Thursday, February 11, 2016

The importance of urban leadership

This blog has consistently held that Indian cities lack visionary leadership of the kind that is necessary to shape their long-term development. Municipal Commissioners, with their limited tenures and misaligned incentives, cannot be expected to provide the sort of leadership that a city resident with a five-year tenure and long-term political aspirations can potentially do.

Fernanado Haddad, the mayor of the 20 million Sao Paolo metropolis, is only the latest example of such leadership, challenging the "supremacy of the automobile" to ease congestion and improve commutes,
Drawing inspiration from policies in New York, Bogotá, Paris and other cities, Mr. Haddad has embarked on the construction of hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes and corridors for buses to blaze past slow-moving cars, while expanding sidewalks, lowering speed limits, limiting public parking and occasionally shutting down prominent avenues entirely to cars... surveys show relatively high lvels of support for his policies.
Such paradigm redefining policy mutations are most unlikely to come from bureaucrats. They are most likely to originate from political leadership. But critics point to its pitfalls. And they merit serious consideration. It may be true that three out of five (or four out of five) leaders may turn out to be less than benign, even venal.

But, given the institutional checks and balances, in the long run, we are likely to be none the worse off. In fact, the positive deviants alone may be enough to unsettle the bad equilibrium our cities are currently entrapped in. In any case, when this is the norm in pretty much all major developing countries, with equally corrupt and short-sighted political eco-system, and many of their cities have done far better than ours, it is not clear why we should be different.

1 comment:

Sridhar Chandrasekaran said...

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