Getting back to work – debt in South Asia

My post on debt restructuring from earlier this year has kept me thinking. I sit in a line of work that deals with these issues every day, from an IFI and banking sector point of view. Lots has happened since February, and I have regularly written professional updates on the situations in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which face(d) variable degrees of balance of payment crises.

Alas, my day-to-day does not allow for a deeper soul-searching and analysis of the underlying forces and trends that also matter in this debate. Given that I studied under people very critical of IFIs (and calling myself a heterodox economist if pushed for a self-characterization), I feel obliged to look a little deeper, academically speaking, into the political economy of these crises. Continue reading

Vision and practice: the 1967 Robson Report on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

The fourth article to be inspired by my PhD thesis has now been published in Planning Perspectives. Besides Planning History (which has a US focus), the journal is the go-to place for historical research on urban planning. I thought this might be the best fit for my work on the 1967 report by Professor Robson, which I had become intrigued about during my studies. It took a while from jotting down first thoughts to presenting at last year’s AAS to putting the manuscript through a total of three revisions — but here it is! Also see my ResearchGate profile to request the full text if you don’t have access.

Abstract: This article critically evaluates a 1967 consultancy report on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) by Professor William A. Robson. Robson, a pioneer of public administration science based at the London School of Economics his whole academic life, provided an in-depth analysis of the state of the Japanese capital during its high-speed growth spurt and at the beginning of the socialist Minobe prefectural administration. While many of Robson’s assessments and criticisms were poignant, his report failed to appreciate contextual intricacies as well as Tokyo’s distinctive path of urban development. A re-reading of the report with this in mind expands our understanding of the Japanese capital’s postwar history more than 50 years after the report’s publication. Its critical assessment also contributes to our understanding of how urban knowledge ‘travels’ across geographies.

Tokyo Model Keio presentation

I spoke to a great audience of mainly urban design and planning PhD students from Jorge Almazan’s Studiolab at Keio University a few weeks back. Jorge and his students as well as Joe McReynolds wrote the fantastic Emergent Tokyo and really succeeded at describing what makes Tokyo’s urbanization path so fascinating. I shared my recent Cities article on the postwar historical roots of the model and presented its findings in a 30-minute presentation, followed by a lively Q&A.

 

Emergent Tokyo

A lot of people are talking about Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City, a book that came out last year and which I was finally able to read. It is a great resource for all of us interested in describing that elusive “charge” of Japan’s capital. Few have been as successful in this task as the authors. While there are a lot of (generally very favorable) reviews out there already, I have jotted down some of my thoughts here. The full text is also available on the Urban Studies blog. I paste it below for ease of access.

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Mumbai urban governance

Antilia, Mumbai

For some comparative research on intra-urban inequality, I started looking at Mumbai’s urban governance structure, and, wow, it’s complicated. While in Tokyo you had and have a fairly clear-cut division between central government, TMG and wards, the Indian megacity appears to have many more layers and parallel structures. Some notes to get my head around this below.

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Charter cities

The same Cities edition that my paper on Tokyo is in (December 2022) runs a short article by Matthew McCartney, a senior researcher at the Charter Cities Institute, and former SOAS professor.

Entitled “Paul Romer, charter cities and lessons from historical big infrastructure?”, the paper cites two “forgotten” case studies of charter cities, i.e., the Panama and Suez Canals. They both had charters and saw large cities grow within their chartered territory.

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Urban indicators of living standards

I have decided to distil one more article out of my dissertation and then call it quits. I want to focus on the measurement of urban living standards and the “civil minimum” as well as other innovations carried out by TMG in the late 1960s and early 1970s chiefly under the Minobe administration. Continue reading