Tuesday, October 22, 2013

COMMUNICATIVE ACTION IN POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT

News about the challenges of the Ghanaian economy, the issues of tariffs, and the many agitations of labour have increased. Indeed the world as a whole is currently faced with a daunting and persistent global economic challenge. Nonetheless, we hope for the better and in fact governments are working to manage the challenges. 

In times of challenges, there is an appropriate way to explain and make your points known to the masses as a government or political entity. During challenging times, people start developing massive energy of rebellion; ready to agitate whenever the opportunity may present itself. 

The boiling masses of political potential energy when converted into political kinetic energy has greater implications that may pull the little progress made far back. Well, the remnants of the Arab spring lingers on and I pray lessons have been learnt. 

It has become apparent that people in strategic positions of our dear nation and development discourse have failed to realize the importance of the communicative action process in politics and development. Yes, there are challenges. Indeed, people will complain no matter what. That is the beauty of democracy and the essence of communication in our political discourse. 

The most important thing about this communicative action process is what is communicated and how it is communicated. As such people in strategic positions in our dear country must appreciate the positions they occupy and the effects of what they say. Alas they may activate the already unstable political potential energy into kinetic political energy. The result of which we may not want for our dear country.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

POLITICS OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN GHANA – A “RIGHT TO LIFE” CRITIQUE

ABSTRACT
Every individual is entitled to a list of inalienable rights. The ultimate of which is the “right to life.” This right transcends the general perspective to which most attention has been given. Firstly, it draws on the factors that deprive people of their entitlement to life. Secondly, it is a demand to ensure that these factors are eliminated while enhancing the factors that sustain life. For many developing economies, rights have been limited to political misconceptions and misinterpretation. Parochial interests and value-laden partisanship have dominated several urban political processes and politics is delimited to achieving democratic dispensations forgetting that a political dispensation is not merely an end in itself. It is mostly part of the means to achieve a greater goal of “right to life.” This paper, advocates “right to life” as an underpinning criterion for examining urban development practices. This has been made using experiences from Ghana. 

KEY WORDS: Duty-bearers, politics, right-holders, rights to life, urban development 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

POLITICS AND DEVELOPMENT CONTESTATIONS: A PERSPECTIVE OF POLITICS IN GHANA

Background
Politics shapes the various aspects of Ghanaian societies from which ever viewpoint and operational level one may come from. From the social arena where individuals see politicians as social capital to the economic where business perceive political lineage either as a foe or an ally. It is really interesting the dilemma that exists when it comes to politics in the development discourse of Ghana. Interestingly this is not unique to Ghana alone but many developing countries.

Since independence in 1957, when Ghana was touted as an emerging limelight for Africa’s renaissance, one will think that over 50 years of national independence, development strides would be staggering. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is now a common saying that Ghana seems to be first in almost everything, related to development, on the continent. Yet sustaining this momentum has yielded to the caprices and parochial struggles for power. National development has been in abeyance for partisan interests and philosophies. As of today, the nation Ghana has no national development identity. Development interventions are more congenial to partisan interests and populism whiles structural transformation in national issues, development aspirations and human development linger saliently in workshops, researches, and advocacy actions

This short paper will examine in brief the political arena in Ghana and move on to discuss the political dilemmas leading to this past month (July 2013), and the critical roles politics ought to play but is missing in the development and planning processes of Ghana. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

EDITORIAL: DEVELOPMENT, PLANNING AND POLITICS IN GHANA

When I first sort to promote knowledge sharing on development and poverty, I initially distanced my development thinking away from drawing direct relationships between development, planning and politics. Nonetheless, the nexus between planning and politics were implicit in my publications.

