Historic preservation in Southeast Asia: the role of public-private partnerships.

Author:Stough, Patrick


The role of globalization in the rapid economic success of Southeast Asia is exemplified by the growing westernization of the region's cities. While globalization has its benefits, such as encouraging investment and global connectivity, it also threatens the cultural heritage of a given area by encouraging a sort of homogeneity that makes modern cities all look alike. In particular, the goal of economic development often stands at odds with the preservation of structures and properties that reflect the cultural heritage of the region. Furthermore, many of the countries of the region are under pressure to better protect property rights, another policy that can run counter to the goals of historic preservation. In this Note, the Author looks at the state of property rights, urban development, and historic preservation in four Southeast Asian countries and proposes a solution that is able to balance the competing goals of historic preservation, globalization, and economic development. This solution, which has been employed in parts of South America, involves public-private partnerships that incorporate historic preservation into general urban planning and encourage private involvement and investment.

TABLE OF CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION II. BACKGROUND A. Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1. Property Rights in Cambodia 2. Urban Land-Use Planning in Cambodia 3. Historic Preservation in Cambodia B. Singapore 1. Property Rights in Singapore 2. Urban Land-Use Planning in Singapore 3. Historic Preservation in Singapore C. Manila, Philippines 1. Property Rights in the Philippines 2. Urban Land-Use Planning in the Philippines 3. Historic Preservation in the Philippines D. Semarang, Indonesia 1. Property Rights in Indonesia 2. Urban Land-Use Planning in Indonesia 3. Historic Preservation in Indonesia III. ANALYSIS: METHODS OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION A. Ownership and Operation B. Regulation C. Incentives (and Disincentives) D. Reformulation of Property Rights E. Information IV. SOLUTION: PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS A. Partnerships in Action: Quito, Ecuador B. Adapting the Quito Project to Southeast Asia C. Criticism of Historic Preservation as a Goal 1. Historic Preservation Stands in the Way of Economic Development 2. Historic Preservation Reinforces Colonial Legacies 3. Historic Preservation Burdens Property Rights V. CONCLUSION I. INTRODUCTION

In today's world of rapid globalization and urbanization, many have become concerned about the apparent homogeneity of modern cities. While economic globalization is seen as a positive force for bringing developing countries to a better economic state, it is often feared because it is perceived as undermining cultural identities and differences. As an example, critics point to cities in such rapid-growth areas as Southeast Asia and note how similar they now seem to Western cities. (1) While these critics are right to fear cultural globalization and its effect on cultural identity, there is still room for economic globalization and the celebration of cultural heritage to exist side by side. A closer look at these cities will reveal that a wealth of historically and culturally important structures still exists. Many of these sites, however, are in great danger of destruction or misuse; thus it is necessary for governments to take action in protecting them. Historic preservation has long been accepted and promoted in the United States and other Western countries, but it has been sorely neglected in developing and transitional countries. (2)

It is true that many of these countries lack the resources needed to successfully promote historic preservation. Many developing countries are also more concerned right now with promoting economic development, (3) a goal that may seem incompatible with historic preservation. This Note proposes, however, that developing countries can achieve both of these goals through programs that incorporate historic preservation into general urban planning and by encouraging private involvement and investment. In particular, this Note proposes a public-private partnership, an example of which is currently being employed in Quito, Ecuador.

Part II of this Note analyzes the state of property rights, urban planning, and historic preservation in four Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Part III will look at some approaches to historic preservation and at the various tools available to governments. Finally, Part IV will detail a solution, as well as some of the arguments against historic preservation as a goal for developing countries.


