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Need for accountable Indian cities

India needs to increase the accountability of its cities in order to increase their financial independence.

In his description of India’s accountability and Governance at London School of Economics publication, Charles Correa, a famous architect and urban planner says:

“India has many growth options. It is not dominated by any single primate city, which pre-empts all investment – like Lagos and Nigeria”

The wide range of tier one and tier two cities in the country are the symbolic of India’s progress and ambition. However, these growth engines are still dependent on the Union and State governments for its fuel. For instance, the largest revenue source for a city currently is the property tax collected by the state and then passed on to the municipalities. Last year, India’s financial capital, Mumbai got mere Rs 3,000 crore as revenue through property tax. Hence, for an economy to match up to the rate of growth in the cities, it is important that the urban infrastructure and services are financed in the best possible manner.

M G Rao and Richard Bird have tried to look at this exact problem in their paper “Urban governance and Finance in India”. The primary objective of the paper is to find solutions for urban governance and finance in India in the context of lessons drawn from fiscal federalism theory and experiences of governance institutions. The paper points out the inadequacy of the resources with the urban government and suggests three major requirements for efficient provision of public services: efficient assignment of function, strengthen local accountability and making the user pay for the benefits. Out of these, strengthening the local accountability is an vital aspect for any municipal body to attain financial independence.

As of now, the primary reasons for financing options available with the cities being limited are- the inability to comprehend the flow of funds, and the lack of institutions to handle bankruptcy. Rao and Bird talk about this in detail as they point out the lack of debt market in India and the necessity to strengthen and deepen markets, particularly land and capital markets. In order to increase the local accountability, some of the steps essential for the cities include maintaining and publishing a detailed financial statement such that the flow of funds can be tracked. The Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) in their recommendation gives high importance to this specific criteria by making it an important factor in deciding the Performance Grant. The Performance Grant constitutes 20% of the total grants given to the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) by the Commission. In their recommendation, the FFC acknowledges the purpose of the Performance Grants to ensure reliable audited accounts and data of receipts and expenditure, and improvement in own revenue.

With regard to the lack of institutions to handle municipal bankruptcy, Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has suggested a chapter on bankruptcy of municipalities be introduced in the proposed bankruptcy Bill by the finance ministry.

It is important to understand that we can only hope for a vibrant capital market at the city level if we have our basic process for accountability and bankruptcy in place. In simple words, we need to fix the books within the municipalities before we ask for a bond market.

Image source: Andreas Praefcke, Wikipedia

Devika Kher is the Program Manger of Takshashila’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy course and a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

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To keep the money where you raise it

Tax Increment Financing is amongst the many public financing methods that the cities in India need to explore further.

The City of Chicago, the third biggest city in United Sates of America, evidently requires a large revenue source to maintain the needs of a growing population of two million plus. It is in this attempt that there are various innovative financing methods used by the Chicago government to raise revenue. One of the methods that stands out is the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) method. It refers to a funding tool that allows the extra property tax to be used in the region itself.

TIF is generally used for a given region, whereby the taxes collected in the region are called base revenue and any amount collected above the base revenue is captured by the region itself. The taxes above the base revenue, incremental revenue, is used for economic development in the region earmarked under the TIF. It is usually spent on the public work or to attract private businesses in the region. TIF is usually used in regions that are declared “underdeveloped” and are considered to be dependent on the public expenditure for growth.

This method of funding have been supported by experts in urban planning like Donald C Shoup. The basic argument being that the citizens tend to pay more taxes if they can see tangible changes from their contributions. In his paper The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup makes the case that the curb side parking revenue could be used to fund the Business Improvement Districts just like TIF is used for redevelopment projects from the increases in property tax revenues. TIF, therefore, acts as a pool of fund that can be used by the given region to attract business and economic opportunities based on the contributions by the population directly benefitting from it.

Although it may sound like a good idea, TIF has been severely criticised for being biased towards the business units and acting like a subsidy for the rich businesses. In their attempt to attract higher private investments, the regions tends to give large subsidies to the businesses. Thereby, diverging money away from the basic requirements like improving and maintaining infrastructure in the region.

The other major complaint regarding TIF is that it leads to development in the regions that do not need it as much. As TIF is collected from the funding made over and above the basic property tax, it is inevitable that regions with high income populations tends to collect higher funding as compared to poorer neighbourhood. Hence, TIF tends to limits the distribution of resources in a given region rather than help distribute it.

