FUTURE CAPE TOWN | Paul Romer: The world’s first charter city?

“Essentially people would get the option to opt in if they like the rules of that city and the way it is governed.”

Photograph: Alex Hofford/EPA

Photograph: Alex Hofford/EPA

Paul Romer who is a new-growth economist unveiled an idea for a ‘charter city’ at TED2011.


FCT logoPaul Romer a new-growth economist talks about the idea of charter cities in his Ted Talk.

Romer believes that cities need to be rethought. Instead of reworking established cities the better idea would be to build completely new cities. Cities are worth more than the cost to build them, Romer argues, due to their wealth generating ability and the economic activity it facilitates. These charter cities would all be competing against each other to attract new residents. Essentially people would get the option to opt in if they like the rules of that city and the way it is governed.

Romer seeks to overcome obstacles such as bad rules and weak institutions by mirroring the development of colonial-era Hong Kong by establishing special zones in poorer countries that will have strong institutions and good rules that favour democracy and trade. He believes it is far easier to build a new city than change and old one.


Honduras is the first city developing Special Economic Development Zones (ZEDE) based on Romer’s idea of charter cities. Many hope it will bring jobs and many fear it will become a tool used by organized crime. The idea will be to sell land to investors whereby this land will no longer be governed by the laws of Honduras.

The Ted Talk can be viewed here:charter city

Ultimately the thought on everyone’s minds and lips are: can it work?

Share your thoughts on Romer’s Charter Cities.

Also Read:

There are 2 comments

  1. Walter Fieuw

    Initially Romer’s ideas were also interesting to me, and I watched his videos about principled leadership and charters that bind a city government to “social compacts” of sorts. But after reading more about the implications of “charter cities”, I became convinced that these are neoliberal ideas wrapped in “good governance” packages. Read this good expose by the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/jul/27/paul-romers-charter-cities-idea

    “What they need to do, he argues, is give up a big chunk of their land to a rich country. Policy experts from Washington can take over a patch of Rwanda, and invite along GM and Microsoft and Gap to come and set up factories. Poor countries give up their sovereignty in return for the promise of greater prosperity”

Comments are closed.