For some people, privatisation is the answer to everything, to others, it is the source of all problems.
Cities are rarely seen as a huge force of privatisation, but they provide a lot of work. These positions can be, and often are, privatised.
Gardening, garbage collection, and urban cleaners are all easy targets for privatisation.
But some cities take privatisation to another level.
A Communist’s dream ?
It all started when Jialong Co. bought some farmland and started building.
A a few years later, the city already had 100 000 residents.
They only have to give 75% of the taxes collected to the government and stay in line with the Master plan.
Jialong is providing public services, schools, hospitals, water, and electricity for the city. All managed and contracted by Jialong.
Jialong has had a faster growth than other cities in the region and is seen as a success.
A corporation running a city, doesn’t have to organise elections. Decisions can be imposed pretty quickly if the company manages everything.
Some might argue that freedom is not China’s main quality.
India also has some private cities, with Gurgaon being one of the biggest, in some rankings among the best cities in India.
The city indeed hosts the biggest international companies, and residents are quite wealthy.
However, beneath the golden surface, a lot of structural issues appear.
Starting with unreliable electricity. The city has two coal power plants. Homes and businesses use private diesel generators to avoid blackouts.
Another problem is the sewage. The city generates 533 million litres per day of sewage but can treat only 255 million litres per day.
The most wealthy buildings include sewage treatment. Trucks then pick it up and empty it into nearby rivers.
What a nice way to enjoy your picnic on the riverbed during the summer.
The sewage is connected to tanks, and they are regularly dumped illegally. Which pollutes the water and has a severe impact on the health of the poor using wells to access water.
Private companies brings security to wealthy neighbourhoods, but is clearly absent in less wealthy communities.
This leads to another issue with private cities: the goals of a city and a company are very different.
The city should ensure its citizens’ safety and strive to make them happy.
A company should protect its shareholder. That’s pretty much it.
Gurgaon really offers another view of private cities.
Sandy Springs, in the USA, became a city thanks to the effort of Oliver W. Porter.
It used to be a neighbourhood inside a bigger city.
Oliver is a huge fan of capitalism and has privatised all the city’s management. He outsourced everything.
Animal control, traffic design, business licenses, tax collection, parking tickets, database administration… Everything went private.
When you pay per service, the price will rise, whereas when you employ someone … Well, we both know how much of a raise we can get per year.
In 2019, Sandy Springs saved $7 million per year by employing 500 people.
There is also the issue of the motivations for the city’s creation. It was advertised as a way to limit construction of lower-income housing.
Buuuuut at the time, 94% of home owners were white, and 90% of renters were Black or Latino.
Let’s say it was an unfortunate coincidence… They just really hate poor people.
By making it a city, Sandy Springs manages building permits. They could avoid having apartments or anything that could attract lower-income residents.
They also took ownership of the taxes. In cities, taxes of wealthy neighbourhoods contribute to improving less wealthy neighbourhoods.
Sandy Springs effectively stopped the “solidarity”.
Gurgaon doesn’t provide public services to its poor communities. It’s a dream city for the wealthy: they pay for the best solutions and don’t suffer from bad shared infrastructure.
However, the poor don’t have any infrastructure.
Because profits and cash flow are important, it will never be worth bringing sewage to the poor. Dumping it nearby them is…
In both cases, taxes and common ownership of a city help reduce inequalities. Unsurprisingly, making a city private favours only one category.