Having said that, TIF is an interesting tool that can be used to raise the local revenue and to incentivise higher tax collection in various wards in the city. The ward members can be made responsible for the use of the amount raised. The representatives being elected from each ward  will ensure that the members are directly accountable to the local population.

With Indian cities still struggling to find sources to raise revenue, TIF is at least a good option to explore.

Image: http://indypolitics.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/TIFS.jpg

Devika Kher is the Program Manger of Takshashila’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy course and a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

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Urban security and perception of cities

The security in the cities currently is limited in its imagination of city as a series of physical infrastructure.

The strongest common link between 9/11 and 26/11 attacks are their ability to get two of the biggest cities, known as the engines of growth, to a standstill. Even though innumerable attacks on cities like Paris and New York City have shocked the world in the recent times, our cities continue to rely on cure rather than prevention.

The last few years have made urban security a vital part of the national security discourse. With the incessant rise in urban migration there has been a consistent rise in the density and inequality within the cities. This has had two significant impacts- one, just because of the sheer number of people living in cites, the cost incurred from a natural disaster or a terrorist attack is proportionately higher than any incident is the rural end. Secondly, the rise in inequality and limited availability of resources has perpetuated petty crimes and underground network of illegal activities.

As the criminal activity and vulnerabilities of the cities increases, one can rely on economics for answers. The two important economic concepts in play while planning for security within cities are- network effect and tragedy of commons.

Cities are essentially a continuous built up area with high density. This density within the cities reduces the effort involved in connecting people and ideas. It is this feature of cities that makes it lucrative for cities and conducive to crimes. In addition to the huge population that helps to maintain anonymity, cities also offer a wide range of human and capital resource which helps in promoting a network of illegal activities. It is in this regard that factors like unemployment, low standards of living and illiteracy makes it easier to attract more people into criminal activities. Therefore, city policing is incomplete until and unless these interconnections are kept in mind.

Richard Little in the famous paper ‘Holistic strategy for Urban Security’ points out that “it is more effective and economical to think of urban security in neighbourhood or district terms rather than as protecting individual buildings.” As per Little, the city security infrastructure is limited to protecting important building in the country. This is evident as the Research and Development in protecting infrastructure is unscalable. Thereby a certain building being highly protected does not ensure the safety for the neighbourhood. These shortcomings make city infrastructure highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks and natural calamities, even though enough R&D had been done on these issues for years now.

The other major shortcoming in urban security planning, also highlighted by Little, is that a lot of it relies on the promptness and the rationality of the residents. Security is a public good, that is, no one can be excluded from being safe and one person being safe doesn’t stop another person in the same region from being safe. Hence, there is no incentive for an individual to invest in safety if others around him/her are doing so, also known as free rider problem. This one feature of security is the key reason for the limited amount of investment made on personal security by the individuals. This also the reason why the government has ensure public safety.

Hence the current system relying on residents and the citizens to take responsibility for the safety of the neighbourhood is highly optimistic and unreliable.

These two factors are just a part of the bigger problem of understanding and reducing urban security. Hence, the institutions in charge for urban security will have to re-evaluate their understanding of cities such that they stop another 9/11 or 26/11 from taking place.

Devika Kher is the Program Manger of Takshashila’s Graduate Certificate in Public Policy course and a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

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On how politics play out in dual cities

The increased politicisation of the urban land problems brings out the duality in a city.

Solomon Benjamin in his paper, ‘Occupancy Urbanism: Radicalizing Politics and Economy beyond Policy and Programs’ explains the limitation of urban policies due to what he calls occupancy urbanism. As per Benjamin the occupant urbanism refers to spaces where,

Poor groups, claiming public services and safeguarding territorial claims, open up political spaces that appropriate institutions and fuel an economy that builds complex alliances.”

The urban institutions respond to the needs of the poor group who in turn provide benefits such as guaranteed access to the voter list in the elections. One of the most sought after commodity in this bargain is the land. Land, being a scarce resource and a basic necessity, is a highly valuable a commodity in the cities. Benjamin has indicated towards this aspect of the land. As per him,   

“Land (rather than Economy) as a conceptual entry, helps reveal subtle, often stealth-like and quiet, but extensive forms of political consciousness.”

