Twenty-seven Thai CEOs at the November 2010 signing of the Collective Action Coalition pledge to fight corruption in Thailand, on the eve of the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference. (Photo: CIPE)
When the military overthrew a democratically elected Thai government in 2006 and when the Supreme Court disbanded a democratically elected government in 2008 – corruption was the principal justification. Corruption has become a part of daily life here – allegations of corruption contribute to the competing claims of Thailand’s color-coded protest groups that successive governments have lacked legitimacy. Uncertainty in the political environment is beginning to affect business; and uncertainty within the business community affects everyone. Businesses have started to come together to fight back.
During the Cold War, countries throughout the developing world, especially in newly-independent South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, implemented socialist and statist economic models. However, as the public institutions in these fledgling nations were ill-equipped to administer state-centric economic structures, the adoption of such governance systems had, in the overwhelming majority of cases, devastating results.
In addition to setting back national economies by several decades, the rapid expansion of central government power and responsibility brought about the public sector pathologies still felt today, such as corruption, mismanagement and inadequate services. In recent decades, the vast majority of these countries have attempted to reform their economies to rely more on private sector enterprise and capital.
More recently, in an attempt to improve efficiency and service quality, many of these governments initiated decentralization programs wherein the burden of service delivery is shifted to sub-national levels of government. To be effective, decentralization requires increased capability and administrative capacity on the part of local governments. Within the international development community, therefore, there is a growing emphasis on public sector reform and capacity-building, especially at sub-sovereign levels of government.
At the start of the 20th century, 1 out of 8 people in the world lived in urban areas, and by the 1950s, it was nearly 1 in 3. Now, it is 1 in 2. In the coming decades, virtually all population growth will be in urban areas. In East Asia, the urban population is expected to increase by about 450 million people over the next two decades, meaning that a city the size of Paris will be added every month.
In South and Central Asia, the increase is expected to be nearly 350 million, and in Sub-Saharan Africa almost 250 million. Yet unlike the industrialized world where urbanization unfolded over many decades (thereby allowing public and private sector institutions to mature gradually), the process in developing nations is far faster and is unfolding against a backdrop of rapid population growth, lower incomes, and fewer opportunities for international migration.
While urbanization is a long-studied concept, it remains poorly understood. For increases in population density give rise to social, environmental and administrative challenges that are easily recognizable, such as public sanitation problems, inadequate supplies of formal housing, traffic congestion and crime. In other words, the “costs of grime, time and crime”.