the world is not flat

From the Center for Global Development:

In the 2005 WIDER Annual Lecture, “The World is not Flat: Inequality and Injustice in our Global Economy” (PDF), CGD President Nancy Birdsall addresses the challenge that global inequality poses for managing globalization so that it works for the developing world. She first argues that inequality matters to people. Moreover, in developing countries, where markets and politics are far-from-perfect, inequality can be destructive, reducing prospects for growth, poverty reduction, and good government. She then turns to a fundamental problem of globalization--that it is asymmetric, i.e. that it benefits the rich more than the poor, both within and across countries. Birdsall argues that the world is not flat as argued by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Rather, what appears to be a level playing field to people on the surface is actually a field full of craters in which poor people and poor countries are stuck. Birdsall discusses the implications of these craters for shared prosperity, global security, and global social justice. She concludes by suggesting steps for addressing the core problem: We have a global economy but no effective global polity.

In the accompanying article Rising Inequality in the New Global Economy (PDF) Nancy Birdsall argues that globalization is disequalizing, rewarding the already rich while leaving the poor behind, and that we need a global polity to address the asymmetric impacts of globalization.

Download slides from the lecture "Why Inequality Matters in a Globalizing World" (PDF, 580KB) delivered October 26, 2005 at the World Institute for Development Economic Research (WIDER) in Helsinki, Finland.
And if you want physical proof of that inequality - look at our squatter colonies cheek by jowl against our exclusive gated communities.

The upside? It's a global problem that will precipitate a global search for solutions. That means there are lessons we can learn from all over the planet. We may even find some of our own.

(This post, prompted in part by this post from manila rat.)


a taste of their own medicine

Now here's an idea that is close to BF's heart:

Shanghai is requiring its public transport officials to take public transit one day a month.
Shanghai Daily, via Urbanism.org)

From the article:

HIGH-RANKING public transport officials have been told to take the bus or Metro to work every 22nd day of the month.

The move will help reduce vehicle emissions and let officials experience crowded city transport at first hand, the Shanghai Urban Transport Management Bureau said yesterday.

"Our department is in charge of the city's transport management and our officials need to know about the problems on the frontline," Huang Xiaoyong, a bureau official who deals with the media, said yesterday.

Huang said nearly 1,000 high-ranking officials, from the bureau to its affiliated government departments, will be forced to abandon their official cars on the 22nd of every month, starting today.

A group of watchdogs will ensure all official cars are parked at office parking lots the whole day.

Huang said officials would also be allowed to ride a bike or walk to the office, which is located at No. 100 Dagu Road near People's Square.

Taking a cab was discouraged, Huang said.

I'd like to see us try this in Metro Manila. Do you think it can begin to undercut our auto-elitism?

I wonder how many cars we can get off the road if we require all the officials and employees of the MMDA, LTO, LTFRB and related agencies to take public transport. Hmm, maybe we should require all the legislators, too!

Your thoughts?


bruce sterling on the future of cities

Bruce Sterling in Belgrade, talking about the future of cities.

(via boingboing)


missing the forest

I always tend to stall on my posts whenever I work on my series on the design of democracy. I put a lot of thought into my posts so I don't want to rush the writing.

Meanwhile, a lot of metro related issues I want to comment on get backlogged.

I'm breaking that cycle - and so, if you don't mind, will postpone my last post in the design of democracy series. -udc

Last week, the Manila Bulletin reported that the national government is looking to spend Php 23 Billion for an anti-pollution program (link via Google's cache).

The details:

The government is depending on an estimated P13-billion fund from multilateral agency Asian Development Bank (ADB) and a separate P10 billion from state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for a public utility program aimed ultimately at cutting pollution in the metropolis by 20 percent yearly until 2010.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is also trying to access funding for its anti-air pollution program from the Land Bank of the Philippines which has a window for retroffiting engines of highly-polluting public utility jeepneys by up to 30 percent equity and collateral requirements. For the ADB loan, this consists basically of P5-billion unprogrammed loan and P8 billion in programmed but uncommitted loan.
The sticking point for me, they think they can achieve that reduction by changing out PUJ engines -or by acquiring brand new units:
It is estimated that changing engines of 7,000 units of public utility jeepneyes will require loanable money of P4.55 billion under DENR’s anti-pollution Option I which is changing the power train by changing engines,transmission and differential at a cost of about P300,000 to P500,000.