This high value of land makes it an important leverage for the political parties during the elections. In addition to the ‘vote bank’ politics, the high real estate surpluses from large-scale land development has also made land a highly desirable commodity for international donors and the real estate developers. Hence, on one hand the slums continue to expand, on the other hand the real estate builders work towards attaining the surplus that can be derived from large development projects. The sharp conflict between the elite focusing on the land for its surplus while the slum dwellers using their political bargaining power to keep hold on it brings out the dualism in the cities.

As defined by urban sociologist  Manuel Castells, one of authors of ‘Dual City: Restructuring New York’, dual cities are 

“urban systems that are ‘spatially and socially polarised between high value-making groups and functions on the one hand and devalued social groups and downgraded spaces on the other”.

The dual city is a phenomena common around cities where the distribution of resources is starkly uneven. Amongst Indian cities such streak polarity can be seen between regions like Dharavi and Colaba in Mumbai. Colaba is the posh end of the city known for the proximity to the Mumbai’s Central Business District while Dharavi’s claim to fame is that it is of the largest slum in the world. The duality is clearly visible in the way the resources like water supply, digital connectivity etc. are distributed between the two regions.

With the cost of living in a city increasing, this polarisation has only become more prominent. The incessant migration and the rising land value of a city has made the contestations between the real estate developers and the slum dwellers sharper.

One of the solutions to this urban polarity can be to increase accountability at the local level such that the vote bank politics can be replaced with the community participation. The increase in participation will help reduce the nexus between the local political agents and the slum dwellers. Also the urban planners should look at the planning in real timeline in order to reduce the conflict  between the various stakeholders in the city.

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ICT and the perception of a city

The advent of Information and Communication Technology has changed the perception of cities along with urban designing.

In the last two decades Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has modified all the three aspects of a city- economic, social and political. The evolution has been such that ICT has even changed how cities are perceived.

In a chapter in his book “Urban Theory and the Urban Experience”, Simon Parker explains how the perception of cities is getting closer to the idea conceived by sci-fi writers like H G Wells than the urban sociologists like Bruges. Parker expands on how the movement from the machine age to the information age has affected the organisation of capital, labour and space altogether. The most recent examples being the increase in the amount invested by the venture capital funds on startups completely based on internet. The growth of ICT has altered the idea of an industry from being a machine centric unit to a human centric unit. Hence the cities which were defined by the large industries in the neighbourhood have shifted to IT oriented spaces.

This evolution of the organisation and the economical structure has had a major impact on the cities. Parker has broken down the impact of ICT on  three broad areas- first, based on the impact on the physical cities, second, on the urban designing, and finally, how ‘urban’ is perceived in the cyber space.

The impact on physical city, the first broad area, is visible clearly from the present condition of the shopping malls. With the rise in the electronic retail options, the decline in the social relevance of malls as both the shopping and a public space is lost. The easy delivery services and low storage cost has worked in favour of both the buyer and the sellers. The impact doesn’t stop at economic factors though. The virtual world has also affected the relevance of city spaces. For instance, the once thriving fan clubs keeping the cafes in the city alive have all shifted to online forums. It is an outcome of these changes that has eventually penetrated into the current urban designing and planning.

Urban designing is an outcome of the city spaces and resources within the city. The nature of the key economic sector plays a vital role in designing how the public infrastructure is designed. For instance, in the case of Bangalore, the IT capital of India, there are various Tech Parks across the city serving to the needs of the booming IT sector. In other major cities like Mumbai, the financial capital, the expansion is based on the commercial complexes that house various head offices. 

Moreover, the increase in the ICT has modified the way traditional cities were perceived. For instance, with the increase in electronically mediated meeting places, the cost spent on the actual office infrastructure is reducing. The phenomenas like work from home or startups originating in the rented houses are becoming a phenomenon. Hence, the city now are designed to attract highly skilled labour into low cost city spaces that are highly connected both physically and virtually.

This interaction between city spaces and the virtual world is not one sided. As much as the virtual world has modified the perception of cities, the current urban theories and imagination also tend to seep into the virtual world. A common claim with the rise in ICT was of a decline in traditional dense cities. However, as also mentioned by Simon Parker, the rise in ICT is concentrated within the dense metropolis more than the rural ends. Hence, the proliferation of ICT is still reliant on the tradition features of a city like agglomeration economies, and highly integrated networks.

