“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard.
Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”
George Claude Lorimer
If I were the mayor of almost any growing town or city in Bolivia, I would engage in land speculation with the municipality’s resources. I would buy up cheap land in strategic places and build streets, install water, sewage, electricity, and in general prepare for ordered urbanization. Then I would sell the plots for about 10-20 times what it cost me to prepare them.
If municipal governments were at the forefront of the urbanization process, instead of lacking decades behind, they could make a lot of money on the services they have to provide anyway. It is also easier to build streets and dig down sewage systems on empty land than on land that is already clogged up with randomly scattered houses.
Apart from being more profitable, such planning and prevision would also enhance safety, as the municipality would only develop areas with relatively low risk of flooding, landslides and other socio-natural disasters. A smooth flow of traffic could also be taken into consideration, as could logical house numbering, and the need for green areas and other public spaces.
The success of a municipality depends a lot on the quality of urban planning. A well-designed city which is attractive to both people and business can attract more tax payers. The additional tax income can be used to provide quality services, which in turn would attract even more tax payers and the municipality would thus enter a virtuous circle of growth and prosperity.
While there is a positive correlation (ρ=0.30) between population size and the Human Development Index at the municipal level, there is a much stronger correlation (ρ=0.68) between the level of urbanization and the Human Development Index (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Urbanization and Human Development at the municipal level
So even if I were the mayor of a small, rural municipality, I would get some urban planning going as soon as possible.
Do you know what you would do if you were Mayor? Leave a reply below.
(*) Director, Institute for Advanced Development Studies, La Paz, Bolivia. The author happily receives comments at the following e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.