Cultivating cities in South Africa, US company in India, where to go now in Yemen, changes to Ottawa’s Access to Information Act?, politics in Russia

A roundup of global commentary for the July 4, 2016 weekly magazine.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
A luxury car is displayed in Johannesburg's Nelson Mandela Square in 2006.

Business Day / Johannesburg, South Africa

Cultivating cities in South Africa 

“Despite the superior economic performance of [South Africa’s] cities; including much higher levels of employment, policy makers have never embraced urbanisation and the merits of urban growth fully,” writes Ann Bernstein. “Apartheid planners dedicated themselves to restricting black people from urbanising and to a temporary place in ‘white’ cities. Postapartheid cabinets have been ambivalent in supporting cities as drivers of growth. The failure to grasp the centrality of cities holds back growth and development.... Government should embrace the inevitability and desirability of large cities and urban-led, job-rich growth. As growth engines, cities could spearhead the drastic transformation of life chances for millions of people. As their economies grow, the spatial legacies of apartheid could be eliminated progressively, while more opportunities for poor residents will emerge. SA’s future is urban. Policies, power and the state’s resources must now catch up with this reality.” 

The Hindu / Chennai, India

US company in India

“In their recent joint statement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama ‘welcomed the start of preparatory work ... in India for six AP1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse...,’ ” Suvrat Raju writes. “There are several disturbing aspects to this agreement that deserve close public scrutiny. These include the arbitrary use of executive authority in selecting Westinghouse as a supplier, the international legal commitment made by the government to indemnify Westinghouse in the event of an accident, and the high expected cost of electricity from these reactors.” 

Khaleej Times / Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Where to go now in Yemen

“The [United Arab Emirates] has called it a day in Yemen,” writes Ishtiaq Ali Mekhri. “It was officially declared ... that the ‘war is over’, though the UAE may continue to keep its troops for counter-terrorism and humanitarian operations. This brings to an end a heroic episode in the history of the Emiratis who bravely fought for their Yemeni brethren and stood by them through thick and thin.... Now is the time to bring back hope, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia have a role to play for the collective betterment of Yemen and the region. Building a peace regime will be more toiling than fighting a war.” 

The Toronto Star / Toronto

Changes to Ottawa’s Access to Information Act?

“Federal officials should no longer be allowed to cite vague reasons of cabinet secrecy to keep important facts from the public,” states an editorial. “That’s among several excellent proposals from an all-party Commons committee meant to revamp Ottawa’s 33-year-old Access to Information Act. The Liberal government should pay attention.... [T]he existing law meant to provide openness has failed to serve as it should. Requests for data are routinely rejected, often on the flimsiest of excuses. And a process meant to produce speedy results has left some people waiting years for official records.” 

The Moscow Times / Moscow

Politics in Russia

“De-politicization is the process of denuding the political landscape to leave all decisions and authority in the hands of a single leader,” Gleb Pavlovsky writes. “By stripping away all other players and maintaining a monopoly over the political agenda, such regimes effectively hide most of their workaday policies from the populace, leaving society unprepared for the changes that must inevitably come.... Russia is now on an express highway that allows for no backtracking and could easily lead to an even worse state of affairs than exists now. Leaders are rapidly losing the opportunity to make changes through purely political action – and that includes political action at all levels and among all parties. Will the Kremlin place at least a modicum of faith in the legal procedures enshrined in the Constitution, and thereby avert disaster?” 

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