It is therefore evident that the rise in ICT might change the idea of a city from being a cluttered space covered with smoke from the nearby industrial belt to a set of residential and corporate structures relying on ICT to make the city work.

Devika Kher is the Program Manager for Graduate Certificate in Public Policy and a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

Image source: Telectroscope aperture at London City Hall showing Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf, Wikipedia 

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Making housing viable in tier II cities

Tier II cities need to prepare for the impending housing needs to avoid repeating the failures of present megacities. 

In the recent announcement of the 20 cities chosen for the launch of the Smart Cities Mission, it was interesting to see tier II cities like Surat, Jabalpur and Bhubaneswar in the list. With the mega-cities being in midst of complex issues and planning failures, tier II cities are a ray of hope for a planned urban future. One of the primary requirements for any upcoming city is to provide shelter to its current citizens and prepare for the population that would migrate eventually.

Cities create platforms for a large number of people to live in close proximity. This increases the benefits offered by the interpersonal interactions and serendipitous meetings. The proximity and other benefits offered by the city increases the demand for housing within the city. This increase in demand raises real estate prices and makes living in a city expensive. The tier II cities like Jabalpur etc will face this rise in price if the supply in the market is unable to cover for the demand. To avoid this imbalance between demand and supply, it is vital that the planning authorities consider four major remedies: create and maintain land records, keep a high Floor Space Index (FSI), maintain easy and simple building code, and appropriately regulate Transferable Development Rights (TDR)s.

The first vital step to solve the housing problem is creating a set of land records. The identification of the land ownership within the regions will allow the municipal authorities to plan the development of the city better. It will also help guide the growth of real estate in the region. Basic step in this direction can be to ensure that all the land owned in the city is registered. The municipality should also use new technological tools such as Geographic Information System (GIS) to map the cities in a detailed manner.

The second fix is to increase the Floor Space Index (FSI). FSI is the built up ratio permissible on a piece of land. For instance, if the FSI is 4 and the plot of land is 10,000 sq.ft, the built up area would be 40,000 sq.ft. The FSI thereby decides the skyline of the city. A higher FSI artificially creates more living space in the city which helps balance the supply with the demand for housing.

The FSI limitation is set with respect to the burden that the infrastructural resources in the immediate neighbourhood can bear. Hence for the tier II cities, it is also important that resources like roads, sewage etc is planned in such a manner that it can bear the burden that comes along with high FSI. For instance, the greenfield development can be made keeping in mind the population that will be brought into the region due to higher FSI. For the already built up region, the resources can be expanded to accommodate for the growing needs. In return, the land owners can be provided with Transferable Development Rights (TDR)s if any property loss is incurred.

TDRs are the third piece in the solution. TDR refers to the amount of built up area that a land owner can use or transfer to any other agent for an agreed sum of money. TDRs can be used as an instrument to plan and modify the housing pattern in the cities. For instance, most of the cities have a restriction regarding the regions in which the TDRs can be issued. This is based on the same principle as the FSI, whereby, the restrictions on TDRs is based on the neighbouring resources. In a tier II city, the municipality can use the TDRs to further its plans.

An additional fix can be to create simple and easy building codes such that they are painless to understand and allow building development in the most efficient manner possible. The regional development authorities can set the codes such that they are comprehensive and rigorous enough to include the basic safety measures required. In addition to this the hassle of getting the permissions if reduced will also help increase compliance.

With the attention and resources that the tier II cities are receiving from the Smart Cities Mission, there can be no better time than now for the tier II cities to prepare for the inevitable growth.

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Making information handy for the smart citizens

Indian regulation needs to accommodate information aggregators to help create smart citizens. 

Recently cab aggregator ZipGo suspended its operations in Bangalore after facing trouble with the  the Karnataka State Transport Department. One of the major reason for the tension between the start-up and the state is the the Karnataka Motor Vehicle Rules of 1989. As per the Rules, there is no provision for ZipGo to operate services that directly compete with the state-run city bus service under. This is just one of the many examples where the information aggregating services in India have faced trouble while dealing with Indian regulation.

