TODAY ABOUT 31 per cent of India’s urban population contributes to 60 per cent of GDP. This is expected to rise to 75 per cent in the next 15 years. This is precisely why the cities are being referred to as the engines of economic growth.
If the engines of economic growth have to run with optimal efficiency there are two imperatives, one they have to be smart and two they should have again optimal economic activity, which alone will achieve economic growth. There are different definitions of smart cities and the original one is more about technology adoption for efficient and effective governance to ensure quality services to the citizens. In Indian context, the basic infrastructure being ghastly inadequate and underdeveloped, our definition of smart cities starts with basic infrastructure development and probably ends with the adoption of technology to ensure quality services and governance.
In this context of economic growth, smart cities are those that are able to attract investments. Investment will get attracted if they offer good infrastructure, simple and transparent online processes that make it easy to establish an enterprise and run it efficiently. These are probably important features of an investor-friendly city. It is very clear, without this a city loses attraction as an investment destination. Smart cities are those which have smart (intelligent) physical, social, institutional and economic infrastructure. Quality of life, employment, investment opportunities, define the competitiveness of a city and probably the degree of competitiveness decides the smartness of the city.
Competitiveness in this context refers to a city’s ability to create employment opportunities, attract investments and people. The ease of being able to do business and the quality of life it offers determines its competitiveness. Quality of life includes safety and security, inclusiveness, entertainment, ease of seeking and obtaining public services, cost efficient healthcare, quality education, and opportunities for participation in governance.
Unfortunately in many of our cities though they contribute substantially to the revenue of the city, the industry does not have participation in governance. The expertise and the experience the industrial segment has undoubtedly will contribute to the quality governance and services. As the participation of industry through PPP vehicle in the creation and subsequent management of a smart city is an imperative for the successful sustainability of the smart city, so is its involvement in governance.
A smart city, in order to make itself a destination for global investment , and to create the appropriate economic infrastructure for attracting such investment, as also creating employment opportunities, has to first identify its core comparative advantages, the planning, allied development will follow this identification .This offers holistic growth.
Greater institutional integration offers ease of doing business and in smart city this being important becomes yet another important imperative. We today experience the inefficiencies and operational difficulties due to absence of it .A smart city needs reliable, adequate high quality utility services, which also includes recycling of water which assumes greater importance today.
If cities are to be efficient engines of economic growth, it is important that goods are able to move from production canters to consumption centres at low cost and high speed. Therefore, a good freight movement system acquires importance from the Industrial perspective. Seoul, Singapore, Yokohoma are all smart cities and highly industrialised centres too. Could they be our role models and bench marks?
Sardeshmukh is Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) Director-General