DENR’s Option II is the acquisition of brand new unit of these transportation facilities while Option III is acquiring brand new, air-conditioned units.
And that is missing the forest for the trees! Why? because "There is an estimated 67,000 units of jeepneys, 10,754 buses, 61,173 tricycles, and 1.47 million private vehicles in the National Capital Region."

The private vehicles outnumber PUV's 9 to 1! Even if you assume that PUVs generate 3 times* more pollutants (GHGs and particulates) than private vehicles - 75% of the pollution would still be generated by private vehicles.

And private vehicle registration is increasing at more than double the rate of PUV registrations. From 2003-2005, PUV registrations (including renewals) increased by an average of 4% while private vehicle registrations (including renewals) rose by 9.73%. And we're talking percentage increases!

In real numbers, 67,186 PUVs were added to the road between 2003 and 2005, while the total number of private vehicles rose by 10 times that number to 690,153.

Clearly, any effort to improve air quality will need to involve reducing private car use. And you can only do that by improving public transit and looking at how land use interacts with travel patterns.

They should consider spending that Php 23 Billion ($475 Million dollars) on BRT networks. (I know, I know. I sound like a broken record.)

Instead of using the money for loans for drivers(ibabaon na naman sa utang ang mga drivers and operators!), they should invest it in more structured mass transit that can move the PUV operators into more formal business and better capital creation. That money can pay for at about 95-100 kilometers of BRT lines.

Oh, but then, I forgot. We're a nation of auto-elitists -where six people who ride in three cars are way more important than the 70 who ride a bus.

*-I couldn't find any data so I just pulled that number from my ass. I seriously doubt that PUVs on average are 5 times more polluting than private vehicles.


Is Democracy the Best Setting
For Strong Economic Growth?

Found this WSJ Econoblog (via M. Khan's Environmental and Urban Economics)

It's a conversation with K. Daron Acemoglu and Ed Glaeser on the relationship between democracy and economic growth.

But what exactly do we know about the relationship between democracy and economic growth? Economies of less-than-democratic nations such as China have surged in recent years. Does a country's brightening economic picture boost the chance democracy may eventually blossom? Or is it the other way around? Are democratic institutions a key component of long-term economic growth? And what's the role of education?

I think it is a must read.

Some gems:
(warning, most links are to pdfs)

Glaeser: Rich countries are stable democracies. Poor countries tend to be political basket cases, careening between brutal dictatorships and unstable semi-republics. The relationship between democracy and wealth might suggest democracy naturally leads to prosperity. This view is comforting and also gives us another reason to enthusiastically try to export democracy globally.

While I yield to no one in my passion for liberty, the view that democracy is a critical ingredient for economic growth is untenable. There is no robust statistical relationship to back it up, and Robert Barro actually found democracy reduces growth, once he statistically controls for the rule of law.

Acemoglu: So, why haven't democracies been more successful? I believe the answer lies in recognizing two things. First, there are different kinds of democracies. And second, it's important to consider that economic growth and democracy have a very different relationship over the long term -- that is for periods as long as 100 years -- than over the short or medium term.

Many societies counted as "democratic" using standard measures are really "dysfunctional democracies" where traditional elites dominate politics through control of the party system, political influence, vote buying, intimidation and even assassination. Colombia, which has had regular democratic elections for the past 50 years, is a typical example. In others, democratic institutions survive, but there is significant in-fighting between ethnic groups, religious groups or social classes. The situation in Iraq would be the most extreme -- but not a unique -- example. Finally, many democracies suffer economically from populist and irresponsible macroeconomic policies, which are often adopted after transitions from repressive dictatorships and during periods when politics are turbulent and conflicts over wealth distribution are strong.

