kinossian, nadir

The Image of a Competitive City: the Gap between Aspiration and Reality

Competitiveness has become one of the imperatives of the modern urban, regional and national economic analysis and policy. The politicians in post-socialists cities have fully embraced the idea of private investment as the main driver of local development. Local authorities make significant efforts to create a good business climate, use place branding and marketing to promote places internationally, offer various forms of government assistance to businesses in order to attract private investment, jobs, skilled migrants, international events and visitors. Under a weak democracy, authorities often use competitiveness rhetoric to avoid public scrutiny and to obstruct meaningful debates about important development choices. The preferred options are presented as necessary, required by the need to compete on the global market with other cities. This approach may lead to social cost and negative long-term environmental consequences.

The paper shows how competitiveness thinking affects policy-making and urban planning in the capital city of Kazan, Russia. Several “flagship” projects have been implemented in Kazan in recent years and transformed the image of that former heavily industrialised city according to a new logic of urban competitiveness. Those projects did not succeed in attracting elusive foreign investments as the lion share of the funding came from the government sources and the government-controlled industries. The projects have helped to facilitate a policy shift from comprehensive socio-economic development to the pursuit of development projects and programmes that are thought to promote the city internationally, place it on the global mental map and attract private investment. The paper conclude that competitiveness, being a controversial concept offers a powerful and seductive policy discourse that legitimise the implementation of impressive grand-projects that convey the image of a competitive city that arguably sprints ahead of the reality.

Wednesday 24 October 16:45-18:45 Panels II, Panel 6 Competition and Democray II (Hall 15)