Archive for July 18th, 2017

Smart or dumb? The real impact of India’s proposal to build 100 smart cities

July 18, 2017

Hugh Byrd Professor of Architecture at University of Lincoln has a piece:

The quest to make cities smart and liveable has been promoted alongside increased population densities and urban compaction. We argue that this planning goal is reaching a point where resources are inadequate for the functioning of a city.

Case studies such as Bhendi Bazaar provide an example of plans for increased density and urban regeneration. However, they do not offer an answer to the challenge of limited infrastructure to support the resource requirements of such developments.

The results of our research indicate significant adverse impacts on the environment. They show that the metabolism increases at a greater rate than the population grows. On this basis, this proposed development for Mumbai, or the other 99 cities, should not be called smart or sustainable.

With policies that aim to prevent urban sprawl, cities will inevitably grow vertically. But with high-rise housing comes dependence on centralised flows of energy, water supplies and waste disposal. Dependency in turn leads to vulnerability and insecurity.

Suburbia offers some buffer. Water and power can be collected from individual roofs and food produced in individual gardens. However, we argue that vertical urban form on this scale offers little resilience.

Smart may be, but questions on sustainability are always there..

Who Would Be Affected by More Banking Deserts (branchless banking)?

July 18, 2017

Learnt about this new term from St Louis Fed blog: banking deserts:

Although technology has made it easy to bank from almost anywhere, personal and public benefits are still derived from bank branches. In areas without branches—commonly referred to as “banking deserts”—the costs and inconveniences of cashing checks, establishing deposit accounts, obtaining loans and maintaining banking relationships are exacerbated.

As expected, the deserts ill impact the poor:


Riding dangerously on Mumbai locals..

July 18, 2017

Nice article by Bhanuj Kappal:

in recent years, as the 164-year-old railway system struggles to ferry over 75 lakh passengers a day, the adjective that comes up more often is ‘deadly’. According to statistics obtained by rail activist Samir Zaveri under the Right to Information Act, 3,202 people died on the railway tracks of Mumbai in 2016. That averages out to almost nine deaths a day. Another 3,363 were injured. These figures are not statistical outliers, but representative of a long-term trend. The death count for 2015 was higher at 3,304. And according to figures on, 1,618 accidental deaths have been recorded so far this year. That makes the MSR one of the deadliest public rail transit systems in the world.

For years, this damning mortality rate was ignored by the railway authorities and the State government. The press followed suit, relegating statistics about accidental deaths to blurbs on the back pages. And Mumbai’s long-suffering commuters, used to risking life and limb every day on the way to work, became inured to the idea of daily commute as a life-or-death lottery. They even took perverse pride in it, treating a peak-hour ride on the insanely overcrowded Churchgate to Virar fast as a rite of passage towards becoming a real ‘Mumbaikar’. It took the death of 21-year-old Bhavesh Nakate, who was crushed under a train after slipping from its footboard, in November 2015, to wake everyone up. Nakate’s death was similar to hundreds of others that occur every year, but with one vital difference. A fellow commuter had captured his fall on his phone camera. And the video went viral.

A few weeks later, hearing a number of public interest litigations (PILs) on commuter safety and security, a Bombay High Court bench of Justices Naresh Patil and SB Shukre, came down heavily on the State government and the Indian Railways. “[In] no other country would so many deaths not be taken seriously, in India we just sit on the sidelines and watch on,” they observed, asking the authorities to list all measures taken towards addressing the issues of overcrowding and the rising accidents on local trains. “People are dying on the trains and the tracks every day and the authorities cannot continue to keep their eyes shut,” they added. “If you act now and succeed in saving even just one such life, your actions will make a large difference.”

“If this was happening in the US or UK, these officials would be in jail and the Railways would have to pay crores in compensation every day,” says Zaveri, who filed one of those PILs on commuter safety. Having lost both his legs in a railway accident in 1989, Zaveri is now committed to helping other victims. “But this is a country of poor people, so their lives have no value.”

Emphasis is mine. Strong words indeed. Cost of life in India..


