venerdì 9 maggio 2008

Cement and Local Development

Today the indicators of quality of life are at the core of an intense debate as alternative tools to GDP. Scientific research has pointed out a large number of such indicators linked for example to education, health, crime, etc. Yet there are some factors which may act as indicators as well, sometimes in a rather furtive way, capable however to denounce the governance capabilities of central and local administrations in Italy. Among these, the quality of landscape and the modalities of its management can become a visible expression of the local institutions’ capability in correctly managing public goods (environment, health, education, security, etc.). Incapability, incompetence, and (not rarely) the illegal behaviour of public administrators, immediately reverberate over local environment and landscape because in Italy these elements are considered politically not relevant even if constitute a sensitive business also for organized crime. On the contrary, environment and landscape are a complex network of bundles of public goods which immediately denounce the erosion of one or more of these sensitive components (health, ethics, crime, speculations). The management of residential issues is a typical example of a critical sector where public administrations involve private agents in the management of some critical territorial components: the public goods’ management related to these components (such as landscape and global land management) results often from a crude mediation of private interests. Continuing pressures from construction firms and the misleading idea that cement can create jobs opportunity and development, can create severe distortions caused by an exclusive prevalence of private interests in territorial management which is immediately materialized by the landscape’s quality. Finally the quality of the space where a community lives, operates and works completely depends on these perverse mechanisms. Coercion (in)capacities of public institutions soon emerge together with those discrepancies between private and public interests when deciding to make or not to make controls and inspections, rigidly or inaccurately apply norms and regulations, be particularly rigorous with someone or extremely tolerant with others. Public goods tend to be under- or mal-provided, and administrators provide more public “bads” than public goods. Landscape value depends also on how facilities are spaced, located and aesthetically built. A rather chaotic spatial distribution of houses and other buildings in the area and too many state laws legalizing illegal constructed buildings and illegal modification of the existing buildings emphasize different forms of pressures and competition for the land destination: this means that land appears to be highly “capitalized” capable to capture the whole value to which other local public goods are attached. The bias is “locating” and the optimal sitting of this location is not an (aesthetic/ethic) issue. In this case a massive land capitalization represents the sole guide in landscape management causing an inefficient provision of this and other connected local public goods (which are not recognized as such), infiltration of the organized crime completely determining how space is allocated, the value of local externalities and the impact of residential choices on other local public goods.

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