Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Urban Infrastructure Needs A Upgrade in Michigan by Akindele Akinyemi

I was at a Mayoral forum last night here in Detroit. All of the candidates showed up except Freman Hendrix and Sheriff Warren Evans. If I had to vote I would be in limbo. None of the candidates impressed me at all and I ended up leaving early.

Detroit needs life because it represents the anchor of Southeast Michigan. The same about Grand Rapids in West Michigan. Speaking of Grand Rapids, the city is rapidly becoming a hub for the health care profession. It is a matter of time before that city begins to see a spike in population while Detroit continues to shrink.

Part of this shrinkage comes from many factors but one being poverty. Poverty is more than a lack of financial resources; it has many dimensions. With no or limited access to essential infrastructure and services, people will lack human and social capital to participate in development. This makes them vulnerable to changing conditions, personal or natural
calamities, and exploitation by stronger groups in society. Some groups are barred from developing their capabilities because of social or cultural restrictions that limit their geographic mobility and make it difficult for them to attend school or seek medical care. The restrictions may tie them to certain occupations and be an obstacle to any social and economic mobility.

Members of some population groups cannot actively participate in the process of decision-making that affects their lives. If their voices are not heard, their interests are not included in policies or the policies do not match their specific needs or conditions. What is more important than not being heard is being considered not worth listening to. People without wealth, property or education are often not respected and taken seriously by society.

Moreover, poverty is more widespread and more serious in rural areas than in urban areas and there are also wide disparities between regions within a country. Poverty affects certain groups in society more than others. In other words, there are disparities in levels of poverty between urban and rural areas and between regions within a country, just as there are disparities between population groups.

The City of Detroit must embrace Silver Rights through urban conservatism as a means of transformation. We are no longer just known as the Motor City but we have to move to a financial market.

While emerging global trends are causing fundamental transformations in urban areas in Michigan and in their relationships. As a result of the information revolution and the adoption of free-market economic policies, the economies in urban Michigan could change and integrate into a global economy.

If places like Detroit would facilitate the flow of capital to the region in the form of foreign direct investment we might not have to be in a deficit. Such investment is made predominantly in industry in the urban areas where it creates employment and attracts more migrants from the rural areas. Urban areas here in Michigan can compete for FDI by improving their economically essential infrastructure and services, and thereby widen the gap between urban and rural areas in terms of access to infrastructure and services.

On the other hand, new information technology (IT) holds the promise of connecting remote
and isolated areas to urban centres at a lower cost than through conventional infrastructure. IT can bring educational and health services to the rural areas. It can bring information about market conditions to farmers and other rural enterprises. It can improve communication between family members in suburban and urban areas and abroad and facilitate remittances. Free-market economic policies remove any favourable treatment of urban areas and industry by governments through subsidies and import tariffs. As a part of global trade liberalization, industrialized countries will eventually have to open their markets to agricultural products and this could benefit urban areas in Michigan such as Detroit.

The urban informal sector in smaller urban lakefront cities such as Muskegon and Benton Harbor must be revalued. Rather than being unproductive, full of underemployment and a sign of the inability of the city to absorb its growing population, the sector is now considered a fertile ground for micro-enterprises and the development of entrepreneurial skills.
It provides affordable goods and services to the urban population and opportunities to the urban poor for upward social and economic mobility. This does not mean that living conditions in urban areas are adequate, but it points to the need for better urban management to make improved use of available resources and fully exploit the urban potential for development.

To achieve balanced development in Detroit, city government need to ensure the establishment and maintenance of a level playing field. This should be done by enabling all to develop to their full capabilities and by removing any social and regulatory obstacles. In order to enable people, areas and regions to develop to their full capabilities, governments must ensure access to infrastructure and services, including information and credit, opportunities for social and economic mobility and participation in decision-making so that more people can seize such opportunities. However, past experiences show that the better-off are, almost by definition, in a position to seize new opportunities created by infrastructure development, the introduction of new technologies or decentralization, and that the poorest of the poor are, also by definition, unable to do so. It is important to ensure that interventions benefit at least those who are just below the poverty line and give them the opportunity to improve themselves.

In order for us to do this we must talk about EDUCATION.

Education will have to prepare for change rather than for stability. Thinking schools and
learning nations will be the paradigm of the twenty-first century: lifelong learning for lifelong
employability. Improving education will no longer be only a matter of providing education for all,
but also of enhancing the quality of education, teaching students to learn and think and to be creative, and preparing them for lifelong learning. The knowledge-based economy will require changes in the curriculum and the teaching strategy, and changes in the attitude and the mindset of every member of the community: the learners, the educated, parents and society at large. While the changes will first of all affect the professionals and later the industrial workers in the economy, they will eventually also have an impact on others. All will face new and rapidly changing technologies that they will have to use in daily life and in whatever sector they are working in to add more value to their products.

For economic growth, isolated and economically backward urban areas and regions in Michigan will need to be linked to markets at the local, regional, national and global levels. The provision of economically essential infrastructure such as improving mass transit or the establishment of links to such infrastructure are critical in order to create economic opportunities. Such infrastructure will reduce unnecessary taxes and will make cities such as Detroit and other urban areas in Michigan more competitive in the world market.

To ensure that the poor and not only the better-off benefit from development, they need to be
organized to increase their economic and political bargaining positions to those who are
politically or economically stronger. In this respect, organizing the poor into suburban and urban
cooperatives and community-based savings-and-credit schemes can strengthen their economic
position. The experience of running an organization will build the capacity and confidence of the
poor to participate in political decision-making as well. This requires a responsive government,
particularly at the local level, that is prepared to recognize local communities as partners in
development and to listen to them.

As the City of Detroit and the other urban centers in Michigan move forward, it can expect immense demographic, economic, social and technological changes which will turn the region from predominantly Black cities into a predominantly urban and globally connected region. Like all transitions, this transition will most likely be painful. However, it need not be traumatic, if city governments enact policies that ensure globally connected level playing fields, with adequate security for the vulnerable in society.

I cannot understand why our Mayoral candidate do not discuss this. Maybe God is calling for me to run for office. I said maybe.

1 comment: said...

You're behind the times, A. Grand Rapids has been growing, population, business, infrastructure, you name it... for years!

I love this place. It's hot. Well, it's freezing cold, but you know what I mean.