Slum-dwellers who make up a third of the world's urban population often live no better - if not worse - than rural people, a United Nations report says.Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (which released the report), says that "people move to the cities not because they will be better off but because they expect to be better off." There are at least two ways to explain this:
1. People are idiots - they move in huge numbers from villages to cities, and not the reverse, just to live worse.
2. People who move to the cities are not idiots - they are better off there. Maybe the preferences of the authors of the report differ systematically from those of rural migrants. If so the message of the report should have been:
Under the current conditions we the authors of this report - unlike rural-urban migrants - would rather stay in third-world villages than move to city slums.Tibaijuka also said that "the only effective way to upgrade slums and prevent new ones emerging is to persuade governments to improve infrastructure." But then to improve infrastructure governments need to make people poorer by taxing them. Or maybe the UN will persuade governments to be less corrupt, using money to improve infrastructure instead of improving their bank accounts. But who? The UN?
Finally, Tibaijuka "also argued that governments could take relatively cost-free action such as reforming property laws." That looks more promising.