On the second point, it's true that autocratic regimes can generate growth for certain periods of time by providing secure property rights and good business conditions to firms aligned with political powers. But modern capitalist growth requires not only secure property rights, but also creative destruction, that is, the entry of new firms with new ideas and technologies that replace the successful firms of the past. Creative destruction requires a level playing field, which democracies are better at providing because they have more equal distributions of political power than autocracies or monarchies.

So, if we look beyond the past 60 years, we see that it was the U.S., with its democratic institutions, that created the environment for new businesses to enter, flourish and spur the industrial growth of the 19th century. There were many rich autocracies and repressive regimes in the 18th century, including places like Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. But it was the U.S. that grew rapidly over the next two centuries while these autocratic regimes stagnated.The relationship between human capital and democracy that Ed raises is fascinating. But I will return to that in a little in the context of the causes of democracy.


Glaeser: Since democracy is always vulnerable, I think the key question is why it survived for centuries in some countries like the U.S., the United Kingdom and the Netherlands -- and died quickly in other places, such as post-colonial Africa. One answer is that human capital -- education -- is the bedrock for lasting democracy. Empirically, initial education strongly predicts the survival of democracy education and the survival of democracy in our research.

We found 95% of the democracies that ranked as "well-educated" in 1960 stayed democracies for the next 40 years. By contrast, 50% of 1960's "less well-educated" became dictatorships within a decade. The survival of democracy hinges upon capable people who have the incentives and ability to protect their rights against would-be dictators. Education produces social capital that makes it possible for people to organize and makes them think that democracy is worth fighting to protect.

Acemoglu: Looking at the data, there is no strong evidence that either education or economic growth is a major factors in creating or strengthening democracy. In fact, countries that have grown fast over the past 50 years -- or over the past 150 -- . Consider the recent experience of Russia and Saudi Arabia. If suddenly the price of oil increases and they become much richer, do we expect them to become more democratic? The same applies to education. Countries that have boosted education levels haven't been more likely to consolidate democracy or transition from autocracy to democracy. After all, former Socialist republics had very high levels of education during the Cold War, but did not show a strong tendency to become democratic.

So what does strengthen democracy? Recent research by Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken finds that enlightened leadership matters, but it only in autocracies. In societies with strong institutions and established democracies, leader quality seems to have little effect on economic performance. This again makes me think that established democracies, by introducing checks and balances, create a good environment for collective decisions and resolution of conflicts. This type of environment for collective decision-making is the best guarantor of long-run economic development.

Lot's of good food for thought, so dig in.


design of democracy (7.1):
elections as UI

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
-Steve Jobs

Note: Am breaking up my last post in this series on the design of democracy into two installments.

My contention is that our political troubles (the surfeit of worthy candidates, the corruption in the system) are direct products of the current design of our electoral system -of the nuts and bolts of the process -of the mechanisms that guide how it works.*

The system is biased towards unworthy candidates. The system engenders power brokerage and corruption. The system itself frustrates the desires of the electorate.

I've already discussed the power of the positive feedback gain, the barriers to entry, the effects of a large electorate, and how our current process of selecting and electing political leaders can be modeled as a market failure (oligopsony) or a signal processing failure.

Let me offer one more way to think the problem (one more way to view the problems of the existing system), before I go on to a possible design solution.

Think about the elections as a User Interface (UI) -by which the citizen, as a user, participates in the democratic process.

Now tell me, who in their right mind would design a UI like this?

Senate Selection

House Representative


Vice Governor

Provincial Council


Vice Mayor

City/Town Councilor

(Warning: form doesn't work. clicking on vote will bring you back to this blog)

Crazy, eh? Can you imagine any software application or online business surviving with this kind of an interface? You would lose the user by the first three selections. Plus, the plethora of categories and options literally cheapens the choice of the user and spreads thin the user's judgment and discernment.

Now this is just a dummy form but I think it represents what the user encounters not only at the voting booth but throughout the electoral process.

The UI offers choices but really no credible information about the choices at the point of selection. We expect the user to make sense of all the choices. One might argue that that is the primary task of citizenship: to make an informed choice -but the UI inherently frustrates any possibility of full informed choice.