Information aggregators are entities that collect information from a wide range of web sources and other sources, with or without prior arrangements, and add value by providing post-aggregation services. Common example being Uber, a cab aggregation service that helps the demand for cab services meet the supply. By reducing the information symmetry between the customer and cab driver, Uber reduces the search time spent by both the parties. The ease in looking for the customers helps in increasing the number of rides the cab drivers can provide in a day.

Uber is just one of the examples of the varied aggregating services provided across sectors. For instance, Buildkar and Swiggy provide the same service for building construction and food deliveries respectively.  As we look forward to using Information and Communication Technology to make cities smarter, it is vital that enough platforms are provided for the citizens to be able to utilise the resources around them in the best possible form. One of the ways to utilise the resources better can be by reducing the transaction cost faced by the citizens.

Transaction cost refers to the cost other than the money price incurred during an economic exchange. For instance, standing in a queue to get movie tickets is a transaction cost. However, this cost is reduced by online ticket bookings. The time saved provides more leisure time for the citizens and helps them in being more productive and efficient.

In his paper, Jiangxia Hu has listed six benefits of an aggregator: increased diversity of information, broader service availability, reduced searching cost, comparison between alternative choices, better customised to user wants and needs, and reduced transaction time. For instance, Uber the cab aggregator app does not only provide the information about availability of the cabs but also about the driver once the cab is booked. It also provides a wide range of option to choose between the type of vehicle the customer wants to choose. These features of a aggregator makes them more efficient and better equipped to serve the citizens in the technology age.

Keeping in mind the benefits and the increasing reliance on the aggregating services, it is important that Indian regulation accommodates these new platforms. Being the regulator, it is imperative that the government looks at the safety and basic quality standards of these aggregating services. That said, keeping regulations to the minimum will help these services to grow organically though network effect. Blocking or constraining the growth of such services will either harm the market or lead to the growth of illegal platforms providing similar services.

Devika Kher is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

Image source: Sebastiaan ter Burg, Flickr

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Let there be open green spaces in cities

The open green spaces are not just the nature reserves, but also serve as a gateway to other needs of the people living in the city. 

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, was in news last year for the protest between the civil society and the government bodies. The reason for the protest was Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) plan to make Aarey colony one of the limited open green space into a growth hub. Although, BMC’s plan also involved a theme park and various small recreational parks, it was highly opposed by the civic bodies. In order to understand the anger amongst the citizens better it is important to answer the question of what purpose do the open green space serve in a city.

Jacquelin Burgess, Carolyn M. Harrison and Melanie Limb tried to answer this question by looking at the popular meanings and values for open spaces in the city. As per their study, the open green spaces in the city like the parks and natural reserves act as “gateways to a high quality sensory and natural world.”

Their study involved conducting in-depth discussion, neighbourhood based social survey, and interviews. Based on the in-dept study, the authors mention the three important aspects of the role open spaces play in people’s lives:

First, open spaces are experienced holistically as an integral part of the built environment rather than isolated from it. These places include the neighbourhood parks where you go for jogging, the garden in your backyard, the central park in the city like Cubbon Park in Bangalore. The integral nature of such spaces makes them a part of the everyday life of people living in the city.

Second, parks and open spaces are filled with personal and social meanings. The open spaces in the city are havens for social interaction amongst the citizens themselves, and between the citizens and the nature. As the authors of the paper mention, it is in these spots that children can explore, learn and play together in safety, and the adults can come to escape the stressful urban life. Example being the Aarey colony, which has been an important “picnic spot” for decades now.

Finally, beyond and above the previous points, people also look for a variety of environmental features and leisure facilities in open spaces. Generally, people living in the cities also want to experience various aspects of nature not very far from home. Most of the wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks in India cater to this need of the society.

The green spaces in the city are undoubtedly as essential to a city as are the built up spaces. Hence, in this trade off between open space and growth hubs, it is time that proper weightage is given to open spaces. The relevance of these green spaces is best summed up by the authors of the paper.

“The value of green spaces is not to be measured in physical terms: the sum total of acreage or facilities do not provide any indication of the social and symbolic meanings associated with them.”

Devika Kher is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

 

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To keep the traffic flowing, mum’s the word

To be more effective, regulatory bodies can use the type of network goods that function better if kept discreet. 

Bangalore traffic police launched a unique application called Public Eye last year. Public Eye provides a platform for people to capture images of traffic violations and raise complaints while being anonymous. This application is the best example to show how certain network goods are more beneficial if kept discreet.

