In search for the missing level

In Egypt the lack of democracy in the local governance level and refusal to decentralize municipal governance, deepens the gap between privatization and self help strategies on one hand and the centralization and top down planning on the other hand. Sarah Ben Néfissa argues in her article in Cairo Contested that these self organization strategies and behavior can’t compensate for the need for real reform in the political administration system in Egypt.

In Turkey it seems that the existence of municipal level should fill the obvious gap discussed in Egypt’s administrative system. But during a meeting at Sariyer Municipality in Istanbul I got this impression that the local authorities in Istanbul is just a mediator to convince the neighborhood organizations, which is apparently more established in Istanbul than in Egypt maybe because of the more open political environment, with the top down plans towards neo-liberal global city imposed by the state. Not to mention the apparent limited authorities of this municipality compared to the Istanbul metropolitan Municipality. This impression was affirmed when I read that local authorities are obliged by law to provide a strategic plan such as istanbul strategic plan for 2010-2014 that is theoretically supposed to explain the vision of the city including development directions and services provision plans. However most of the time these strategic plans don’t exceed to be a collection of fancy words written by administratives that are totally out of the social and economic context of the neighborhoods they are talking about.

Apparently there is a pattern emerging here, as the strategic plan of Cairo 2050 that were being discussed in Egypt before 25th Jan events had a vision for a Cairo that is inhibited by a metropolitan class of citizens living up to the standard of a neo-liberal globalized world city.

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The people from the barrio built the city twice: during the day we built the houses of the well-off. At night and at weekends, with solidarity, we built our own homes, our barrio.

  —Andrés Antillano, resident of Caracas, April 15, 2004