Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Lawrence H. White on India

Economist Lawrence H. White has just returned from three weeks in India, mostly in Bombay and Delhi. He makes a few observations about governments and markets based on his experience in India, over at the Division of Labour blog.
The sweeping Marine Drive in Bombay (aka Mumbai) hugs the shoreline of the Arabian Sea. Near the Drive's southern end is the 5-star Oberoi Hilton hotel. A block or two to the hotel's north begins a long row of Art Deco apartment buildings facing the Sea to the west. The area could be the Miami Beach of India -- if not for the sad and startling fact that about half of the apartment buildings are shabby and stained. They look like they haven’t been painted in 10 years. Why would such a high-rent district be left in such disrepair? Ah, but it isn't a high-rent district: it happens that Bombay has had severe rent controls for decades. What a shame, what a waste.

Streets and other public places in Bombay are often dirty or in disrepair. On the other hand, in the seaside Juhu neighborhood north of downtown one can walk or jog in a beautifully landscaped and maintained park. What gives? It turns out that the park is private, owned by the surrounding apartment co-ops. Admission is Rs. 5 (about US$0.11). Maintenance is provided by the HSBC bank, which has a few discrete signs posted about the park.

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