GRIP is proud to present these articles written by the 2021 INGSA Knowledge Associates. Through this project, the International Network for Science Advice (INGSA), with support from the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), has given grants to six early-to-mid career researchers and policy professionals in Low and Middle Income Countries. These 18-month grants has enabled these INGSA Knowledge Associates to undertake deep-dive case studies on their country’s use of evidence in policy decisions related to Covid-19, some of which are presented in this series.
This is the first article published by GRIP in this INGSA series.
This essay will present the problem of territorial inequality in Panama from a multidisciplinary perspective, a case which also applies to other middle-income countries. Territorial inequality is here defined as the pressure generated by asymmetries in access to territory due to sociocultural and socioeconomic causes. The concept of territorial inequality has the virtue of horizontally incorporating economic, social, and environmental criteria. With the help of history, these forces have ended up anchored in city-space; lack of access to property, unequal urban infrastructure investment in impoverished areas, dominant patterns of urbanization that portray the poor as clients of corporations instead of other more constructive ways like that of empowered citizens. The phenomenon of inequality has become more important after the Covid-19 crisis as new barriers have risen without the extinction of the old ones. Pressure has mounted on the economic system due to government debt and fewer resources. The same applies to the private sector. These dynamics make centrality- the importance of an urban center when compared to the peripheries- even more vital, aiding the process of social and economic stratification.
This essay will describe what we have learned after embarking on research studying different aspects of territorial inequality in Panama City since 2013, through 3 different projects. In the first case, starting from 2013 we focused on studying the interdependence of the economic, social, and environmental systems that make up the city, and their role in allocating capital and poverty. We studied literature coming from different disciplines, linking economic and social decisions to territorial dynamics in the city. This project led to the publishing of 2 books, Urbanofobia (García de Paredes, Pablo, 2015) and Panamorfosis (García de Paredes, Pablo, 2018) (Both available here Pablo GDP), summarizing the findings. In the second case of our doctoral project, the methodology we used to understand social-spatial representations involved virtual reality experiments with 51 students from different faculties, ages, and backgrounds, at the University of Panama (Inicio | Universidad de Panamá (up.ac.pa)). The objective was to explain how our travel patterns affect representations of other social classes and city areas, and how did those representations translate into decisions regarding economic and social choices, like where to live, work, sell our products or buy.