The politics of comprehensive metropolitan plannign: a case study of Belo Horizonte

This is a study about the comprehensive metropolitan planning of Belo Horizonte, the capital city of the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The dissertation centers on the problem of planning effectiveness.

Effectiveness in comprehensive metropolitan planning does not automatically derive from the logic of modern capitalism, nor does it simply result from the calculated response of concerned elites to the growing problems of big cities. Instead, a political process determines plan effectiveness. This process involves, on the one hand, the resistance of relatively autonomous organizations to the plan, and, on the other, the support of power holders who side with the planning agency in its conflict with other centers of power.

Since it requires a generous supply of power to be effective, the literature asserts that comprehensive planning is unlikely to succeed in pluralist political systems, and it has been hypothesized that less pluralist political systems may provide a more favorable climate for such endeavors.

The political regime of Brazil in the post-1964 years provides a good setting for testing the feasibility of comprehensive planning in a non-pluralist situation. The presence of authoritarian traits at the different levels of the governmental structure in conjunction with the move toward establishing national urban policy would apparently enhance the possibilities of successful comprehensive planning in cities and metropolitan areas.

Nevertheless, an authorítarlan regime does not suppress the recalcitrance of organizations to central

directives, the plurality of centers holding 1imited power within the federal government, the autonomous clusters of actors in each state, metropolitan area, and single city, and the clash among different sets of technocrats. It does not eliminate conflicting goals in urban policies, nor the need for trade-offs among those goals, nor for attention to political costs of several kinds by policy-makers if they commit resources for implementing plan proposals.

Our research explores, in the context of authoritarian Brazil, how organizational and political factors create difficulties for effective comprehensive planning. Under what political conditions, ii any, can planners be effective? What resources are available to them? What roles can they play to enhance their chances to push through integrated plans? What allies can they count on? What ideal of comprehensive planning is tenable in the circumstances planners are likely to encounter?

The planners we studied were immersed in bureaucratic politics from the start. In practice, they could not act purely as techn1cians. Instead, they had to engage in intense wheeling and dealing 1n an attempt to influence a vast range of decisions covered by their ambitious conception of comprehensive planning. 1n the end, it was not feasible to implement their vision 1n its entirety. The planners faced resistance from actors 1n their environment -- sectoral agents and municipalities. To overcome resistance, they needed support from power-holders, and this support varied from case to case.

At times, planners failed to win backing because the adequacy of the comprehensive approach to the scale of problems -- either local or supra-metropolitan -- was disputed. In other cases, the comprehensive solutions were promoted by different actors, and the planners' proposals were put aside. 1n a situation 1n which planners prevailed, they showed political ability allied with a display of technical expertise which persuaded the power holder to favor a comprehensive, rather than sectoral, solution. Although the comprehensive solution was justified because it would benefit the broad metropolitan public, in reality it was adopted because it favored the political interests of the policy-maker. In other situations, the policy-bias of the different organizations against a comprehensive solution, favoring a broader set of preferences and values, were too strong. Moreover, these biases found their way into the policy-makers' calculations too. As the defenders of different preferences and values were absent from the decision making circles in the authoritarian situation, neither deft political maneuvering nor the planners' technical expertise proved sufficient in obtaining the sought after decision. 1n one of the cases examined, however, the gradual liberalization of the regime made policy-makers more sensitive to the demands of the broader public, and because comprehensive solutions were attuned to these demands, planners found new leverage in

influencing decision making.

The biases and resistance of organizations and centers of power, and the constant need of support from power-holders make comprehensive planning feasible only in a mitigated version. To the extent that the 109ic of comprehensive planning implies speaking for the interests and values of the broader metropolitan public, not usually conveyed by sectoral agents, a more open political regime, rather than an authoritarian one, holds out better hope for effective comprehensive planning.

Thesis Supervisor: Professor Ithiel de Sola Pool

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