Monday, September 26, 2011

Colombo is Colombo: the need for a comprehensive development plan for the city

The Government has been doing quite a bit to make the capital city presentable; roads widened and resurfaced, new pavements, walls around old buildings broken down, the canals cleaned, some turf laid, some trees cut, some saplings planted.

There are bigger things that are hinted at; the reclamation of land from the sea, the clearing of slums and the construction of some infrastructure. So far, on the whole, the city is looking a lot better. I was distressed when the weeping willows on Independence Square were cut down but new trees (partly grown) have been planted and some turf has been laid, so its now looking rather nice, but there have been some disturbing reports on the clearing of slums.

What we do not know is the overall plan, if such a thing exists.

A comprehensive plan, drawn up with public consultation is essential to the success of such large-scale projects. There are many actors and issues that need examination. If embarrassing missteps are to be avoided public consultation is necessary. The process of consultation will also build confidence and bring in good publicity to the plan.

Such a thing has been in the works since the 1990's and Ranil Wickremesinghe, has written a good article on the its last edition. Its a little long, but it should be read by all who intend voting in the next Municipal election.

The plan for the development of the city needs to be placed with a wider policy framework, one that in my opinion should be based on a 'night watchman state' - ie one with limited involvement in business and confined largely to providing essential public goods.

A lower 'footprint' of the state would entail less expenditure, therefore less tax and enable a simple transparent tax code, all of which will stimulate business activity.

The opposition looks in disarray, the article above was buried on page 18 of the Sunday Times, not indicative of a good media campaign.


A letter from a former official on a public housing programme run in 2006/7 is quite interesting.

Although the letter is a bit garbled it tells a tale of a scheme opened with great fanfare only to fall apart after a promising start due to corruption. A mysterious Malaysian party is awarded a tender, even though they did not bid, an advance is paid and no more houses are constructed.


Patta Pal said...

Page 4 of Lankadeepa of Monday September 26th has a full page (page4) "kolamba kiyanne kolamba" article which I assume is the Sinhala version of the same article.

As you know as far as the public is concerned the Sinhala version is far more important than English, but I do not know how many people will care to read it through and understand the vision for Colombo that has been part of the UNP for a while.

Jack Point said...

Yes Patta Pal, its the vernacular that will reach the masses, good thing this was translated.

N said...

It seems amazing that most people think 'beautification' is the end all of everything. My view has always been that they need to fix the basics, they need to sort out transport, living, etc in a wider framework like you said as opposed to just adhoc work like they are doing now.

I do have my serious doubts as to how work is being done especially after reading in the Sunday Times that the Museum was protesting plans to tear their wall down. It beggars belief that a structure that has been gazetted as a historical structure is being torn down willy nilly especially as that wall doesn't even obscure the actual building.

Jack Point said...

Yes N, I saw that.

The museum wall is rather nice and does not obscure the view of the building and in a way it even enhances it.

Tearing down an ugly wall to showcase a nice building is fine but every single wall need not come down.