In this Project Syndicate’s article entitled “Life in the Uber City“, MIT’s Senseable City Lab researchers encourage policymakers to direct resources towards supporting “a bottom-up” ecosystem to make smart cities a reality and also to nurture “the regulatory frameworks” which creates the urban space to allow innovations to thrive.
On one hand, I agree with their call to enable a more conducive regulatory environment for smart city innovations like Uber, Nest and Airbnb to flourish, but I also believe that technology multinationals programmes such like Microsoft CityNext and IBM Smarter Planet should not be avoided. These multinationals play a very important role to support the larger local technology economy and provide important institutional knowledge and best practices to make such smart cities innovations truly scale up beyond district level and spread the benefits across the entire city.
Therefore, policymakers should not be forced to go one way over the other but keep an open mind about technology, and focus their effort on developing a regulatory environment which supports all innovation from both sides – start-ups or multinationals, to thrive, and that’s a really smart choice.
Corporate accounting scandals, subprime mortgage crisis and European sovereign debts concerns aside, the next looming overseas financial crunch to hit Australia and where it can really hurt is China’s mounting municipal debts. The FT and Citibank estimated the bad debts to be around USD 294 billion-350 billion respectively. While there is little doubt that China can cope with this debt, how the Chinese Government is going to reduce the local governments’ bad debt exposure. Could this reduction avoid massive demand cuts for Australia’s commodities that could (directly) impact up to 10% of Australia GDP?
At the start of global financial crisis (GFC), the Chinese government announced a 4 trillion yuan (USD 586 billion) national stimulus plan, with 38% of the stimulus allocated to infrastructure projects. Local banks lending limit were lifted, and urged to support the country’s growth in midst of the GFC. The market became awashed with easy money and local governments embarked a massive infrastructure spree. Many such projects were being financed through quasi-independent companies. Some of such companies were created by local governments in order to subvert lending restrictions imposed on Central government.
Last week, these practices finally hit the headlines when Liu Jiayi, the Head of the National Audit Office, in a report to the National People Congress (report in Chinese), cast doubt whether those over-exposed local government has the means to repay their loans or would ended up as bad debts? The State Council (China’s Cabinet) responded by ordering all provinces to review all debts, cease illicit local financing and investment and detail a financial health report by end of 2010.
Undoubtedly this directive would result less infrastuture projects and decrease demand for Australian commondites. The Australian mining industry and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) will want to incorporate this development in their mid-term growth forcast in light of the weakness in the global banks.