Competitive Connectivity and Obsolete Development Agendas in Asia

In the Commentary, “Old Wine in New Bottles? How Competitive Connectivity Revitalises an Obsolete Development Agenda in Asia” (DOI:10.1080/00472336.2019.1705878),
Jürgen Rüland of the Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg, Germany, writes of the unacceptably high social costs associated with many of the large-scale infrastructure projects being rolled out across the region.

The abstract for the paper states:

In Asia “connectivity” is celebrated as a panacea to kick-start rapid economic growth in the region’s less developed countries. In the process, China and Japan, but also India, Thailand and South Korea, have become major donors and investors in physical infrastructure. While infrastructure is an important facilitator of economic growth, it must be sustainable. This commentary argues that this is not the case in the current infrastructure drive. Many large-scale projects have unacceptably high social costs. This is due to the fact that in the implementation of connectivity schemes, Asian donors are guided by their experiences during their own phase of rapid development. These experiences are strongly influenced by the developmental state and authoritarian variants of modernisation theory. These are outdated concepts with the inherent danger of initiating a downward spiral in project quality, notwithstanding reassurances of the donors to be committed to quality infrastructure.

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