Photo: LWYang | Flickr Creative Commons
Since the 1980s, investment in Brazil’s infrastructure has declined from 5% to a little above 2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), scarcely enough to cover depreciation and far below that of most middle-income countries (see figure below). The result is a substantial infrastructure gap. Over the same period, Brazil has struggled with stagnant productivity growth. The poor status of infrastructure is broadly believed to be a key reason for Brazil’s growth malaise.
Driving from the airport into the city of Apia, the capital of Samoa, is a great introduction to the country. Villages line the road with gardens filled with colorful flowers and palm trees. Hugging the northwest coastline, the road sometimes comes as close as five meters from the shoreline, giving passengers truly spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.
While it’s a scenic introduction to Samoa, this drive is also a stark reminder of just how sensitive the country’s coastline is to erosion and damage. More than 50% of West Coast Road, Apia’s main roadway, sits less than three meters (9.8 feet) above sea level and just a few meters from the shoreline, making it highly vulnerable to damage and deterioration. When tropical cyclones, heavy rain, king tides and storm surges hit these coastal roads, they can lead to erosion, flooding and landslips, causing road closures and threatening the safety of the people who use them.
Like other countries in Latin America, Colombia has been expanding its road network over the years using a variety of public-private partnership (PPP) models and contractual structures. However, many of these projects were not properly prepared and structured, which in some cases has led to contract renegotiations. In addition, these projects attracted very limited participation from international investors.
At least 46 people were killed and more than 200 injured in 31 road accidents across the country in the last four days including the three-day Eid holiday --- The Daily Star, November 10th 2011.
There has been an alarming rise in road accidents, significantly highway accidents, in Bangladesh over the past few years. According to a study conducted by the Accident Research Centre (ARC) of BUET, road accidents claim on average 12,000 lives annually and lead to about 35,000 injuries. According to World Bank statistics, annual fatality rate from road accidents is found to be 85.6 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles. Hence, the roads in Bangladesh have become deadly!
But these statistics, numerically shocking as they may be, fail to reflect the social tragedy related to each life lost to road accidents. One accident that remains afresh in my memory is the death of 44 school children last July, after the truck they were travelling in skid and fell into a pond. 44 young dreams and hopes lost due to reckless driving. Only a month after this tragedy, Bangladesh lost two brilliant citizens, filmmaker Tareq Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier, to yet another road accident in August.
Much in the same way the Ford Model T revolutionized transportation in the United States and the Volkswagen Beetle did in Germany, the Tata Nano (small in Gujarati) seeks to do the same for India and the rest of the developing world, with millions still seeking to realize dreams of four wheel mobility. Will the Nano become a resounding success and revolutionize the concept and accessibility of the car, or will it cause increased problems and growing pains in its mission to provide transportation to the broader public?
With a price starting at $2,200 dollars including taxes and fees, the Nano significantly undercuts the current cheapest car in India by almost half and may open the door to aspiring drivers around the world as the most affordable automobile in history (when accounting for inflation). The market potential is seemingly unlimited as only 0.7% of Indians owned automobiles in 2007.
However, economic development has already caused an explosion in the number of motor vehicles perpetuating increased fatalities due to accidents, standstill traffic, and smog filled cityscapes.
Its founder, Ratan Tata says that his inspiration is derived from poignantly watching the way entire families are transported on motorcycles complete with a rider, passenger, along with two children hanging onto the back. He noted the terrible toll in road deaths involving two-wheelers and called for a safer four-wheeled vehicle that will transport families in a dignified manner.