Making Mumbai global hub

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Thursday 15 November 2007

-- with the deadline for receiving comments on the 'Report of the high powered committee on making Mumbai an international financial centre' over, the Union Ministry of Finance is busy vetting the feedback and assessing the recommendations of the report. The 16-member committee had submitted its report in April this year.

On governance, the report recommends giving Mumbai an autonomous status for effective administration. If that is not possible, it wants "to transform the city's administrative structure in a way that creates a fully empowered if not elected 'manager' for the city, who can be held accountable for everything that goes right or wrong in Mumbai". The report says: "Local/municipal governance functions in Mumbai need to be concentrated under an urban development authority (whether elected or appointed, although legitimacy would be enhanced if that authority was elected) that is directly accountable to the city's electorate." This, they say, will also give financial autonomy to Mumbai.

To create world-class infrastructure in Mumbai, the report has suggested attracting "highly compensated specialists with unusual knowledge, experience and skill". The city needs to match the efficiencies of cities such as London, New York and Singapore. This means present "irritations" such as poor roads, air and noise pollution, road and rail traffic congestion, poor health and safety standards and frequent city shut-downs, must be eliminated.

To meet the requirements of an international financial hub, Mumbai should roll out a host of public-private-partnerships (ppp) based on "user charges" to alleviate infrastructure constraints. It recommends bringing down real estate prices in Mumbai to attract global giants.

Experts on urban development warn that the recommendations will make way for privatisation of services. The ppp model, based on actual user charges, may not be viable and beneficial in slum colonies. Residents of resettlement colonies in Mumbai are already facing problems related to maintenance charges and civic amenities. "The government wants to make Mumbai a service industry dominated by finance, it and hospitality sectors. It wants to clear out slum areas like Dharavi to create world-class mini-cities where it can house international professionals," says Raju Korde, president of Dharavi Bachao Samiti. Nominating a manager for Mumbai means establishing a governance system that is undemocratic and is hence being opposed, he adds.

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