Territorial justice, human development and public investment in times of crisis: the case of Greece
PSYCHARIS, IOANNIS (2014). 'Territorial justice, human development and public investment in times of crisis: the case of Greece' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.
The allocation of public investment across space is inevitably a key issue for theory and policy of economic development since it is firmly connected with the provision of public goods and basic infrastructures and amenities for all people across space. In order to fulfill the expectations for equal rights and access to public goods the allocation of resources should be organized under the principle of territorial equity. In effect the principle underlying the regional allocation of public spending across space would suffice equitable access to public goods and services for all citizens. An equitable or just allocation of resources in order to provide equal services for all is of quite importance for every period but it becomes more critical in times of crisis. As it was evident during the recent Great Recession public spending cuts was the norm for public policy. In addition, during crises the reduction of public investment is higher relative to the current cuts and spending. As a result economic crisis put a stress on the provision of public goods and questions the priorities for the allocations of limited resources among social classes and regions or localities in a country. This aim of this paper is to discuss this issue namely of what it consists a social just allocation of resources during an economic crisis and to provide statistically supported evidence on the evolution of public investment in Greece during the current economic crisis and how territories of the country have been affected by spending cuts. The results indicate that spending cuts had been distributed fairly unequal across space and have deteriorated infrastructures and the provision of public goods in an asymmetrical and most probably unjust manner. Furthermore, the paper proceeds by analyzing the impact of cuts on the stock of public investment and shows that the new increments of public investment during the crisis had been insufficient to compensate wane off of public investment. Empirical analysis employs a disaggregated view to the issue to human development amenities placing specific emphasis to education and health spending and shows that these expenditures apart for the high reductions were even unevenly distributed across space during the crisis. As a result human development and capabilities as well as opportunities are passing through a stressful and painful phase for all citizens and most probably even more intense for the neediest ones. Lack or shrinkage of basic goods, services and amenities undermines the potential for human development and causes a long term impact on people and territories. The paper concludes with some proposals for a more territorial just allocation of resources which places specific emphasis to the role of public investment as a mean for upgrading infrastructures, ameliorating the impact of crisis for people and territories and counterbalancing the crisis impact, finding a way out of the vicious cycle in favor of a more equitable and human/population-centered development.
Key words: human development, economic crisis, public investment
'This paper is based on research that has been co-financed by the European Union (European Social Fund) and Greek national funds through the Operational Program 'Education and Lifelong Learning' of the National Strategic Reference Framework - Research Funding Program: THALES. Investing in knowledge society through the European Social Fund (grant number MIS 380421)'