Thursday, October 30, 2014

On public leaders using public transport

The shape of a city depends on how it is planned. And how a city is planned depends on the transport assumptions of the planner. In many cities of the developing world, planners tend to assume that people will travel on private vehicles, be it cars or motorbikes. This paradigm inherently leads to sprawling, unwalkable, and inefficient cities.

Compare this to the assumptions of Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor of London. At a public talk on 30 October, 2014, in Singapore, he said something like this:
"I don't drive a car to work, I take the public transport, just like most other Londoners. I don't even think about it (driving a car into the city). The public transport is the fastest and most convenient way to get around. I have a car parked in my home, which I keep just for the fun of it. It's a type of car that I'm trying to ban, because it has a big engine. But it doesn't really matter. I can't  really use it to go anywhere."
Good for you, London. They say that a developed city is one where the rich take public transport. As for cities in the developing world, how can we hope to have a good public transportation system if our public leaders don't even think about using it to work?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Political challenges facing local leaders

A few notes from the 3rd International Conference on Decentralization (ICODEC) at IPDN yesterday:

1. From Kevin I learned about the importance of distinguishing a leader's role as "head of state" & "head of government". A head of government is accountable for results and should not be allowed to "hide" behind symbols of state when s/he is criticized.

2. From Philips I learned about the high cost of a political system without trust. For example, for the province of West Java, each candidate/contender feels the need to place a witness at each voting station. Considering there are 70,000 voting stations throughout the province and Rp 100,000. for each witness' lunch on election day & training day, then we are looking at Rp 7 billion just for witnesses. Because there is no trust, politics becomes a very expensive affair.

3. I argued that the performance of local leaders can be enhanced by 3 things: a) a system of asymmetrical decentralization based on performance, b) some distance between local politicians (councillors) and their political parties, and c) political education for the people to become more informed voters.

Overall, I was impressed by the organizers' and participants' passion for learning & sharing. Debates were lively and involved  multiple IPDN campuses throughout Indonesia connected through smooth teleconferencing.