Op-ed: The total importance of a coherent planning vision

Most of what we are seeing in Penang when it comes to planning and policy in Penang is terribly familiar.  You are not  doing well, but at the same time you are not alone.

In fact Penang could hardly be more lucky because there is not only abundant information on the fast-growing number of well thought Montreal thinks bigout examples of cities, projects and approaches that are showing the way for sustainable transport and sustainable cities. But there is also an even longer list of examples of cities that are getting it blatantly wrong. These should be understood and integrated into the thinking and planning process of the city, just as much as the attention which must be given to understanding and adapting “best practices”. If you look closely you will see there are patterns that repeat themselves again and again. It is important to be aware of them.

Here you have an example of the city of Montréal, while doing a fair number of good things in terms of transport, public space and environment, is at the same time  suffering badly from the lack of a well thought-out understanding of how transport issues cannot be treated without full attention to land use and the structure of the city. Again painful signs of Penang. And how did this come up?

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Op-Ed: Reform Malaysia’s transport mess

malaysia penang heavy trafficThis Op-Ed has been contributed by Dr.Kua Kia Soon and provides an brilliant independent critical overview of what the title unambiguously suggests is “Malaysia’s transport mess”. While it examines the overall situation and climate from the vantage of Malaysia as a whole, it is no less relevant for the circumstances describing transport policy and practice in Penang. We thank him for his permission to publish the entire article as follows. This is an important piece to guide critical thinking and informed action in a sector which has been lagging badly and high costs to the citizens of Penang and Malaysia.

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Greek Crisis: Why all the angry accusations?

Working draft for limited distribution and comment : today 4 July

Greek crisis - Our money - multiple sources

Seven reasons why Northern and Eastern Europe are not supporting the Greek cause.

Forgetting the Germans (not that this is ever possible of course) and the more prissy lipped representatives of European institutions, why might we reasonably ask ourselves are there so many angry accusations coming in from Eastern and Northern Europe?  It’s a bit complicated, so let us consider this in several stages.

First and most reassuring to those of us who care about the economy and democracy, these are not universally shared positions in those countries.  And this is what you are not hearing from the media, as much as anything else because the real message is so complicated: namely that there are substantial portions of the populations and political alliances in each of these countries who are in fact NOT AT ALL IN AGREEMENT with the orchestrated media pronouncements of certain government representatives, including national delegations to the various European institutions.  For those of us who are concerned not only with matters of the well working of the economy but also that of democracy, this multiplicity of views is reassuring news.

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Greek Crisis: Krugman on why the Euro is the problem

Patched up Euro

KRUGMAN LOOKS AT EUROPE’S MANY ECONOMIC DISASTERS

– Extract from article by Paul Krugman, NYT, 3 July 2015

It’s depressing thinking about Greece these days, so let’s talk about something else, O.K.? Let’s talk, for starters, about Finland, which couldn’t be more different from that corrupt, irresponsible country to the south. Finland is a model European citizen; it has honest government, sound finances and a solid credit rating, which lets it borrow money at incredibly low interest rates.

It’s also in the eighth year of a slump that has cut real gross domestic product per capita by 10 percent and shows no sign of ending. In fact, if it weren’t for the nightmare in southern Europe, the troubles facing the Finnish economy might well be seen as an epic disaster.

And Finland isn’t alone.

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Greek Crisis: Last night I dreamt I was wandering the stacks . . .

thinking about economy - fb top page - versailles treaty

Signing of Versailles Treaty imposing ruinous economic sanctions on the defeated Germany

Last night I dreamt I was wandering the stacks of the great Butler Library at Columbia, in a search to see if I could identify a certain number of what I would like to call “leading political economists” who have through their work and contributions over the last several centuries helped to shape our understanding of the relationship between economy, efficiency, democracy and governance. In particular I was looking for indications in their work that would allow me to make an educated guess as to what their position might have been in the case of the Sunday Referendum in Greece.

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Greek Crisis: IMF says Greece needs debt relief

Greek crisis - lady before NO vote posters

IMF says Greece needs extra €60 bn in funds and debt relief

– Source: The Guardian, 2 July 2015. Click here for full article

Selected extracts:

The IMF said that is was releasing its preliminary draft debt sustainability analysis as a result of the leaks of documents reported in the Guardian earlier this week.

The International Monetary Fund has electrified the referendum debate in Greece after it conceded that the crisis-ridden country needs up to €60bn (£42bn) of extra funds over the next three years and large-scale debt relief to create “a breathing space” and stabilise the economy.

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Greek Crisis: Indicators of economic performance: 1974 – 2015

Greek flag - man holding Euro flag up top

The complete history of the Greek debt drama in charts

* By Matt Philips, Quartz, 30 June 2015. Full article and all charts available from Quartz  here

The value of any analysis depends, to a large extent, on the beginning and ending you choose.

So it is with Greece, which is seeing its simmering, half-decade-long debt crisis come to one of its periodic boils—and perhaps a final explosion.

Where to start? Records of Greek public debts stretch back at least as far as the Peloponnesian war—around 400 BCE. Should that be included? Or how about the fact that the modern nationstate of Greece has been in default for roughly half of the years since it gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1830s? (After all, some trace Greek resistance to taxation to the historical taxes levied by the conquering Turks.)

For simplicity’s sake, let’s just start in the years before Greece joined the euro. In the 1980s, and early 1990s, the Greek economy was a bit of a mess.

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