Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

Boston tram Boston Globe/Getty Images

The Hidden Wealth of Cities

As the world becomes more urbanized, better budgeting has become a key concern for city leaders everywhere. Unlocking the public value of poorly utilized real estate, for example, or monetizing transportation and utility assets, could and should become core urban strategies.

STOCKHOLM – The world is becoming increasingly urbanized, as more people are choosing to live in towns and cities than ever before. The trouble is, most urban areas are unprepared to manage the influx.

Cities around the world face a looming investment crisis that makes them less livable than they should be. The maintenance of vital social and economic infrastructure, not to mention development planning, is being delayed because of a lack of cash. With local governments’ finances burdened by continuously expanding spending commitments, public resources in many cities are highly constrained.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Even struggling cities own a range of commercial assets that can be used to reverse these trends. Unlocking the public value of poorly utilized real estate, for example, or monetizing transportation and utility assets, could and should become core urban strategies. This does not require privatization, but rather that assets could yield a reasonable return, freeing more resources than most cities currently have on hand. In fact, through smarter asset management, cities could more than double their investments without having to raise taxes or cut spending.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/kGLIhVk;

Handpicked to read next

  1. elerian122_Peter MacdiarmidGetty Images for Somerset House_bigdatascreentechman Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House

    Adapting to a Fast-Forward World

    Mohamed A. El-Erian

    The world is going through a period of accelerating change, as four secular developments illustrate. Firms and governments must make timely adjustments, not only to their business models and operational approaches, but also to both their tactical and strategic mindsets.

    1
  2. roubini137_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images_xi putin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

    The White Swans of 2020

    Nouriel Roubini

    Financial markets remain blissfully in denial of the many predictable global crises that could come to a head this year, particularly in the months before the US presidential election. In addition to the increasingly obvious risks associated with climate change, at least four countries want to destabilize the US from within.

    6
  3. tharoor137_ Hafiz AhmedAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_india protest Hafiz Ahmed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Pariah India

    Shashi Tharoor laments that the government's intolerant chauvinism is leaving the country increasingly isolated.