Sunday, August 23, 2009

Should we pack like sardines to develop better?

Although undoubtedly it contains some very interesting arguments I feel quite uncomfortable with the message being sent out in the World Development Report 2009 of the World Bank titled "Reshaping Economic Geography".

Somehow the reports seems to argue that we need to pack like sardines in order to develop; and somehow I get the inkling that much of the growth we perceive taking place in the high density areas has to do with the scarcity of space in high density areas. If I am packed as a sardine and therefore have to pay a higher rent for my place am I therefore richer than the one who has to pay much less for his much more generous elbow room available? We do not include home values in growth figures based on square feet but in money terms.

For instance in the US they give more government sponsored financing to houses that lie in higher value areas; which by itself helps to make them higher value areas. Now, is this muscular growth or obesity?

And then it is also the timing of the report… just when communication technologies make it possible to be distantly close here comes a report telling us basically that physical closeness is what most matters.

Sincerely I am not sure this report is sending out the right development message and I sure hope I am wrong about my misgivings.

Here you can view one presentation of the report