02/25/2011

Politicians' promises: worth less or worthless?

Just before elections, political parties make many promises in their manifestos. They may be worth less than they seem, possibly even worthless!


I happened to pick up the manifesto (programme de législature 2011-2015) for one particular political party in Meyrin. One quote from it referred to a subject that I have previously discussed, namely the reclassification of a zone of villas south of the airport in Cointrin (which falls under the Meyrin-Cointrin administration) to be a mixed lodgings and light industry zone. The actual text of the particular "promise" was to propose to the people of Cointrin constructible plots of land as compensation for the owners of the villas concerned and whose land was to be reclassified according to the wishes of the state.

Proposer aux Cointrinois des parcelles à construire à titre compensatoire, suite aux déclassements voulus par l'Etat.

You will actually have a little difficulty finding this quote on the on-line (the Web) because their Election Special document there, which contains a link to the legislature program, actually sends you to the previous programme, for 2007-2011. Oops!

Anyway, this single proposal is one of those sound-bite sentences which sounds better than it tastes. My main dislike is that it tries to give the impression that it is the Geneva State authorities which are behind the declassification, whereas in reality the Meyrin communal authorities were also proposing a similar, slightly different, rfeclassification scheme. Then, of course, what does it mean to propose compensatory plots of land? Will the proprietors of the current Cointrin villas be subsidised at all when acquiring these new plots of land? Even if they are, who will pay for the constructions on these new plots approximately equivalent to their current villas?

You have somehow to take into account that their current villas, which may well have been in the family for generations, may no longer be particularly valuable, both because of their age and the fact of being subject to more and more airport noise, perhaps even having buiding restrictions. The land will also probably decrease in value if it ceases to be a villas-only zone. Thus, what they might receive as total compensation might be not enough to acquire these new plots of land and then build a new villa. What do they then do if they are short of ready cash?

So is this legislature programme worth anything? Will there be real money from the Commune of Meyrin, or will Meyrin Council simply identify available plots of land, leaving the financing of any land purchase and new buildings to someone else?

My simple mind says that if you effectively throw someone out of their villa, in order to tear it down and put up new housing (maybe apartment blocks and light industry buildings), using airport noise as an excuse, then the costs of buying replacement land and building a replacement villa should be shared between the airport (and its airline clients), responsible for the noise, and the State (who will benefit economically from the new zone).

Much too simple and idealistic!

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