The problem is four-fold: 1) we ask the user to make too many choices from too many options; 2) we don't provide clear criteria for the selection; 3) the user likely has very little direct information (first hand experience) about the options presented; and, 4) there is delayed feedback on the effect of the choices (if there is any feedback at all).

To design an effective system, you would need to address three key criteria:
  • limiting the choices the system demands from the user
  • providing direct information and criteria to the user about the choices
  • insuring direct feedback to the user on the effect of the choices
An effective system would meet the three criteria and also address the two issues I outlined at the start of this series. Issues that I believe lie at the heart of the matter. We want a system that allows us to:
  • select good leaders
  • prevents corruption (or suspicion thereof)
Addressing the two issues would be the goal of the new system design - the key criteria would be the guiding principles of the new system design.

Echoing the previous explorations, the new system should also: 1) reduce the barriers to entry; 2) preserve the value of each vote while negating the effect of a large electorate; 3) remove the power of the intermediaries and aggregators; 4) break up the oligopsony; and finally, 5) eliminate the noise in the system.

(Stay with me. I end this series with: 7.2 - A New Design for Democracy)

* If by any chance you confuse this with the unicameral-vs-bicameral, or the presidential-vs-parliamentary debate, read my very first post on this series.



This was just fun.


anything they can do...

Some notable articles from the latest Sustainable Transport e-update of the Institute of Transportation & Development Policy:

What particularly caught my eye were the lessons we could pick up from our neighbor, Jakarta, that only started implementing its TransJakarta Bus Rapid Transit three years ago but already has 4 lines in operation and will expand the system to 7 lines and 120 kms by year's end.

Four years!! At (most likely) one tenth the cost of light rail! Compare that to how long it took us to get LRT 1 and 2 and the MRT off the ground!

Commissioning the 7th line by year's end "would make TransJakarta the world’s largest BRT system." And that's still less than half the target network of 15 lines called for by the city’s Transportation Master Plan.

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso also "described plans to begin implementing road pricing this year, which aims to reduce congestion on key travel corridors while raising financial resources for improving the quality of mass transportation services."

Taking their cue from London's Congestion Charging, the road-fees will go to improving mass transit.

Meanwhile, Johannesburg gives us a model of participation and politics in implementing BRT.

In November 2006, Johannesburg City Council approved a full BRT system, to be called Rea Vaya, which is scheduled to open by April 2009.


A key selling point for (Johannesburg Mayor Amos) Masondo was the possibility of incorporating the existing minibus taxi industry into the new system as private operators. During apartheid the minibus taxi industry was one of the few places where black South Africans were able to invest. After the African National Congress took power, in order to prevent the creation of powerful mafias, no owner was allowed to own more than ten vehicles. Because of their quasi-legal status, these minibus fleets could never become formal sector businesses. Currently, Johannesburg has one public bus operator and one private bus operator, both of which are subsidized by the Municipality, and many small fleets of minibus taxis that are not subsidized. Rea Vaya will encourage the existing minibus operators to form themselves into legal companies, and bid on the operating contracts, putting them on a level playing field with the current bus operators (emphasis mine-udc).
The long-term vision is to develop a system that places over 85% of Johannesburg’s population within 500 meters (.3 miles) of a Rea Vaya trunk or feeder corridor.
We could build support for BRT systems in Metro Manila by encouraging existing bus and jeepney drivers and operators to form consortiums that will bid to operate the lines. The government can provide tax incentives and facilitate the importation of (prescribed) buses and build the stations.

The formula is win-win -the new consortiums would be great at encouraging SMEs and moving our transport operators into more sustainable capital formation. It will also be a great opportunity to move our drivers into salary systems and move away from the traffic inducing boundary system.

Now if we could only get someone to pay attention...

Image credit: a Jakarta BRT station, from the Transjarkata Thread at Skyscraper City.


SC evicts pandacan depot

The Supreme Court, granting the original action for mandamus filed by the political party Social Justice Society (SJS) and Manila residents Vladimir Cabigao and Bonifacio Tumbokon, ordered the immediate removal of the oil depot as stipulated in City Ordinance No. 8027.

