It is generally accepted that the current trends in Smart Cities point to the need for structural reforms in order to attract private participation, which is quintessential for introducing relevant technologies and reforms in the urban context.
A recent study has shown the need for such reforms in areas such as land acquisition, dispute resolution, permits, information availability and procurement processes that must be addressed.
While India’s business environment ranking has improved, much more needs to be done to step up private participation in urban projects, according to the World Economic Forum—PwC report.
Referring to its 100 Smart Cities project, the report said that besides embedding technology in the delivery of urban infrastructure and services, there is a need to bridge the demand-supply gap in the provision of core urban services such as water, waste management and sanitation.
State and local governments and newly constituted special-purpose vehicles will need to drive the reforms agenda that calls for collaboration among multiple administrative entities.
As the Smart City cost is likely to far exceed the sanctioned amount of funds, private sector participation is necessary for the project to take off in a meaningful way.
The report said institutional reforms call for a unified command structure across multiple planning and administrative bodies within a city, and devolution of power to local government to determine and collect user charges and taxes, to make local bodies financially independent.
Under sector-specific reforms, it has recommended setting up of independent regulators and empowering them where they already exist, among other steps.
India, it says, needs to develop world-class cities to compete at a global scale. The global urban population has risen to 54 per cent of the total and will rise to over 66 per cent by 2050, and India is a significant contributor.
The report highlights that while the country’s urban population currently totals around 410 million people (32 per cent of the total), it is expected to reach 814 million (50 per cent) by 2050.’’