Paul recently sat down with Vox’s Romesh Vaitilingam to discuss charter cities at a blue-sky conference on development policy organized by the University of Warwick’s Center for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
Paul gave an update talk on charter cities and an ongoing project in Honduras at TED2011 in Long Beach. The video (embedded below) has now been posted.
The video from Paul’s original talk at TEDGlobal in 2009 is available here.
We will be updating our website with foreign language content over the next few months. As a start, we’re making Paul’s TED presentation available in Spanish. There are four options for watching the Spanish-language presentation.
The increasing ease with which we can move goods and knowledge across space might lead us to believe that cities, tight clusters of human activity, will become less important. Yet, cities continue to grow despite falling transport and communication costs. In the recent edition of City Journal, Professor Mario Polèse helps to explain why—summarizing some of the important contributions that social scientists have made to our understanding of urban agglomeration.
Seven Pillars of Agglomeration:
The Indian Express and Financial Express columns of Isher Judge Ahluwalia and Ranesh Nair are must reads for anyone interested in urbanization in the developing world, or anywhere else for that matter. Ahluwalia and Nair typically use their column to tell the story of successful policy intervention in an Indian city, offering lessons for cities facing similar challenges.
Many of the cases involve the innovative use of public-private partnerships, such as the successful implementation of metered water provision in several cities in the state of Karnataka, a project that dramatically improved access to safe water while lowering the incidence of water-borne disease among low-income households. Other columns describe the effective use of IT to improve public service delivery in the cities of Andhra Pradesh and the improvement of public bus service in the city of Indore. Their most recent column details Ahmedabad’s phase one implementation of a rapid bus transit system.
At the 2010 Techonomy Conference, Geoffrey West gave a talk titled The Secrets of Scale (scroll down to find West’s talk). He offers an engaging introduction to his work on scaling phenomena in cities.
West and his colleagues examine the behavior of infrastructure and socioeconomic variables as cities grow larger. They find that some infrastructure variables, such as gasoline stations and the length of electric cables, scale sublinearly with a city’s population size. For example, rising population is associated with fewer gas stations per person and less road surface per person. Other variables, such as total employment and household water consumption tend to scale linearly with city population size.
The Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), a research center in the Oxford Economics Department, held its annual conference in March. CSAE Communications Officer Karin Loudon took some time during the conference to talk to Paul about charter cities. You can listen to the resulting podcast here.
Paul recently spoke at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin where he had a chance to speak with the editor of Germany’s Development and Cooperation Journal editor Hans Dembowski. You can read the full interview here.
HD: Isn’t the idea of starting a new city and deliberately defining new rules undemocratic and authoritarian?
PR: Rules may be legitimate to people because they voted for officials who made the rules. The same rules may be legitimate to others because they opted to move to a place where they apply. Many migrants respect the rules in destination countries. Nobody should be forced to come to what I’ve called a charter city, but more poor people should have the choice of moving somewhere with more opportunities. Charter cities would eventually develop systems of full democratic participation. Right now, the world needs more healthy new cities to accept the millions who want a change.
Since the fall of 2009, Gallup has been releasing results from a worldwide survey conducted between 2007 and 2009. The survey suggests that roughly 700 million people worldwide would move permanently to another country if given the chance.
Gallup estimates that 38% of adults from sub-Saharan African countries would make a permanent move if they could. The desire to move tended to be stronger among people in countries with medium to low Human Development Index (HDI) scores compared to people from countries with high HDI scores. Of the residents in the developing world who would like to move permanently to another country, 80% would like to move to developed countries like the United States, Canada, France, and Spain.
Paul answers questions about charter cities from Center for Global Development vice president Lawrence MacDonald.
Q: To some people, this is going to sound like a new version of colonialism or imperialism. Is it?
A: Let me pose a related question: Suppose a family from Haiti is granted the right to live in Vancouver as permanent residents but not as Canadian citizens. Is it colonialism or imperialism to offer this option to them? Or for them to accept? Because the family would be free to make the choice about whether to live in Canada, the answer is plainly no.
In the same way, charter cities are based entirely on voluntary actions. Only a country that wants to establish a charter city will do so. Only people who want to live and work under the rules specified in the city’s charter will move there. Free choice is essential for the legitimacy of the rules in a charter city. It is also what makes a charter city very different from colonial occupation.
Robin Young, host of WBUR’s Here & Now, recently interviewed Paul about charter cities, specifically the notion that charter cities could create more choices for Haitians.
Charter Cities recently ran an oped in an online German publication called The European. Here is the English language translation:
In too many places, weak or misguided rules hold people back. If people could migrate to better rules, they could improve their lives and, by their own actions, do much to reduce global poverty.
This post examines how a country can use a charter city to overcome the challenge of commitment in economic development. This challenge arises when governments cannot reliably commit to the long term security of investors and residents. In order to overcome this challenge, a country can charter a new city that leverages the institutional credibility of partner governments.
The challenge of consensus building, the focus of this post, arises when people attempt to improve the rules through collective agreement. Charter cities can complement efforts to reform by consensus, quickening progress toward the better rules that allow people to improve their lives.
The UN estimates that India’s urban population will grow by nearly 600 million in the next 40 years. The existing process of consensus building slows the pace of urbanization and deprives many poor rural residents of access to the social, educational, and economic benefits that can come from city life. Many of those who do migrate to cities will end up informally housed in dangerous slums where services are either not provided or obtained illegally. The people of India can use charter cities to let new urban areas emerge where the people can access formal economic opportunities and live within the law.
To accomplish this, India could use a method similar to the one that China used in establishing the special zone around Shenzhen — a city that in just 25 years grew from a tiny village into a metropolis of more than 10 million people. In so doing, India can take on all three of the national roles required for a charter city: guarantor, host, and source.
In reviewing Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid in Foreign Affairs, Jagdish Bhagwati takes an interesting look at the history of development aid. He traces the changes in the way economists viewed aid as well as changes in the tactics used by aid advocates. He goes on to note that while many development debates are still aid-related, the most recent development success stories, such as those in India and China, have a very different relation to aid—almost none at all.