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World Bank taps ‘charter cities’ visionary Paul Romer as chief economist

Paul Romer, head of the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University, will be the World Bank's next chief economist. (International Transport Forum/flickr/cc)

Paul Romer, the economist who developed the idea of “charter cities” for poor countries, has been named World Bank chief economist. Helmet Reisen writes for The Globalist that the bank’s choice for this position always hints at “the next area of focus for the institution.”

The special economic zones envisioned by Romer are intended to be sheltered from the corruption and violence that often dissuades economic development in developing countries. Romer also sees potential for experimental startup cities in prosperous countries, such as the U. S., where they could emphasize new technologies such as autonomous vehicles.

But the concept also has critics. Efforts by the Honduran government to create charter cities sparked protests since the designated land is home to indigenous people, according to El Tecolote. Reisen warns that national governments must cede control to foreign investors and corporations. And there are fears that the new cities could become havens for tax evasion and money laundering. Reisen, formerly head of research at the OECD Development Centre, also suggests that charter cities are a form of colonialism.

Romer is a New York University economics professor and director of NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management. Learn more about his vision for new cities here and here. 

The Globalist

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