One of Mediolana’s firmer convictions is that in an era of ‘deep’ globalisation, it pays to keep an open mind as one never knows from where the next great idea or concept will emerge; our adhesion to this principle was recently rewarded when we stumbled across a quite brilliant notion articulated by the Istanbul-based analyst Aylin Kocaman in the pages of the Manama-headquartered Gulf Daily News. Inspired by the recent protests over the proposed construction of a shopping mall on top of a park in central Istanbul, Kocaman – who combines distinctive blonde bombshell looks with a prolific journalistic output – posits in Democracy means better quality (5th July, 2013) that this kind of proposal is evidence of a lack of qualitative approaches in public policy. To counter this, she stresses the need for ‘a properly defined ministry of quality [to] be established…and for people in general to be educated in line with that superior aesthetic conception.’
Kocaman appears to be particularly concerned with certain developing countries (some of which are emerging markets) within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (‘OIC’), some members of which – as is the case in many developing countries – are dominated by quantitative methods of evaluation. And is is true that the idea that bigger, faster and more ‘modern’ are innately superior is transforming landscapes from Tirana to Jakarta – and not always for the better. One need only think of the Chinese-built tower blocks in Algiers, the industrial haze of Malaysia or the East Germany-style suburbs of Tehran to recognise that qualitative perspectives are on some level in short supply in the geographical domain discussed by the A9 Television presenter.
However, after some reflection, we think that Kocaman’s idea has profounder global relevance. Millions of New Yorkers shield themselves using state-of-the-art personal electronic entertainment devices while utilising decrepit public transportation infrastructure. China is remaking its cities according to a spiritually and culturally disastrous blueprint, whereby historic buildings and indeed entire neighbourhoods are demolished to make way for cookie-cutter residential and commercial property developments ribboned by expressways. Scanning the world for qualitative best practices in the realm of public policy, it is sometimes tempting to think that worldwide, only a handful of European and Asian states – as well as a few cities of global import outside of these countries – are even addressing this question.
We will be genuinely fascinated to read in the future how Kocaman defines the rights, responsibilities and workings of a ministry of quality: how it interacts with other government departments and its precise remit will be crucial to its successful functioning. But as a idea vital to the very substance of the twenty-first century – and as a crucial contribution to the concept of Gross National Happiness or GNH – it has few parallels.