Category Archives: economics

Durban’s Early Morning Market: what would Yunus do?

It looks like the demolition of 20090420_WarwickJunction_EditedDurban’s historic Early Morning Market, home to thousands of informal traders, is inevitable. The city powers have bulldozed this through, ignoring the environmental specialists; heritage specialists; development specialists; academics and not least the traders themeselves. This is to make way for a new shopping mall with all the economic blandness that it entails, converting the thousands of micro entrepreneurs into at best a few hundered wage earners, with all profits going into ‘Big Retail’.

I find it sad as this place pulsates with energy and while it is indeed chaotic and lawless, it has incredible potential to emerge (with good planning and management) as a cenre for micro-business and local trade, whilst retaining the heritage and unique atmosphere of the space.

What is ironic (and which makes it sadder still) is that none other than Muhammad Yunus is currently in the country, sharing in the successes of investing in the poor with his microfinancing methods of Grameen Bank.

I suggested to an activist organisation opposing this development that they should make contact with him and get him to opine on the issue. I have no doubt on which side he would come down on.

What would Yunus do?

Here is an interview by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, where he is due to speak.

Tony Lankester asks: where is South Africa’s Muhammad Yunus?

The text of a petition to the city council is pasted below:

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Making infrastructure a ‘hot topic’ thanks to Obama

Time magaizne has a special on ‘New Perspectives‘ on (American focussed) issues in 2009. One is the revitalisation of infrastructure. Regarding their interstate highway network, its now not just about how to repair the asphalt but how to make them critical connections in the new era; being reinvented as corridors routing light rail systems, broadband networks, smart grids.

The start of the article made me smile:

Maybe the most unlikely thing that Barack Obama has accomplished in the past few months is that he’s made infra-structure sexy. O.K., not sexy, but at least a hot topic.

On the unsustainable food economy

A very good article that captures exactly how the food economy is going wrong, evan as it seems to be delivering abundant cheap food and what needs to be done.

(via Brian Mclaren)

How the economy affects architecture and design

From this article in the Guardian. It is actually about London restaurants…

Infrastructure investment: Beyond concrete

This is what the ‘new engineering’ is all about: providing more than just some hard engineering, the concrete but also efficiency, information systems and holistic solutions. So yes, there will be concrete, but there is more: something beyond concrete.

This is Obama’s plan to resore America’s ageing infrastructure and jumpstart the economy thats been in the news. Here are some thoughts from Popular Mechanics on how best to do it.

Some links from the Guardian

A few thought provoking articles from the Guardian in the last few days:

Drinking water from air condensation: a company has developed a machine that will produce drinking water from sufficiently humid water. It should work well here in Durban, I’ll just have to wait for the price to come down… The article answers a question I had on this: how do you prevent Legionnaire’s Disease?

Is the massive middle east construction boom coming to an end? This article suggests that it is. I have always wondered whether this growth is sustainable or whether it is just a thin veneer epitomised by the glitzy Atlantis opening bash, just waiting to implode. Perhaps Dubai has reached critical mass, but only time will tell, perhaps quite soon.

A new land grab in Africa: rich countries are buying up leases for massive tracts of land to ensure a secure agriculture supply. On the face of it this is a welcome investment in poor third world countries, however three things concern me: one, what of the people who’s livelihoods are tied to this land – will they be moved off? foreced to become mere wage earners with no stake in the massive agribusinesses? There seems to be no clear idea. Second, will the money be spent wisely in the beneficiary country – will the poor countries ever learn rom the mistakes of the past? Third, what of the environment? Has that been factored and will there be a mitigation strategy?

The emergence of a new economics?

My intention for this journal is to explore what I call ‘the new engineering’, which is how there seems to be a transition from an old-style industrial scale engineering to a newer more ecologially sensitive, human scaled engineering.

It is interesting to see that there are parallel changes in other field too – an article in the Washington Post contemplates a significant change in the economic world: Wave goodbye to the invisible hand.