Mike Davis’The Planet of Slumsis a book that elaborates on thereasons that have resulted in the mass imbalance of economic statuses between urban and rural dwellers. With the advent of the global debt crisis after failed attempts to aid ailing economies, slums sprang up. I am in full agreement with Davis that the financing institutions have set the stage for this issue. Improvement of people’s lives while maintaining their habitats is criticized as being ineffective.
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This is a demonstration of failure by the major financial institutions such as IMF and the World Bank. The high level of failure brings the questions of what the real intentions of these institutions were. To achieve the intended self-help, the layer of bureaucracy that exists between the slum community and the decision makers should be eliminated by eliminating intermediate NGOs. The slum community should be involved in the decision making rather than establishing NGOs.
This way the slum community will have easier access to the finances intended for them. With elimination of NGOs, their alteration of ideas will be reduced. This will also eliminate the distortion that NGOs make on the overall slum upgrading programmes. The intention of choosing to have NGOs as intermediates obscures the good intention of the major financing institutions. This creates a view that the intention does not consist in having the slums upgraded but to have a domineering effect on world’s poor economies.
Davis proposes the idea that the space inhabited by humans determines how they are able to act. Having people in slums will deny them the access to socioeconomic opportunities and limit the way they provide for their families. It also limits their capacity to live comfortably. I believe that the government is responsible for providing proper housing but instead is systematically pushing people further away towards the periphery of the cities. The government is however, insensible of the socioeconomic causes of slums. This ignorance on the government’s part necessitates their removal from positions of control of thousands that live in the slums. The governments are purposefully uprooting the majority on the lower end of the economic spectrum for the sake of aesthetic value of cities. This raises the question of the ethical capacity of the people in position of power.
It is not enough however, to criticize the slums without focusing on the systems that created the slums in the first place. Colonialism and imperial governments created a separation of the rich from the poor. These colonial governments have been abandoned but the difference existing between the capitalist governments that took over and the imperial governments. Capitalists emphasize on the ability to pursue capital only creating a widening gap between the rich and the poor. The poor are usually those who fail in their pursuit of capital. It is the international economic competition that results in the ruthlessness while handling slum dwellers. It is questionable whether a new system of economic politics can be implemented to relieve slum dwellers from the burden in a world where gaining capital is the end goal of all activities.
In conclusion, Davis focuses on the possible causes of slums but provides no real solution or details of any particular slum. The mistakes of the World Bank are caused by poor planning, idealism and lack of commitment. In my opinion, these issues are intentional and result from the fact that poor people are not only poor but are considered to be of less importance. This view held by the financing institutions hampers the implementation of development programs. There is obvious lack of planning and recurrent erring in allowing rural to urban migration without the capacity to manage the population. More centres of opportunities should be created at the periphery of the slums to provide the dwellers with livelihood.