large extent on the objective and the nature of the project itself. If the people are settled on individual family units with subsistence as the objective, then the potential for group work is reduced. In this case, resettlement becomes an end in itself and not a means to overall economic advancement (Bahrin 1981, 131-142). If the crops are grown for sale, especially in the international market where quality has to be maintained, and if the family-size farm is to be economically viable, some central agency must organize all matters which are best done on a large scale, for example, mechanical operations, irrigation, research and technical advice, and processing, storing, and marketing of the crops. Settlement projects in South-East Asia with co-operative and centralized control appear to be more successful than those where farmers are left to themselves and supervision is lacking.

Size of Holding

Since land settlement schemes are invariably agricultural projects, the size of the lot must be planned in accordance with the main aims and objectives of the programme. Two principles commonly adopted in determining the farm size are: (i) the farm must be large enough to provide a living for the family, and (ii) it must not be more than what the settler and his family can cultivate (Bahrin 1981).

It is not surprising that, even with the strictest adherence to the above principles, allocated farm sizes vary from country to country and even within the same country, which may be due to the existence of too many agencies responsible for land settlement (Suthiporn and Worwate 1980, 128-131).

In Thailand, the size of holding allocated per settler varies from place to place and from one type of project to another. In the case of self-help schemes and land cooperatives, by law holdings shall not exceed 8 ha. In practice, however, the holding size allocated varies between 0.5 and 4.0 ha per family (Perera 1979, 216).

In the Malaysian and Philippine settlement programmer, settler holdings are governed by income and employment factors. The implementation, however, seems to vary. In the case of FELDA, changes in allotment have been determined by changes in produce prices and consequently settler income. Until recently, settlers in oil palm schemes have been allocated holdings of 5 ha. Presently, although the 4-ha holding has become the standard, with depleting land resources, the government is now considering a reduction to its pre-1960 size of 3.2 ha in order to cope with the problem of landlessness. This may be a retrogressive move, considering the need to make new schemes competitive in attracting and retaining settlers. In the face of declining commodity prices and improved standards of living in urban centres, the size of holding, as the sole source of settler income, needs to be increased, not reduced. In the Philippines, the average farm lot size is markedly variable-from an average of 4.17 ha in Santo Tomas, where the ground is relatively flat and fertile, to 11.09 ha in Kabankalan, where the soil is lacking in fertility.

In Indonesia, each transmigrant-like his predecessor in the latter part of the Dutch resettlement programme-is normally given 2 ha of land. Despite the economic and social changes of the past four decades, no serious effort has been made to review the suitability of this allocation. The 2 ha allocation is apportioned into a 0.25 ha house lot, a 0.75 ha dry-crop parcel, and a 1 ha wet-rice paddy. During the past 10 years, the allocation of land has been increased to 3-5 ha. It must be recognized that the distinction between wet and dry land is often obscure, for lack of irrigation facilities on paddy land in some projects has forced the settlers to plant dry crops, and, in other cases, land allocated as dry-crop land has been converted to rain-fed paddy. It has been observed that a fair proportion of settlers have been unable to live off the allocated land and have been forced to vacate the settlement; another high proportion was compelled to seek whatever employment was available off the farms (Perera 1979, 135).


Like their counterparts elsewhere, the South-East Asian settlers are initially attracted to join projects because of the promise of land ownership. Most of the settlers are impatient to get titles to their land, and those titles must be tied to as few conditions as possible. In the majority of cases, there have been delays in the issuing of these titles. Some of the delays are due to the inability of the settlers to repay their loans. Because it costs the government a large sum of money to resettle him and his family, the settler is usually required to repay either part or the total expenditure of his settlement.

The delays in issuing titles, besides the inability of settling loan repayments, can be due to bureaucratic tardiness. In most of the countries in the region, the resettlement agency concerned is not authorized to issue land titles, even to those who have fully repaid their loans. For example, in Thailand, as of 1982 only 2 out of 58 projects had received full land title deeds, and the settlements had been transferred from the care of the department to the normal administration by the local authorities (Uhlig 1984, 35). In some instances, as evidenced in the Philippines and Indonesia, this delay could be caused by the existence of customary claims to the legal ownership of the land. In some cases in Indonesia, the government has not always been able to compensate in a way which was regarded as equitable by the locals (e.g. in Sitiung), or the indigenous people may come along after the resettlement community is established and assert ownership in the interest of obtaining compensation (Davis 1971, 21). In Malaysia close co-operation between FELDA and the various local land offices has ensured that titles are issued as soon as the repayments are completed. Any delay has to be avoided because it may create discontent among the settlers and consequently discourage others from participating in such programmer.