From the balita.ph:

The SC held that "there is nothing that legally hinders Mayor Atienza from enforcing Ordinance No. 8027."

As the father of the city, the SC added, Atienza should protect the safety of his constituents.

"The City Ordinance No. 8027 is a measure enacted pursuant to the delegated police power of local government units to promote the order, safety and health, morals and general welfare of the society," the SC said.

Ordinance No. 8027 reclassifies portions of the Manila districts of Pandacan and Sta. Ana from industrial to commercial, and directs certain business owners and operators, including Caltex (Philippines), Inc., Petron Corp., and Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. to cease from operating their businesses within six months from the ordinance’s effectivity date.

The ordinance was approved by the Manila City Council on November 28, 2001 and took effect on December 28, 2001.

The oil depot covers about 26+ hectares (with another 9+ hectares further up river). That's an area half the size of Salcedo Village in the Ayala CBD, so that's a lot of commercial real estate.

Of course it's a brownfield, and will require major cleanup before it can be redeveloped. Luckily we don't have to reinvent the wheel, there are models for redevelopment of decomissioned oil terminals.

I hope the city government sees this as something more than just another major real estate deal. It could be a great opportunity for generating market rate and affordable housing, providing much needed open spaces and community amenities, and opening up the Pasig River waterfront.

More about this story from Manila Bulletin.

Image credit: Google Earth.


freeze frame

This is way cool. The latest sat images of Metro Manila on Google Earth capture a plane just about to land on the runway at NAIA.

You can see it on Google Maps via this link.

Or you can download the kml file here.

Here's another tidbit: did you know that NAIA doesn't have it's own website?

And this ridiculous line from the wikipedia entry on NAIA

The airport is also connected (emphasis mine-udc) to the Light Rail Transit LRT Yellow Line by a two-kilometer taxi ride to Baclaran Station. In the future, another LRT line is to be constructed to connect LRT Yellow Line's Baclaran Station, nearer but still indirectly, to the airport's 3 terminals.
So much for being connected. If we can't even think about connecting our transit modes, how can we even think of connecting to the world?


Getting locked out of my blog gave me time to go back and put labels on some of my old posts. Using the labels, the new blogger also allows me to post a retrospective of some of the serial topics.

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. design of democracy (6 posts)
  2. disorganized transport (4 posts)
  3. filipino architects (3 posts)
  4. heritage and rent control (4 posts)
  5. rethinking our streets (3 posts)
  6. seeing the city (6 posts)
  7. urban sketch (3 posts)

It's also a way to nag myself to close the circle on the uncompleted series (and that'll be #1, #3, #6 and #7).

The last installment of the series on the design of democracy should be out soon.

I'm also considering starting a series on megacities - to show the common issues we face with our sister megapolitans around the world.

Image credit: Looking Back by thecarneys23

what, not where (4):
filipino architects as innovators

The same good people who brought you Design Like You Give a Damn, will soon (March 8) bring you, the Open Architecture Network.

The blurb on the site:

"How do you improve the living standards of five billion people?

"With 100 million solutions. Your solutions."

Which is Idea #3 -and my last post on this series that is a rejoinder to Paulo Alcazaren's "Where are the Filipino Architects?"

My contention is the question should not be "where," but should instead be "what."

IDEA #3: What can Filipino Architects do? They can be innovators.

There has always been a tension in the field of architecture that revolves around the question: Are architects artists? Or are they craftsmen and artisans?

The answer, of course, is both. All the starchitects of the world started out as drafting monkeys. And because of the adulation, the temptation for all architectural students is to aspire to reach that kind of recognition. (Which is probably the recognition Paulo is talking about when he asks his rhetorical "where?")

To rise above the cacophony of the our cities, the aspiring starchitect wants to stand out by creating buildings that express his deep intellectual artististry.

I have nothing against that. Iconic building define place. But real cities cannot be built only of iconic buildings.

The Guggenheim crowns the success of Bilbao, it did not predicate it.