Network goods refers to the goods whose values increases with the increase in the number of consumers. For example, the Uber app on your phone is a network good as the success of the app relies on how many consumers and drivers are on the platform. The large number of user base, thereby, helps in reducing the asymmetry between the demand and supply for transport alternatives.

A commonly used technique to increase the user base is by publicising the good. For instance, Uber ads can be seen on all mediums like newspaper, billboards etc. However, there are a certain type of goods that acquire a larger consumer base if kept discreet, for example voting. Voting as a tool is more effective if the voter is allowed to be confidential about his or her preference. This confidentiality helps the voter to not be under the fear of being pressurised or being compelled to follow the dominant opinion.

The discreetness followed is also desired for other reasons, such as the novelty value. For example, many tourists are attracted to less famous places as it allows them to escape the crowd. The other reason can be the social perception towards the good. Example being a website like the infamous Ashley Madison, an infidelity-based dating service. In the case of Public Eye, the Bangalore traffic police used similar discreetness to increase compliance with road traffic rules by allowing citizens to post about the violations anonymously.

Providing such platforms that help in supervision while keeping the user discreet has two positive impacts. First, it helps the government to delegate its task as an overseer. Second, it provides platform for the largest cost bearers to do something about it. The confidential nature of such an app thereby helps in building trust within the community that the information revealed would not affect the user directly. This particular nature of the app incentivises people to take the required steps even if they have no skin in the game.

An interesting example will be to test if similar platform will be effective if used to keep a track of bill payments. For example how effective will it be if the residents are asked to inform the authorities about how much electricity their neighbours use.

Devika Kher is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

Image source: Design Package, Flickr

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Tender SURE and the complex coordination

Looking at processes right from the scratch is an efficient way to create successful products as well as efficient sidewalks.

Some of streets in Bangalore attained international standards last year. The credit goes to Tender SURE (Specifications for Urban Road Extension) project, a multi-crore project aiming to upgrade roads in the Central Business District to international standards. Tender SURE is the brain child of Jana Urban Space Foundation, a non-profit trust looking at urban planning and urban designing. It works along with the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore’s Municipal Corporation. The guidelines created under Tender SURE are the first design, specifications, and procurement contract, for urban roads execution in India.

Unlike previous projects, Tender SURE guidelines focus on pedestrians and cyclists rather than the main road traffic. The aim of this project is to provide space for the pedestrians, parked vehicles and hawkers along the streets while keeping the traffic free flowing. In order to attain all the resources required to achieve this objective, the Tender SURE project is working with various government bodies responsible for variety of projects.

This coordination done under Tender SURE is what Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One calls complex coordination. Complex coordination refers to the processes that involves putting “all the components together in a completely new package.” As per Thiel, repackaging helps in innovating the processes right from the beginning. It also reduces the inefficiency cost incurred and improves the outcomes. Tesla Motors, an American automobile and energy storage company serves as a good example for complex coordination. Tesla came up with first set of luxury electric cars by repackaging all components of a car. In this process, Tesla ended up with an ingenious product and created a dealer distribution system from scratch. A distribution system without the dealers. In order to attain similar outcomes, it is vital that city planners are able to coordinate and reimagine policies  from square one.

In this process of re-examining urban issues, complex coordination also creates incentives for government authorities to collaborate amongst each other. This inter departmental interaction reduces informations asymmetry in-between government bodies and allows easy execution of the plans made.  For instance, Tender SURE is modelled with the aim to “fix once and fix right”. It assures that the pavements are designed in such a manner that they accommodate all utilities under the pavement like – electric wires, sewerage and water pipes in one go. Hence, it requires coordination between various government authorities like Bangalore Water Supply and Sanitation Board, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company etc. This co-ordination helps in reducing the asymmetry between the various arms of the municipality.

Out of 20 pilot roads that the Government of Karnataka has allocated budget for under the Tender SURE project, design and working drawings for 12 have completed till date. However, the real success of the project lies on whether it will be able to make citizens demand for more such projects that looks at the problems and solution right from the scratch.

Devika Kher is a policy analyst at Takshashila Institution. Her twitter handle is @DevikaKher.

Image source: http://www.nammasarkara.in/cm-siddaramaiah-opens-world-class-tendersure-urban-up-gradation-road-project/

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