Sunday, 23 September 2007

Wealth, Health, then Accessibility

My new theory of economics is that you can judge the state of a nation's development by its pavements. Based on a single observation, I have crafted this theory in the grand tradition of unitary datum point analysis.

It goes like this: First there are no pavements (you can just use the road), then pavements are added for convenience, then they are neglected in favour of cars, then they have a renaisance in the age of the health concious (joggers), climate concious (walk, cycle), commericially conscious (pedestrianised high streets) and then the socially concious with the installation of dropped kerbs for wheelchairs. The final, crowning glory stage is the addition of tactile inserts (knobbly tiles) for the blind or partially sighted to help feel the edges of roads.

Singapore is in the middle of a project to retrofit these inserts into every pavement / drop kerb. To improve accessibility generally, they are also upgrading civic center shopping areas with wheelchair ramps. I'm not complaining, there is the odd wheelchair user, but I've never seen a blind/partially sighted person on a pavement so the effective value is pretty low. Which is why, of course, it's at the end of the development cycle, when all the really useful stuff has already been done.

We now have a development model for national development which we can use for national comprison. I'm putting Malaysia (for example) about 20 - 25 years behind Singapore on this scale.