For most part of such reservations, the fundamental question has always been whether planning was actually worth it when the “planner plans while the politician disposes?” Indeed such was my subtle frustration with the political processes that affect planning activities. I do not mean to suggest that politics has no place in promoting development and reducing poverty – far from that. Neither do I also suggest that planning if faced with challenges should remain aloof; subject to inaction to the whims and caprices of politics. Such questioning was aimed at finding an understanding to mitigate the challenges of political estrangement of development and planning processes. My initial focus encompassed planning concepts of development and planning; social, economic, environmental, sustainability, and the likes. Now I see politics as an inevitable discussion.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

THE LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROCESS FOR REDUCING URBAN POVERTY

1.1 Introduction
The issues of local economic development (LED) and urban poverty are intricate and dynamic. In the past eight publications of the Local Economic and Urban Poverty series, discussions have encompass several issues of theory and practice related to these concepts. Discussions have been informed mainly by literature drawing on key issues of strategy and critical issues affecting urban planning processes that focus on LED and urban poverty. All these previous discussions have also concentrated on the substantive issues with less emphasis on the process of LED and urban poverty management. In all, critical questions for decision making as well as implications for planning and policy have been articulated. For several weeks, the issues have spanned case studies of LED and urban development in both developed and developing countries, financing local, mega projects, micro and macro LED strategies, tourism development, historic preservation,  gentrification, among others. 

In this paper, and the last in the series, attention is focused on the procedural issues of LED. Three main approaches are considered. However, two have been compared to a suggested approach advocated by Blakely and Leigh (2010). To do this comparison, two local economic development plans have been examined with reference to Blakely and Leigh (2010) framework for preparing a local economic development plan. According to Blakely and Leigh (2010), there are six phases in the local economic development process; namely data gathering and analysis, selecting a LED strategy, selecting LED projects, building action plans, specifying project details, overall development plan preparation and implementation. Subsequently, the various expectations articulated by the authors have been used as indicative reference points in comparing these plans. The first plan reviewed is the LED Plan for the City of St. Michael in Alaska and this is aimed to guide LED interventions from 2011 to 2015. The second is the LED for the Municipality of Shkodra. This plan spans between 2005 and 2015.

Monday, June 3, 2013

HISTORIC PRESERVATION, GENTRIFICATION, AND PUBLIC SPACE


1.1 Introduction
What is the relationship between historic preservation, gentrification and the public place? The knowledge on these three subject matters provides critical implications for actions to rejuvenate the inner city. Recent trends reveal decay in some inner cities and Detroit quickly comes to mind. Yet in the attempt to rejuvenate such decays, some complexities and challenges emerge. 

It seems that cities in America at some point in their evolution experiences prosperity and at some time decay. Chicago offers a critical example in this perspective. This thus provides a gleam of hope that through appropriate interventions by urban planners these challenges can be mitigated. The increase in sub-urbanization and the movement of businesses and firms to the periphery of metropolitan areas or cities have left the inner city in these declining states. Middle income workers and the affluent members of society have moved to enjoy the peace and serenity of the outer area of cities leaving behind dwindling and deteriorating city downtowns. In addition, privacy and the availability of services that support family life are key examples of the factors that have influenced these movements.

To rejuvenate inner cities, several economic development strategies are initiated to improve the wellbeing and wealth of the city with the aim of attracting people and businesses. Construction of convention centers, sports facilities, shopping enclaves, hotels, restaurants and broader strategies of tourism development have been put in place to achieve these purposes (these have been discussed in earlier papers). Unfortunately, economic development interventions in the form of “urban regeneration, downtown revitalization, gentrification of inner-city neighborhoods, and the redevelopment of obsolete industrial sites all serve inherently the same purposes under various disguises: turning places into commodities” (Erendil and Ulusoy, 2002). 