Intake of settlers

Within the context of population redistribution, it would be worthwhile to examine the number of people emplaced as a result of resettlement programmes in the region. One is forewarned that the data used can be misleading due to improper record keeping.

From the beginning, the Indonesian colonization and transmigration programmes have consistently failed to resettle the planned number of people. During the Dutch colonial period, only some 190,000 persons were moved from Java to the outer islands (MacAndrews 1978). There was a complete halt in the resettlement programme implementation between 1941 and 1950. The post-independence programme has been characterized by unsatisfactory settler emplacement due to over-ambitious plans (see table 1).

TABLE 1. Intake of transmigrants, Indonesia, 1950-1979

Period Number (Persons) Annual average
1951-55 111,595 22,319
1956-60 134,371 26,874
1961-65 141,844 28,369
1966 69 27,712 6,928
1970-74 182,404 36,481
1975-79 456,987 91,397

During the early years of independence, when agencies were eager to accomplish things, the transmigration programme was envisaged to reduce Java's population from 54 million to 31 million in 35 years. This was to be achieved by moving out 1 million people per year during the first 5 years, 2 million per year during the second 5 years, and finally 7 million annually in the last 5 years of the plan. The achievement as of the 1965 coup was a mere 387,810-a far cry from the intended plan. The emphasis on large numbers continued after 1965. During the initial period of the Suharto government' the plan was to resettle 2 million people per year. Only an average of 8,000 annually was resettled between 1966 and 1969. During Repelita I (1969-1974), the target was more realistic in relation to government capacity: a total of 182,414 persons were resettled relative to the target of 190,705 (Guinness 1977, 8-9). The large number game reappeared in Repelita II (1974-1979), when an average annual resettlement of 50,000 families was envisaged. When the performance during the first 2 years was below expectations, the annual targets for the remaining period of Repelita II were consequently revised. The percentage realized of the original target was a mere 22.5 per cent, as compared to 67.8 per cent of the revised target for the whole of Repelita II. The third plan, Repelita 111 (19791984), set its aims even higher, with a target of 500,000 families, or 2.5 million people (see table 2).

Within a year of its adoption, the oil-price increase seemed to make such an ambitious programme financially feasible. Judged merely by the number of people moved from Java, Bali, and Lombok, the transmigration programme has achieved remarkable results in the past 10 years. However, the target of 500,000 families has, once again, proved over-ambitious.

TABLE 2. Transmigration goals for Repelita III

Fiscal year Number of families
1979-80 50,000
1980-81 75,000
1981-82 100,000
1982-83 125,000
1983-84 150,000
Total 500 000

It must be noted that official statistics which show it to have been reached include a substantial number of spontaneous migrants. Be that as it may, to have managed the movement, as well as the settlement, even of 50-60,000 families a year in the often extremely difficult conditions of the Indonesian archipelago represents a notable organizational feat (Arndt 1984). The target under Repelita IV (1984-1989) has been doubled, to one million families during the period. Arndt and Sundrum (1977, 85) suggest that transferring over a million persons per year could be attainable if the programme were to place more emphasis on voluntary migration and wage employment on public works projects. It is, nevertheless, pertinent to note that between 1932 and 1974, the programme had saved Java from a population increase of some 990,000 (Speare [1978], quoting official sources, indicates that some 810,000 persons were resettled between 1905 and 1975) compared to its total increase of 39 million during that period (Jones 1978,98).

The resettlement achievements in the Philippines are similar to those observed in Indonesia. Since its inception in 1939 until 1978, a total of 49,796 families had been placed in settlement projects. The pattern of intake appears to vary from time to time, depending on the seriousness and concern of the implementing agencies and officers. The largest emplacement of settlers, 60 per cent of the total between 1939 and 1978, occurred during the period 1955-1963, when NARRA was entrusted with the task of resettlement. Despite the success of NARRA relative to its successors, its achievement was still below the planned total of 5,000 settlers per annum. In some years, the number of actual transmigrants was disappointingly low. It has been observed that a majority of the registered settlers were either pioneers or those who resided not too far from the schemes (Ramos 1978,134). Consequently, the word "resettled" should not be used as a blanket term. Of the 34,025 families for which data are available, only 9,415, or 27.7 per cent, were actually moved in by the government. The remaining 24,610 families were either occupants of the area before its proclamation as a resettlement reservation or settlers who went to the resettlement project at their own expense, or they were settlers within the area or surrounding area who were subsequently absorbed. It must, however, be appreciated that resettlement work in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, has been made very difficult during the past 13 years as a consequence of the problems arising from the armed conflicts between the security forces and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and NPA (New People's Army) dissidents (Racamora and Panganiban 1975, 169).

