Posts tagged ‘economic growth’


Cities are, or at least should be, driving globalization

06.06.2013

My friend and colleague William Shepherd directed me to a piece at Quartz by Michele Acuto and Parag Khanna, on how cities are driving globalization more than nations—a theme I touched upon on this blog in March 2010. As he said, I had called it three years ago, though admittedly Acuto and Khanna have fleshed things out far better.
   It’s not just the fact that cities elicit less pluralistic feelings among the population—Wellingtonians felt pretty strongly when PM John Key made his comment that our city was ‘dying’—but there are practical reasons for cities to lead the way.
   First, we can’t afford to wait for central government to take the lead on a lot of policies. When it comes to economic development, cities should be able to mobilize a lot more quickly. The idea is that cities are leaner, flatter and more responsive to change. The reality is that some are mired in bureaucracy, and if voters agree that that has to change, then I would love to see that reflected in this year’s local body elections. Based on what I’ve seen, you won’t find the agent for change within politics, however—they have had more than enough opportunity to voice this very view. This has to come from outside politics, from people who understand what cities are truly capable of, especially when they engage and realize their potential.
   Acuto and Khanna cite several examples where cities have had to go above and beyond what their national governments have provided, in the areas of security, climate change and academia. Even stock exchanges are merging between cities:

Stock exchange mergers testify to this changing geography of influence: the popularized link between New York and Frankfurt via the 2011 talks on the NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse merger only hinted at a wider trend that, in the past two years alone, has seen negotiations between London’s and Toronto’s stock exchanges, and similar discussions between Sydney and Singapore, Chicago and Sao Paulo, Dubai and Mumbai or the Shenzhen–Hong Kong–Shanghai triangle, all of which indicate how global finance networks are being redrawn through emerging global cities.

   In my discussions with MBIE, the New Zealand Government has been aware of this trend, but other than the discussions about regional reform, very little of it has surfaced in Wellington. Yet the government has a focus on Auckland, and Christchurch will be state of the art once its rebuilding is completed. We have a perfect opportunity to use our inherent agility, if only we had our eyes on the prize, and moved forward rather than played politics, stuck with “think local, act local” thinking.
   Secondly, cities should find the task of marketing themselves less confusing. A nation-branding exercise, for example, hits a snag early on. When I quizzed Wally Olins about this many years ago, he identified a very obvious problem: which government department pays for it? Is this the province of tourism, internal affairs, foreign affairs, trade, or something else? A city should be able to establish sufficient channels of communications between its organizations and trust in one—in Wellington’s case, tourism—to handle it. If these channels are broken, again, it’s going to take some new blood and real change to fix them and inspire a spirit of cooperation. There’s a pressing enough need to do so, with a vision that can be readily shared. We need to think differently in the 2010s.
   Thirdly, cities can foster offshore relationships more effectively. New Zealand, as a country, has not done as well as it should in promoting itself in various Asian cities, for instance. In one major city, I have had feedback that New Zealand stands out for the wrong reasons, in not having its chief diplomat join other countries in celebrating a particular national holiday. We seem to be on auto-pilot, not being as active as we should. Yet, as Acuto and Khanna point out, almost all global economic activity is being driven by 400 cities. Wellington, especially, should be able to take the initiative and head to the world’s major cities, promoting ourselves and ensuring that the innovators and enterprises here can hook up with others. We can establish trade and cultural links more quickly if we go to the source. Many cities and provinces even have their own economic offices, so they expect such approaches: they want to work at the city level.
   And if we head offshore to promote our own, then we should expect that foreign direct investment can flow more effectively inward, too, having established that relationship.
   This all makes sense if you consider how democratization has changed the world we live in. On so many things already, we cut out the middle man: in printing, we no longer need to go to typesetters or plate-makers; online publishing has meant our words can go to the public on blogs; social media have allowed us greater access to companies and politicians. Air travel is more affordable than it was 30 years ago. Cities have the resources to engage with citizens and learn about their needs. Offshore relationships can be maintained between trips using Skype and other digital resources. The nation-state will remain relevant for some time, but cities can deliver more relevant, more specialized and more customized programmes in a more timely fashion. Now, do we have the courage to declare that we no longer want “politics as usual” this year?

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Posted in branding, business, culture, globalization, internet, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


How could the Chinese republic celebrate its centenary?

