Abstract

This policy paper seeks to present a framework that enables cities to be better and more competitive than they are currently configured to be. We use the term competitive to specify more livable cities that are able to attract more investment, steer economic growth, generate greater fiscal strength, have cleaner environment and most important of all, contribute to the wellness of their inhabitants. In short, we aim at cities that foster inclusive and sustainable growth. Globally, cities compete for human capital, productive firms, higher revenues and greater share in the national and international output. Many cities around the world have deployed the right resources at the right time to transform from a state of stagnant growth or dilapidation to that of a vibrant and strong economy. Pakistan is the fastest urbanizing country in South Asia with an urban population, according to unofficial estimates, of over 50%.1 The cities in Pakistan need to take advantage of this resource of talent and transform themselves into competitive cities. Based on international best practices of city management, urban growth literature and our understanding through research and policy work, we argue that four areas merit urgent attention. The first is cultivating capable, autonomous and fiscally sound local governance mechanisms. The second is attracting, enabling, empowering and facilitating business-especially small and medium sized enterprises. The third is to focus on smart urban planning of cities, in a manner that elevates the concept of urban design beyond just aesthetics and towards functionality. And the fourth is to foster communities, networks and the broader concept of social development through wholesome relationships between people, firms, and institutions.