Despite the late start in resettling, the various land development agencies in Malaysia have been able to emplace more settlers in a shorter period than the equivalent agencies in the Philippines. For example, between 1957 and 1975, a total of 59,137 settler families had been admitted into the various government sponsored projects in Peninsular Malaysia (see table 3). It should be mentioned that there are also state schemes in Sabah and Sarawak that have not been taken into consideration because of the different problems that they face. The implementing agencies in those two states are finding difficulties in getting people to settle in their projects. It must also be noted that the youth schemes do not admit families but only unmarried youths, both males and females. The opening of new youth schemes has now been discontinued.

TABLE 3. Scheme resettlements, Peninsular Malaysia, 1957-1975

Scheme Number
FELDA 34,200 (families)
State schemes 17,450 (families)
Youth schemes 7,487 (individuals)

Since 1975, the intake of settlers into FELDA schemes has been tremendously increased. During the first four years of the Third Malaysia Plan (1975-1980), FELDA took in 18,506 families. The overall settler intake since 1957, however, is similar to that achieved by Indonesia and by the Philippines, in that emplacement lags behind projected targets. By July 1984, FELDA had successfully developed 367 schemes covering 654,000 ha and resettling some 84,265 families in 227 schemes; the remaining 140 schemes were without settlers. It can thus be observed that during the past five years, FELDA has been able to resettle as many settlers as it did during its entire initial 18 years. There are adequate indications to show that settler emplacement will increase in the future.

The various government programmes in Thailand have been able to record a far larger number of families being placed in resettlement projects compared with either the Philippines or Malaysia. By 1979, about 240,000 families had been settled. Recipients had been allotted some 800,000 ha in a settlement area totalling 2 million ha, scattered in 200-odd projects around the country (see table 4) (Suthiporn 1982, 108). As elsewhere in the region, however, the achievements fall short of the targets, and up-todate data on the actual number who are still resident in the projects are not available. There are many instances where official records of settlers could not be physically substantiated due to settlers having already left the schemes.

TABLE 4. Land allocation and settler intake in major settlement programmes in Thailand (as of 30 September 1979)

Programme Area (ha) Settlers (families)
Self-help 288,025 103,143
Land co-operative 280,195 56,393
Land reform 5,979 1,869
Land allocation 91,059 60,674
War veteran 4,386 1,046
Forest village - 1,853
Land development 23,372 12,390
Forest community development 7,521 3,472
Total 700.537 240,840

Source: Suthiporn 1982

The popular reasons, such as reluctance of farmers to move to new areas and the usual official claims of shortage of funds allocated to such programmer, need to be examined closely and established as facts. There are many cases when targets are not met because the implementing agencies could not get the job done due to a lack of co-ordination and co-operation from associated departments and also a shortage of technical manpower. The failure to achieve targets appears not to arise wholly from a lack of funds. In Indonesia, for example, the resettlement programme's budget was increased from 800 million rupiahs in 1970 to 6,652 million in 1974 and 14,936 million in 1976. It was estimated, however, that during the first year of Repelita II, 24 per cent of the allocated budget was not spent. This portion rose to 34 per cent in the second year and 96 per cent in the third year (Beddoes 1977, 11).

Whatever the real reasons or the official excuses for the smallness in the number of people resettled by the various governments in South-East Asia, it has, however, often been observed, especially in Indonesia and the Philippines, that the number of people who have migrated to the frontier areas on their own is quite substantial. This phenomenon could be assumed to be caused either by the seriousness of the socioeconomic problems of the settlers or by the mere tardiness of the implementing agencies in resettling potential migrants, or both.

In view of this and within the context of governments' financial and manpower constraints, the occurrence of spontaneous migrations and government sponsored land development programmer could be integrated so that the maximum number of people could benefit from the opening and development of the frontier areas. For example, planned and sponsored settlement schemes could be used as a core and a magnet to attract spontaneous migrants that may then be assisted in getting land, social services, and employment. In short, the number of people that can be resettled satisfactorily could be increased (Uhlig 1984, 105-110).

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