City blues

THE DYNAMICS OF METROPOLITAN MANAGEMENT IN SOUTHEAST ASIA·Edited by Jurgen Ruland·Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015



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BHANUSINGHA GHOSH

out of a world population of 5,384 million in 1991, about 43 per cent lived in urban areas. Current projections based on the data assembled by the United Nations predict that by the year 2005, more than half of the world would be living in urban areas. Most of the future urbanisation will take place in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

One region of rapid urbanisation is Southeast Asia which is witnessing the development of megacities with populations approaching 10 million. Unlike European cities that developed to their present size as a result of a slower pace of industrialisation spread over the last 200 years, the formation of most of the megacities of the Third World has commenced only after the Second World War. Rapid urbanisation has brought in its wake a series of problems of health, sanitation, housing, waste management, traffic and pollution. Urban management in many places has been rather inhuman. The forcible slum clearances in Seoul and many other instances of 'making a city better' go unnoticed.

This book is the product of a project undertaken by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, to examine the problems of urban management vis-a-vis leadership patterns, political systems and managerial structures. The book is a collation of a series of studies in seven cities of Southeast Asia Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore and Yangon. It is an interesting entrant to the volume of literature focusing on big cities. However, one area of social science research is conspicuous by its absence that of social demography, which would have given a clearer picture of the variations within the city and its periphery, particularly in areas of health and quality of life, thus giving an indicator of the quality of management as it is and not as it should be. The only exception is the study of Yangon which discusses the ethnic composition of the city. Also, the book neglects the role of the urban elite with their political and economic powers in controlling the resources of the hinterland and within the city areas. This leaves a large gap in one's understanding of the management of megacities in the Third World.

On the whole, this is an extremely interesting book which goes beyond the legal-institutional perspective and examines metropolitan governance processes which are embedded in a complex set of decision-making hierarchies. The book thoroughly examines the concepts of transpa-rency and legitimacy of governance.

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