These actions come with consequences both negative and positive. In this paper, I turn my attention to another economic development strategy which has gained prominence in urban planning constellations; historic preservation. I discuss the critical subject of historic preservation and gentrification of the public space in cities. Similar to previous papers, the discussions have been made using literary materials that touch on the themes in question. Specifically, this paper examines the effects of urban space in relation to historic preservation, the issue of gentrification, and the role of governments in gentrification. In conclusion, I draw lessons for policy and urban planning decisions.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

COSTS AND BENEFITS OF TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN CITIES



1.0 Introduction
As part of the Urban Poverty and Local Economic Development series, I look at the generic costs and benefits of the tourism industry. The principal concern is the way in which cities are shaped by efforts to attract and control visitors, cities’ approach to tourism as a poverty reduction strategy and also as a mechanism to promote local economic development. Also in this series, attention has been given to the necessary conditions to facilitate this potential and how tourism development has evolved over the years.  At the national and regional level, the contribution of tourism to GDP is immense (Paris Region, 2010), yet when the subject matter is narrowed down to the city level, several challenges and issues emerge. Subsequently, in this paper these issues in addition to the implication for planning and policies on urban poverty and local economic development are discussed. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

THE CREATIVE CLASS OF THE CITY: A NEW STRATEGIC PARADIGM FOR LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?

1.1 Introduction
In the past month or two, the issue of the creative class theory by Richard Florida resurfaced. The contention (See Kotkin, 2013) and the counter arguments (See Florida, 2013) rested on the relevance of the creative class theory in the current economic dilemmas of cities. The drive to promote economic development in cities has been raging and several studies have attempted to understand why some cities are declining while others are growing. From mega convention centers, professional sport facilities and Olympic cities, another perspective to promoting urban development emerged early on the 2000s and informed many economic strategies of some urban communities in United States, and even beyond. Richard Florida identifies a theory that suggests that the key to economic development in urban areas is dependent on what he calls the “creative class.” The thrust of this paper is to review this theory in the light of four main objectives: to explore the tenets of the theory; to assess the theory as a new perspective or basis for local economic development, examine the strengths and challenges of the theory, and draw implication for policy and research on urban poverty and local economic development. This is aimed at raising awareness of the theory to inform critical thinking for urban and economic development practice in the new decade.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

THE MYTH OF CONVENTION, MEGA EVENT AND SPORT CENTERS AS URBAN DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES

1.1 Introduction
So far in the series on urban poverty and local economic development papers that I have discussed, the fundamental problems and substantive issues such as displacements, inner city development, and justice, among others have been articulated. Together, these papers have also suggested new approaches and perspectives to understanding and thinking about urban challenges. This paper bears such eminence.

The fact that challenges in sustaining the growth of cities continue to persist despite immense investments and adoptions of varied strategies to induce redevelopment is no news. Indeed, it is such observation that makes it even more critical as innovative strategies are imminent. Cities continue to decline and with it are associated issues of economic prosperity decisions, increase in crimes rates, and decline in local government financial capacities.

Approaches to managing this phenomenon have been conventional and mundane in the form of construction of mega structures to host mega events with the aim that this will rejuvenate the local economy back on track to economic prosperity. Is this the right approach? There exist a dilemma in viewing these strategies as they, evidently, have huge political support and have physical outputs; an elusive attraction if not looked at critically. 

In this paper, these types of strategies are examined. This is to reaffirm the obvious findings of several studies and to make aware the fundamental obligation of the urban planner and policy analyst to be creative and innovative. The contention is that “not all that glitters is gold” and grandiosity does not mean effectiveness and efficiency or prosperity.  This paper reviews three main strategies that have informed such redevelopments; namely convention centers, mega-events and sports related investments that have been initiated to induce economic development and enhance the welfare of cities. The thrust is to draw awareness on whether these approaches have achieved these aims; what factors were in play; what were the roles played by local government or city authorities; what are the lessons thereof; are there still relevant in the current urban environment; what are the challenges that exist; and what implications and recommendations can be made in relation to emerging findings. This is thus the thrust of this paper.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CASE STUDIES OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES IN DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: A JUSTICE CRITIQUE