21.02.2010

Next year marks the centenary of the founding of the Chinese republic. We got rid of our rather hopeless Ching Dynasty, and ushered in Asia’s first democracy.
   Both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China see 1911 as an important year, and Dr Sun Yat-sen as the founder of the nation (here is a page from the Zhongshan government on Dr Sun which—shock—even mentions democracy). As the father of the country, his legacy one of the few things nationalists and communists agree on, even though technically the two sides remain in conflict and are in a state of Civil War. The Republic began on October 10, 1911, a date which tends to be celebrated by many, though it was formally declared on January 1, 1912.
   So, what might 2011 bring in terms of perspective?
   Idealists might point to some possibilities:

  • that closer economic ties across the Taiwan Strait mean the eventual formation of a Chinese commonwealth, with both sides maintaining the political impasse;
  • a review of the ideas of the republic as espoused by Dr Sun, and the greater acceptance of the political structure he believed in, which included cooperation between nationalists and communists;
  • that both sides of the political argument agree there are more commonalities than differences between all Chinese peoples.
  •    I doubt we’ll see political unity while Beijing is still governed by the Communist Party, which sees little point in changing its own structure to accommodate territories it considers its own. We see a similar view, officially, within the Kuomintang, interpreted in its favour. The regular triumph of ideology over practicality and the prospect of a joint future growth of ‘China’ gets in the way; the idea of an economic union or commonwealth might be the easiest way forward.
       Never mind what you call it internally, it is a solution in which both sides can claim victory, preserve face, and avoid bloodshed. The fact that no armistice has been signed by both signs is actually an advantage—because it means this difference of opinion can be solved technically as an internal matter, not one between two sovereign states.
       This is not an idea that the diehards like, so let the name-calling begin in the comments.
       But remember in whatever debate we enter, we should think of this question: since we all dislike what the Ching Dynasty did to China, what is the best way to honour the memory of the founding father of the nation in 2011?

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    Posted in China, culture, politics | No Comments »


    I do not stand for John Key’s defeatist talk

    09.02.2010

    I’ve heard it all before. In the 1980s, the New Zealand Government promised that, with the introduction of Goods and Services’ Tax (GST), people would be better off, because it would mean more money in our pockets.
       With the proposal to hike GST to 15 per cent under the current government, Prime Minister John Key is singing a similar tune: that somehow, this will be better for us, offset by a reduction in income tax.
       It’s the same tune that was sung 25 years ago by another technocratic government, clueless on actually how to grow the economy without stealing from the general public.
       Economies are grown through innovation and creating circumstances that allow that to happen, which was what the National Party promised with its broadband strategy. We’ve since heard less about that and more about putting some cycle tracks through the country for tourists—all short-term projects from people who have never had to start a long-term business in their lives.
       Unemployment is now up to 7·3 per cent. Before you say it’s not that bad compared with overseas, it’s still pretty terrible. It’s why this has been the core of a lot of my mayoral campaign messages: we need to get unemployment down. How? By creating the environment through which innovation can be fostered.
       In Wellington, that means building on the creative and technological clusters people have been creating. What this city should have in the next three years is a mayor and council that support this—because it is in the national interest.
       When Dr Alan Bollard, Governor of the Reserve Bank, said we should not bother trying to match Australia’s standard of living by 2025 because we lacked the natural resources, I was shocked at what I would call a defeatist attitude—one that the PM seems to share with trying to take from everyday New Zealanders.
       I hope that Dr Bollard can inform me of the context, as I was out of the country when he made his statement on television.
       But I will say that we already are among the most innovative people in the world, both out of our natural creativity and out of necessity.
       We also know that economies are built on industry clusters—something that already exists in Wellington and needs just enough encouragement from a supportive mayor and council.
       We also know that in the 21st century, trying to grow an economy based around primary products and natural resources is an outmoded idea. They are important, of course, and New Zealand will always need a vibrant primary sector, but the real growth is in intellectual capital—something which people in national politics seem to lack.
       What we don’t have are enough people seeking public office who can see this. People who want to grow the economy. People who believe enough in the intelligence and innovation of New Zealanders.
       Well, I believe in us, and I believe in our potential. I also don’t believe in robbing everyday New Zealanders of their hard-earned cash.
       While some rates’ increases are already planned by this current administration, let us try to minimize future increases by creating real businesses for Wellington, and for this city.
       Let’s also show the defeatists that they are yesterday’s men. We know better, and we can do better.

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    Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 6 Comments »