I came across this blog post while (re)rewriting one of the essays for my dissertation. I was intrigued because it was written by a master’s student working for SPARC, an organization in Mumbai that I have been a fan of for a while now. The topic of the blog is co-production in slum upgrading, focusing on evidence from Nairobi, Kenya (I’ll be examining co-production-ish activities in slums in Guatemala City). The author highlights the real possibility of co-production schemes solidifying informal (and second class) service-provision arrangements, but notes that “But when done well, [co-production] can address gaps in services and policy that government or private firms alone can’t solve.” However, if one posits that governments (or private firms) “can’t solve” a challenge like urban service provision to slum communities, the caveat must be added “under the dominant paradigm of neo-liberal urban governance”. I’ll again refer back (this is becoming a habit) to Raj Desai’s piece I reviewed a few weeks ago. The issue for governments isn’t so much “can’t” as “isn’t induced to”, because the urban poor do not (generally) constitute a cohesive political block that can effectively wield political agency. City budgets respond, to a greater or lesser extent, to those with political clout (which can also take the form of financial clout). Case in point: on the outskirts of Guatemala City the government constructed a new $3 million overpass to facilitate the entrance and exit to a gated community for wealthy families. Three million dollars were invested to shave a few minutes off the daily commute of (at the most) a couple hundred people. How many families living in Guatemala City’s many slums could have been provided with basic water and sewer service for $3 million?