Read this interesting article written by Nic Spaull, one of our Student Forum lecturers, for the Mail & Guardian.
Here is the link to the Mail & Guardian’s website: http://mg.co.za/article/2013-03-10-absentee-teachers-are-a-thorn-in-our-side
In times of economic crisis, transport infrastructure are often the first items slashed from the government’s budget. This is because 1) it’s easy to do so: there are few consumer, labour or other electoral groups that feel strong enough about the unbuilt railway or airport, and 2) like a frog in boiling water, we only notice the decline of the infrastructure over an extended period of time (and when it’s already too late): small potholes don’t attract the anguish of protesters, but wait a few years and those same potholes might double or tripple the time and cost of traveling. Any politician trying to cut government expenditure on education or health would face the (election) gallows, but cut transport infrastructure investment and few will notice.
One of the reasons economic historians investigate the past is because they believe that history has valuable lessons that can inform the tough decisions of policy makers face. Rémi Jedwab and Alexander Moradi, in a recent Working Paper, show just how important transport infrastructure can be to aid a country’s development. They investigate the construction of two railways in early twentieth-century Ghana. The railways were built for the extraction of minerals and for political and military reasons (to connect the main cities in the interior, to help in transporting troops in times of war). But, surprisingly to many of the colonial governors, the railroads had a much bigger economic impact: because of reduced transportation costs, many subsistence farmers switched production to cocoa, a rich cash-crop. Using detailed GIS census data of farm production, the authors show that those farms that were closest to the railroads benefited the most. The benefits were immediate, and within a decade most farmers were successful cocoa producers, making Ghana an example of the positive impact of colonial policies. But the railroads also had long-term benefits: using recent census data, the authors show how cities arose closer to the two railroads and how, later, once the boom in cocoa prices had ended, manufacturing and the service sector benefited from the lower transport costs of the railways.
To read further click on the following link.