1.1 Introduction
Urban development interventions still remain contentious in development discussions mainly because of their consequences. The debate as to whether these interventions are beneficial continues to resurface in development literature as well as programs related to the modernization of the city and the encouragement of economic development. It is evident that “new housing and related infrastructure investments in cities can act as key engines for economic regeneration to restore the wealth of households and generate new demand” (UN-Habitat 2009). Yet the process to achieving this and the aftermath of such actions has raised issues of “justice” (Fainstein 2010). Fundamental theoretical dilemma arises; can there ever be a situation where “capital and community” development are mutually reinforcing? (Stoecker, 1997).  In this paper, which is part of the Urban Planning and Local Economic Development series, perspectives are drawn from urban development in New York, Chicago, London, and Brazil to aid understanding of how these two concepts can be harmonized within the context of justice. Some emerging strategies to facilitating this have been appreciated and implications for knowledge building and policy have been drawn on the findings from these discussions. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

THE DYNAMICS AND COMPLEXITIES OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT IN THE INNER CITY



1.0 Introduction
This paper focuses on some critical reviews of strategies to developing the downtowns or inner areas of cities; especially US inner cities. As part of the Urban Planning and Local Economic Development Series, this paper explores the dynamics and intricacies of the strategies for promoting community development in the inner city. Five main articles have been reviewed and implications drawn for urban planning and local economic development. To place the discussion in context, community development has been discussed briefly. Huie (1976) asserts that it is a "process of local decision-making and the development of programs designed to make their community a better place to live and work" while Dunbar (1972) defines community development as "a series of community improvements which take place over time as a result of the common efforts of various groups of people. Each successive improvement is a discrete unit of community development. It meets a human want or need." What is clear about these definitions is that firstly, community development is a process and secondly it involves the collaborative efforts of individuals and groups of a community with the aim of promoting human development. These are the key themes that these five articles espouse and with support from other literature materials the paper examines the various actors, their roles and interest, and the challenges thereof in promoting community development with key emphasis on the inner city of US cities.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

FINANCING LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (LED) IN THE UNITED STATES AND THE LESSONS THEREOFF

1. Introduction
Financing of economic development strategies in the United States from the 1950s has critical implications for urban development today. The understanding and justification for these financing approaches and their effectiveness can help ameliorate urban poverty through the effective and efficient management of local economic development interventions. That notwithstanding, review of these financing approaches by Susan Fainstein, Rachel Weber, Alan Peters and Peter Fischer raises important issues of equity, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability for urban planners and policy analysts. A review of these funding strategies has been done in this paper. This discussion has been subdivided into the various standpoints that these authors have articulated. The paper is in two main sections. The first section espouses the summary and questions from the perspectives drawn by these authors and the implications for urban poverty and local economic development are presented in the subsequent section.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

ISSUES OF URBAN REDEVELOPMENT IN EUROPE AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES


1.1 Introduction
City development and redevelopment over the years have witnessed several strategies and implications for urban settlers in both developed and developing countries. The evolution of these practices has left in its path critical implications for understanding urban planning processes and the institutions that facilitate the process: public; at national and local levels, private sector actors as well as non-for profit organizations in the phase of these interventions. 

Central to this evolution as captured by Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) and Fainstein (2011) have been the emerging roles of development bearers in urban areas. Community Based Organization (CBOs), Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and the private sector and their influence on urban redevelopment interventions in urban areas of developed and developing countries in one way or the other shaped these developments. The themes of urban poverty, urban housing, development-induced displacements and impoverishment, local economic development, decentralization and community participation are espoused in great details in their interventions. Similarly Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) and Fainstein (2011) have discussed these issues in critical details. As part of a series of papers (blog articles) on "Urban and Local Economic Development Issues and Strategies", I present the observations of key writers and the implications of their observations for urban planners and policy analysts. 

This paper, the first of eleven others, articulates the observations by Shatkin (2000), Hall (2002), Weinstein and Ren (2009) and Fainstein (2011) in Europe and developing countries to put the discussions in context. This has been supported by other literary materials on the issues they have raised.