“The root cause of the problem is overcrowding,” says veteran transport journalist Rajendra B Aklekar, who has written extensively on the Indian Railways, including Halt Station India, a book on its history. “When Mumbai got saturated we built townships in Kalyan, Dombivali, Thane. We kept on building new townships, but never built a sustainable transport system connecting those townships with Mumbai. So when those people wake up in the morning, they go to the same old stations. That leads to crowding, that leads to everything.”


What Remains of Milton Friedman’s Monetarism?

July 18, 2017

Robert Hetzel of Richmond Fed has a paper:

From the early 1960s until the early 1970s with the emergence of rational expectations, under the rubric of monetarism, Milton Friedman defined macroeconomic debate. Although the Keynesian consensus that he challenged has disappeared, the current academic literature makes little reference to monetarist ideas. What happened to them? The argument here is that those ideas remain relevant but require translation into terms expressible in modern macroeconomic models and in the monetary policies of central banks, neither of which contain any obvious references to money. Moreover, the Friedman and Schwartz methodology for identifying shocks retains relevance.

Lots of monetary history in the paper..

20 Years of South East Asian Crisis: How Clinton, The IMF and Wall Street Journal toppled Suharto

July 18, 2017

Interesting piece by Prof Seteve Hanke who was in the thick of things during the SE Asian crisis. He suggested to Suharto to implement Currency Board which was poosed by IMF and Washington. Why? They wanted to get rid of Suharto and only a deep crisis could have helped in the cause.

By late January 1998, President Suharto realized that the IMF medicine was not working and sought a second opinion. In February, I was invited to offer that opinion and was appointed as Suharto’s Special Counselor. Although I did not have any opinions on the Suharto government, I did have definite ones on the matter at hand. After nightly discussions at the President’s private residence, I proposed an antidote: an orthodox currency board in which the rupiah would be fully convertible into and backed by the U.S. dollar at a fixed exchange rate. On the day that news hit the street, the rupiah soared by 28% against the U.S. dollar on both the spot and one year forward markets. These developments infuriated the U.S. government and the IMF.

Ruthless attacks on the currency board idea and the Special Counselor ensued. Suharto was told in no uncertain terms — by both the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, and the Managing Director of the IMF, Michel Camdessus — that he would have to drop the currency board idea or forego $43 billion in foreign assistance.

Economists jumped on the bandwagon, trotting out every imaginable half-truth and non-truth against the currency board idea. In my opinion, those oft-repeated canards were outweighed by the full support for an Indonesian currency board by four Nobel Laureates in Economics: Gary Becker, Milton Friedman, Merton Miller, and Robert Mundell. Also, Sir Alan Walters, Prime Minister Thatcher’s economic guru, a key figure behind the establishment of Hong Kong’s currency board in 1983, and my colleague and close collaborator, endorsed the idea of a currency board for Indonesia.

Why all the fuss over a currency board for Indonesia? Merton Miller understood the great game immediately. As he said when Mrs. Hanke and I were in residence at the Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta, the Clinton administration’s objection to the currency board was “not that it wouldn’t work, but that it would, and if it worked, they would be stuck with Suharto.” Much the same argument was articulated by Australia’s former Prime Minister Paul Keating: “The United States Treasury quite deliberately used the economic collapse as a means of bringing about the ouster of Suharto.” Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger weighed in with a similar diagnosis: “We were fairly clever in that we supported the IMF as it overthrew (Suharto). Whether that was a wise way to proceed is another question. I’m not saying Mr. Suharto should have stayed, but I kind of wish he had left on terms other than because the IMF pushed him out.” Even Michel Camdessus could not find fault with these assessments. On the occasion of his retirement, he proudly proclaimed: “We created the conditions that obliged President Suharto to leave his job.”

Why did Suharto have to go? President Clinton had his own personal reasons for leading the charge for a regime change. This presented a golden opportunity for the neoconservative regime changers led by Paul Wolfowitz, a former U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia (and subsequently a key figure in the Pentagon — Deputy Secretary of Defense — who pushed for the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein). Their agenda was for the U.S. to control the Greater Middle East, a swath stretching from Indonesia to Morocco.

Fascinating tales if you believe them. These conspiracy theories have just such an amazing appeal to them..

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