Around the world, capital cities are disgorging bureaucrats. In the post-colonial fervour of the 20th century, coastal capitals picked by trade-focused empires were spurned for “regionally neutral” new ones. But decamping wholesale is costly and unpopular; governments these days prefer piecemeal dispersal. The trend reflects how the world has changed. In past eras, when information travelled at a snail’s pace, civil servants had to cluster together. But now desk-workers can ping emails and video-chat around the world. Travel for face-to-face meetings may be unavoidable, but transport links, too, have improved.
Proponents of moving civil servants around promise countless benefits. It disperses the risk that a terrorist attack or natural disaster will cripple an entire government. Wonks in the sticks will be inspired by new ideas that walled-off capitals cannot conjure up. Autonomous regulators perform best far from the pressure and lobbying of the big city. Some even hail a cure for ascendant cynicism and populism. The unloved bureaucrats of faraway capitals will become as popular as firefighters once they mix with regular folk.
Beyond these sunny visions, dispersing central-government functions usually has three specific aims: to improve the lives of both civil servants and those living in clogged capitals; to save money; to redress regional imbalances. The trouble is that these goals are not always realised.
The first aim—improving living conditions—has a long pedigree. After the second world war, Britain moved thousands of civil servants to “agreeable English country towns” as London was rebuilt. But swapping the capital for somewhere smaller is not always agreeable. Attrition rates can exceed 80%. . . . The second reason to pack bureaucrats off is to save money. Office space costs far more in capitals. Agencies that are moved elsewhere can often recruit better workers on lower salaries than in capitals, where well-paying multinationals mop up talent.
The third reason to shift is to rebalance regional inequality. Norway treats federal jobs as a resource every region deserves to enjoy, like profits from oil. Where government jobs go, private ones follow. Sometimes the aim is to fulfil the potential of a country’s second-tier cities. Unlike poor, remote places, bigger cities can make the most of relocated government agencies, linking them to local universities and businesses and supplying a better-educated workforce. The decision in 1946 to set up America’s Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta rather than Washington, D.C., has transformed the city into a hub for health-sector research and business.
The dilemma is obvious. Pick small, poor towns, and areas of high unemployment get new jobs, but it is hard to attract the most qualified workers; opt for larger cities with infrastructure and better-qualified residents, and the country’s most deprived areas see little benefit.
Others contend that decentralisation begets corruption by making government agencies less accountable. A study in America found that state-government corruption is worse when the state capital is isolated—journalists, who tend to live in the bigger cities, become less watchful of those in power.
Read the passage carefully and answer the questions given below:
The magic of squatter cities is that they are improved steadily and gradually by their residents. To a planner’s eye, these cities look chaotic. I trained as a biologist and to my eye, they look organic. Squatter cities are also unexpectedly green. They have maximum density—1 million people per square mile in some areas of Mumbai—and have minimum energy and material use. People get around by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, or the universal shared taxi.
Not everything is efficient in the slums, though. In the Brazilian favelas where electricity is stolen and therefore free, people leave their lights on all day. But in most slums recycling is literally a way of life. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai has 400 recycling units and 30,000 ragpickers. Six thousand tons of rubbish are sorted every day. In 2007, the Economist reported that in Vietnam and Mozambique, “Waves of gleaners sift the sweepings of Hanoi’s streets, just as Mozambiquan children pick over the rubbish of Maputo’s main tip. Every city in Asia and Latin America has an industry based on gathering up old cardboard boxes.” . . .
In his 1985 article, Architect Peter Calthorpe made a statement that still jars with most people: “The city is the most environmentally benign form of human settlement. Each city dweller consumes less land, less energy, less water, and produces less pollution than his counterpart in settlements of lower densities.” “Green Manhattan” was the inflammatory title of a 2004 New Yorker article by David Owen. “By the most significant measures,” he wrote, “New York is the greenest community in the United States and one of the greenest cities in the world . . . The key to New York’s relative environmental benignity is its extreme compactness. . . . Placing one and a half million people on a twenty - three-square-mile island sharply reduces their opportunities to be wasteful.” He went on to note that this very compactness forces people to live in the world’s most energy-efficient apartment buildings. . . .
Urban density allows half of humanity to live on 2.8 per cent of the land. . . . Consider just the infrastructure efficiencies. According to a 2004 UN report: “The concentration of population and enterprises in urban areas greatly reduces the unit cost of piped water, sewers, drains,roads, electricity, garbage collection, transport, health care, and schools.” . . .
[T]he nationally subsidised city of Manaus in northern Brazil “answers the question” of how to stop deforestation: give people decent jobs. Then they can afford houses, and gain security. One hundred thousand people who would otherwise be deforesting the jungle around Manaus are now prospering in town making such things as mobile phones and televisions. . . .
Of course, fast-growing cities are far from an unmitigated good. They concentrate crime, pollution, disease and injustice as much as business, innovation, education and entertainment. . . . But if they are overall a net good for those who move there, it is because cities offer more than just jobs. They are transformative: in the slums, as well as the office towers and leafy suburbs, the progress is from hick to metropolitan to cosmopolitan . . .
War, natural disasters and climate change are destroying some of the world's most precious cultural sites. Google is trying to help preserve these archaeological wonders by allowing users access to 3D images of these treasures through its site. But the project is raising questions about Google's motivations and about who should own the digital copyrights. Some critics call it a form of "digital colonialism." When it comes to archaeological treasures, the losses have been mounting. ISIS blew up parts of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and an earthquake hit Bagan, an ancient city in Myanmar, damaging dozens of temples, in 2016. In the past, all archaeologists and historians had for restoration and research were photos, drawings, remnants and intuition. But that's changing. Before the earthquake at Bagan, many of the temples on the site were
scanned. . . . [These] scans . . . are on Google's Arts & Culture site. The digital renditions allow viewers to virtually wander the halls of the temple, look up-close at paintings and turn the building over, to look up at its chambers. . . . [Google Arts & Culture] works with museums
and other nonprofits . . . to put high-quality images online. The images of the temples in Bagan are part of a collaboration with CyArk, a nonprofit that creates the 3D scanning of historic sites. . . . Google . . . says [it] doesn't make money off this website, but it fits in with Google's mission to make the world's information available and useful.
Critics say the collaboration could be an attempt by a large corporation to wrap itself in the sheen of culture. Ethan Watrall, an archaeologist, professor at Michigan State University and a member of the Society for American Archaeology, says he's not comfortable with the
arrangement between CyArk and Google. . . . Watrall says this project is just a way for Google to promote Google. "They want to make this material accessible so people will browse it and be filled with wonder by it," he says. "But at its core, it's all about advertisements and
driving traffic." Watrall says these images belong on the site of a museum or educational institution, where there is serious scholarship and a very different mission. . . . [There's] another issue for some archaeologists and art historians. CyArk owns the copyrights of the scans — not the countries where these sites are located. That means the countries need CyArk's permission to use these images for commercial purposes.
Erin Thompson, a professor of art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, says it's the latest example of a Western nation appropriating a foreign culture, a centuries-long battle. . . . CyArk says it copyrights the scans so no one can use them in an
inappropriate way. The company says it works closely with authorities during the process, even training local people to help. But critics like Thompson are not persuaded. . . . She would prefer the scans to be owned by the countries and people where these sites are located.