Development / 08.01.2009

What a question? Is there any doubt? Singapore is seen as the poster child of successful urban and economic development. But it is good to revisit such certainties, if only to reassure oneself that the case continues to hold. The reason for this particular revisit springs from an article in the New York Times published on January 3, 2009 (Singapore Prepares to Gobble Up its Last Village). Readers should look at the short article which describes how Singapore’s last village (Kampong Buangkok - 28 houses in an area the size of three football fields) is being acquired for high-rise development. Three statements reflecting three perspectives stand out in the article: The Government: “We will need to optimize land use, whether it is though reclamation, building upwards or using subterranean space.” The owner: “If there’s a change, I won’t have my friends any more,” she said, but added: “We must not...

Development / 24.12.2008

We never get away from blaming corruption for everything that is wrong in South Asia. Corruption is our biggest problem, it is repeated, and until we can deal with it we will be unable to develop. No one is a fan of corruption but where is the evidence for such a strong assertion? In two posts (here and here), we have argued for a nuanced perspective. In this post, we put forward some counterintuitive conclusions. The trigger for the post is the recent high profile incidents of political and financial corruption in the United States. In the state of Illinois, where the previous governor is already in prison, the incumbent is charged with trying to auction off political office in what is being termed as a standard practice – ‘pay for play’. And the financial corruption on Wall Street to the tune of $50 billion is said...

Development / 29.10.2008

By Anjum Altaf  This essay was written after the last Asian Games in December 2006. When it was first submitted for publication the editors returned it as too pessimistic. Pakistan was at the time in its ‘enlightened’ phase and clocking high rates of economic growth – the writing on the wall was there even then but people wished not to see it. Many complained that the essay had simplified complex issues by using a trivial indicator of development. It was finally published in Chowk on July 30, 2007 with a sign of interrogation at the end of the title. Now that the lights have gone out and the country is bankrupt, we can take out the interrogation sign and finally face up to the reality. Hiding our heads in the sand is not going to get us anywhere.  With a major election coming up, we are likely...

Development / 23.09.2008

A college student has asked us if corruption is good or bad. The proposition he has been asked to consider is the following: Corruption greases the wheels of development; it benefits the rich and poor alike. This proposition is very easy to disprove by thinking of concrete examples where corruption does not benefit the rich and poor alike. Let us take examples from the recent earthquakes in Kashmir and China. Many school buildings collapsed killing thousands of children. The Chinese government has admitted there was corruption in the construction of the buildings. Second-rate material was used but approved by supervisors in exchange for bribes. In this case rich contractors and bureaucrats benefited but poor public school students and their parents paid the ultimate  price. This example shows that whenever corruption creates hazardous conditions, it does not benefit rich and poor alike. The sale of contaminated infant milk in China...

Development / 09.09.2008

We must confess our incomplete knowledge of what is really happening in Nepal but this is certainly a phenomenon that warrants close attention. Let us try and sketch a big picture and hope that readers with more details can fill in the gaps that are inevitable. In a series of posts on modernity in South Asia (see under the theme on the main page) we have repeatedly gone over the sequence of events in Europe that marked the change from the old feudal order to the new era of democratic governance. We highlighted the key markers: the emergence of a realization that all men should be equal; the embedding of these ideas in the thinking of the times; a social revolution nurtured by these ideas that overthrew the hierarchical aristocratic order to force the recognition of equality; and the gradual emergence of democracy as the form...