Jane Jacobs again

On 1 april 2016, in economie, by Zef Hemel

Read in OECD Territorial Review of the Metropolitan Region Rotterdam-The Hague (2016):

With the financial support of the Ministry of Interior Affairs in The Hague, the OECD published a report on the regional economy of the two Dutch neighboring cities Rotterdam and The Hague. It’s worth reading, especially for the students  following my course on global cities at the University of Amsterdam. How competitive are these two cities in the South Wing of the former Randstad area or, better, why do they lack competitiveness? The OECD concludes that “the distinct socio-economic profiles of Rotterdam (centred on the port and logistics activities) and The Hague (specialised in public administration and services) have contributed to weak functional integration of the MRDH area,” and also the “two cities have not traditionally considered themselves as natural partners”. Commuting flows between the two cities are extremely low, even though the distance between them is less than 30 kilometres. And yes, it’s the most densiliy built area in the Netherlands. ”However, the MRDH lags behind the Dutch average in terms of educational attainment, disposable income and employment.” Globalization is testing the capacity of city-regions to exploit their comparative advantages. MRDH is losing ground. “It has struggled to recover from the 2008 global crisis and continues to be outperformed by other metropolitan areas in the Randstad.”

So what does the OECD advise the Ministry and its two cities? Its key recommendations are:  it’s a long way to go, and best would be “focusing inward to promote greater integration of the MRDH while looking outward to boost the national and international profile of the region”. Personally I hope they will not boost the national and international profile too much. The two cities are quite good at that already. Better look inward. That’s also what I teach my students, I mean, the sustainable development of a city-region requires giving greater attention to the creation and conservation of regional wealth. Especially now that globalization is testing regional economies, big projects are no help, nor does city marketing. Focus on your regional assets. So let’s quote the great American planner John Friedmann, who wrote: “Sustainable development is never bestowed from the outside but must be generated from within the regional economy itself.” Or I would suggest reading Jane Jacobs again: Cities and the Wealth of Nations, 1984.

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