    1. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

      Cambodia, once the center of the powerful Khmer kingdom, is a former French colony on the Southeast Asian mainland. The country is highly underdeveloped and poor, and only 15% of Cambodia's population lives in urban areas. (4) The majority of this urban population resides in the country's capital, Phnom Penh. (5)

      1. Property Rights in Cambodia

        Cambodia's colonial and post-independence history has had a profound impact on the status of property rights in the country. (6) The traditional Khmer and Cambodian cultures did not have a notion of private property comparable to that of Western nations. (7) When the French intervened in the region they introduced, for the first time, the modern sense of private property and passed the first significant law protecting property owners. (8) This law really only applied to the wealthy elite, as most of the population continued to adhere to more traditional property ideals. (9) During the socialist regimes of the 1970s and 1980s, private ownership of land was forbidden as incompatible with socialist policy. (10)

        In 1989, the modern ideal of private property was reborn in Cambodia, culminating in the 1992 Land Law, which set out general principles of land tenure. (11) Since 1990, the country has gone from having the vast majority of all property owned by the government to having nearly all property in private hands. (12) The aforementioned Land Law includes "provisions for proprietorship, temporary possession, authorization to cultivate land, right of use, and rights to carry mortgages and loans." (13) The law also provides a system for registering and recording land ownership, which is of particular importance given that Cambodia's socialist governments destroyed all land ownership records predating 1974. (14)

        The Land Law has helped to improve property rights substantially in Cambodia, although the country has quite a ways to go. The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom measures the level of economic freedom in a given country based on a set of economic areas, including property rights. (15) For each area the index gives the country a rating on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0, where 1.0 means free and 5.0 means repressed. (16) In 2004, Cambodia was labeled as "mostly free" by the index, but received a score of 4.0 in the area of property rights. (17) The index attributes this score to a high degree of corruption in Cambodia's judiciary and, to a lesser degree, domination of the judiciary by the executive. (18) In addition, the index indicates that the land titling system does not function properly because many land owners lack the documentation to prove their ownership. (19)

      2. Urban Land-Use Planning in Cambodia

        Cambodia's first modern legislation aimed specifically at land use planning and development was the CNATUC law, passed in 1994. (20) This law's stated goal is "to promote the organization and embellishment of the urban and rural areas throughout the Kingdom of Cambodia with the purpose of assuring the development of this country." (21) In each municipality the CNATUC law sets up a Bureau of Metropolitan Affairs (Bureau des Affaires Urbaines, or BAU) that oversees development and land use and formulates a master plan for that municipality. (22) According to the law, "private entities and public authorities shall strictly adhere to such master plans during their construction works." (23) In reality, however, owners tend to do as they please and regulation of construction is almost nonexistent. (24)

        In his articles on historic preservation and urban planning in Cambodia, William Chapman has discussed two notable proposals for urban development in Phnom Penh. (25) The first of these was completed in 1996 by the Planning and Development Cooperative, Inc. (PADCO), a U.S. organization in association with SAWA and the Integrated Resources Information Centre, both of which are non-governmental international organizations located in Phnom Penh. (26) This report "details infrastructural needs, housing issues, and existing urban conditions throughout Cambodia" and tends to follow Western, and particularly North American, precedents in land use regulation and zoning. (27) The second study was commissioned by the BAU of Phnom Penh and published under the Atelier Parisien d'Urbanisme and the Cambodian Ministry of Culture in 1997. (28) This proposal, while also from a Western perspective, differs from the PADCO report in that it has a more European flavor. (29) Both reports have their shortcomings, particularly as they relate to the issue of historical preservation. (30)

      3. Historic Preservation in Cambodia

        The historical and cultural heritage of Phnom Penh is characterized by a series of overlays representing different periods of dominance and cultural infusion. (31) These overlays include the pervasive Cambodian heritage, as well as areas of Chinese and Vietnamese heritage brought to the area during the Khmer kingdom and colonial periods. (32) The primary overlay, and the most visibly evident, is the French colonial heritage brought in the nineteenth century, when the French established the modern city of Phnom Penh. (33) This heritage is manifested in the general spatial plan of the city, as well as in the many colonial buildings still in existence. (34) In the years since 1979, when a new influx...

To continue reading