Yes, Metro Manila could use an iconic building or two -and yes, it would be nice to have a Filipino architect's name propelled to the heights of cultural stardom. But the bigger problem staring us (and our sister megacities) is the challenge of turning our squalid slums into livable communities. Over and above a policy solution, that challenge requires a design intervention.

The Open Architecture Network defines the challenge of our day as such:

One billion people live in abject poverty. Four billion live in fragile but growing economies. One in seven people live in slum settlements. By 2020 it will be one in three. We don't need to choose between architecture or revolution. What we need is an architectural revolution.

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals aim to "achieve improvement in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2015." Reaching this goal will require a profoundly new approach to improving the built environment.

The Open Architecture Network aims to be just such a catalyst for change.
Think of it. Instead of expending their collective hearts, minds and souls into finally building that one iconic building that will define us, our art and our culture -that one building that will maybe house 100 people or 100 corporations; Filipino architects could instead take to solving the problem that is confronting and will confront Two Billion People Around the World.

What if a Filipino architect could become the Muhammad Yunus of architecture?

How's that for long term impact? How's that for monumentality?

(And the great part is that our own megacity could be a living laboratory for this change. The best solutions will come from the people who live with the problem.)


map of future forces affecting education

This via CEOsforCities: it's the 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education by Knowledgeworks Foundation and the Institute for the Future. Thought Willy Priles, TeacherSol and the good folks at the Pinoy Teachers Network would appreciate it.

What are the forces shaping education?

It could be video games. Bioengineering. Or health care. All of these forces and more are explored on the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and Institute for the Future 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education.


The map is a forecast — a credible, internally consistent view of how future forces will affect the components of public education. It is not a prediction; it does not claim to be a certain statement of what will happen. As a result, the map is most helpful if users do not quarrel with the forecast. Since the future as spelled out in the map might plausibly happen, you can make use of it to spark your thinking about education, regardless of whether or not the map turns out to be a perfectly accurate prediction.

One of the values of a map like this is that it allows you to hold in your mind, at once, the complexity of several forces of change. After familiarizing yourself with this high level overview, you'll be able to dig in deeper to specific spots on the map, and play with interconnections across the map. This process can stimulate discussions that allow for new insights about the future of education and new strategic decisions about your organization's plans and actions.

This, under "New Localism"'

Local value grows
Economies of group connectivity—combined with fears of globalism, political gridlock, and concern over dominance of big business—will create a revival of localism.

And this under "Lightweight Infrastructures"

Infrastructures are flexible and localized
In a world of rapid urban growth, constrained urban resources, and increasing mobility, building and maintaining basic infrastructure will be an ongoing challenge. The concept of permanent, large-scale infrastructure will likely give way to more temporary, localized, and ad hoc solutions—in effect creating temporary structures for bounded purposes or lightweight, portable, and personalized infrastructures. This is true for infrastructures like telecommunications and energy, but will be increasingly true for social, economic, and political structures as well like micro-finance and micro-insurance, home-based health care, small schools, and even micro-learning structures. Technologies and structures that were once intended to provide independence for rural areas could well become tomorrow’s urban solutions.

Why is it on this blog? 1) I like maps -they help us understand complexity; and, 2) in a very physical way, schools shape cities (and, of course its citizens -and ultimately, civilizations).


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going mental (5) the slice is not the pie

Next time you hear yourself or someone else complain and make a sweeping generalization ascribing all the problems of Metro Manila to some inherent fatal flaw in the national character, think about this James Surowiecki gem from the last August's issue of The New Yorker:

"People are generally bad at accepting the importance of context and chance. We fall prey to what the social psychologist Lee Ross called “the fundamental attribution error”—the tendency to ascribe success or failure to innate characteristics, even when context is overwhelmingly important. In one classic demonstration, people shown a person shooting a basketball in a gym with poor lighting and another person shooting a basketball in a gym with excellent lighting assume that the second person hit more shots because he was a better player. This problem is compounded by the tendency to extrapolate big conclusions from small samples, something that behavioral economists call “the law of small numbers.”
The article is about the woes of Airbus but it's insight is so applicable to the quick conclusions that people make about Metro Manila. Think about that quote and then think: 500 years, 11 million people, 17 jurisdictions...

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