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Charter Cities Podcast Episode 56: Martin Rama and Yue Li on Private Cities

Hosted by Jeffrey Mason, in the company of esteemed guests Martin Rama and Yue Li, our most recent episode plunges into the enthralling domain of private cities. Tune in to explore this new frontier in urban development, the intricate dance between governance entities, and the triumphs and obstacles that confront private cities. Additionally, we'll uncover the promising prospects that await on the horizon.


Host Jeffrey Mason welcomes esteemed guests Martin Rama and Yue Li to another enthralling episode of Charter Cities. Together, they embark on a deep exploration of the intriguing world of private cities, delving into their impact on urban agglomerations and the delicate interplay with local governments. Tune in today to hear their insights on the successes and challenges that private cities face, as well as the potentials that lie ahead. Through engaging discussions and vivid examples, our hosts and guests will illustrate the multifaceted landscape of private urban development. Martin and Yue share their perspectives on how private actors are reshaping urban environments and the intricate dynamics that govern these relationships. As our episode unfolds, the conversation navigates the complexities of urban development, revealing the key facts and insights surrounding this captivating subject. Thanks for listening!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The significance of private cities as major urban agglomerations with political constituencies
  • The push for a voice and a shift towards traditional cities as the population grows
  • Resistance against converting successful private cities into traditional ones
  • Strategic underinvestment by private actors in services, relying on government provision
  • Evolution of institutions between private actors and local governments
  • Designing private cities to offer improved services and environments
  • Willingness of residents and firms to pay a premium for land
  • Benefits for developers or companies through increased land value
  • Exploration of different private city models and demographic focuses
  • A historical look at private cities and their reemergence in modern times
  • Examples of private cities in both advanced and developing countries
  • An overview of private cities and their types in various countries
  • Focus on initial research in South Asia, including India and Pakistan
  • Indonesia’s status as the country with the highest number of private cities
  • Categorization into company towns, strategic cities, and mixed cities
  • Prevalence of strategic cities in Indonesia, with some in India
  • An analysis of economic activities and government support in private cities
  • Various economic activities spearheaded by the private sector
  • Efforts to seek favorable treatment from the government
  • The role of special economic zones and infrastructure support
  • Strategies to attract specific industries and investors
  • The urgent need for empirical research on economic dynamics and inequality
  • Tentative conclusions and a call for further research
  • Definitions and challenges associated with private cities
  • Contradictions with typical city governance run by local government
  • The leading role played by private actors in planning, financing, and service operation
  • Challenging but not new conventional notions of city governance
  • Public-private partnerships (PPPs) in private city governance
  • Topological studies, inventories, and governance evolution within private cities
  • Variations in roles and functions between the private sector and local government
  • Land value capture and equity issues in private city development
  • The viability and underinvestment associated with value capture limitations
  • Creative equity solutions, such as preserving original residents or project shares
  • Exploration of alternative value recovery and fairness mechanisms
  • The challenges faced by local governments in designing effective value-capture strategies



“What we have found and what motivates our book is that in developing countries, there are
quite a few significant cities…where a leading role was taken by a private actor.” — @Martin Rama [0:02:24]

“In the past, it was mainly weak government and that’s what we see now in developing countries nowadays; in advanced economies, it’s not weak government, it’s a mismatch between the
constituencies making the decisions and the urban agglomeration that is economically viable.” — @Martin Rama [0:06:13]

“We have not seen many organizers as PPPs even if that will seem like the natural way to approach this gigantic investment project where you want to tap the expertise on the financial capacity of a  private player.” — @Martin Rama [0:17:29]

“We do see a very interesting and stimulating feature of private cities being that some of them are not all taking on economic activities more or less kind of industrial and entrepreneurial, but not state, but kind of entrepreneurial uptake on the economic activities at the city level.” — @Yue Li [0:19:31]

“It’s really challenging in terms of data collection. … What are the boundaries if we want to compare thinking about segregation? So can we get accurate information either from government or private sector?” — @Yue Li [0:36:54]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Publication: Private Cities: Outstanding Examples from Developing Countries and Their Implications for Urban Policy

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

Martin Rama on The World Bank

Martin Rama on LinkedIn

Charter Cities Institute

Charter Cities Institute on Facebook

Charter Cities Institute on Twitter


Kurtis: Welcome to the Charter Cities Podcast. I’m Kurtis Lockhart. On each episode, we invite a leading expert to discuss key trends in global development and the world of cities, including the role charter cities and innovative governance will play in humanity’s new urban age.

For more information, please follow us on social media or visit

Jeffrey: I’m Jeffrey Mason, research manager at the Charter Cities Institute. Joining me on the podcast today are Martin Rama and Yue Li. Martin has been a consultant to the World Bank’s presidency since 2021. Previously, he served as lead economist for Vietnam, as Director of the World Development Report, and as Chief Economist for South Asia and for Latin America and the Caribbean. Yue is a senior economist at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is previously a senior economist at the World Bank. Our topic of conversation today is their new book published through the World Bank, Private Cities: Outstanding Examples from Developing Countries and Their Implications for Urban Policy. We discuss the history and current state of private cities, how they’re governed, and what we know about this burgeoning area of research and what is to come. Please note that Yue joins us a few minutes into the episode. I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation.

Jeffrey: Welcome to the show, Martin.

Martin: Hello, Jeff. Thank you for having me with you.

Jeffrey: So I’m very excited to discuss your new book on private cities, co-authored with Yue Li on private cities, and specifically private cities in developing countries and that particular context. So before we get into this discussion, can you share exactly what is a private city, what constitutes a private city, and how are they different from traditional types of cities?

Martin: We chose the term private city in a deliberate way because it suggests a contradiction. We all have the idea that cities are run by some level of government, that there are jurisdictions, and sometimes there may be several jurisdictions involved. So the administrative boundaries do not necessarily overlap with the economic urban boundaries. But there is this idea that it is some form of local government that runs a city, typically plans, builds infrastructure, can be contracted out to the private sector, but the leadership is on the government side. And what we have found and what motivates our book is that in developing countries, there are quite a few significant cities. So we are not talking about gated communities or industrial parks or business improvement districts, but really cities, places that connect people and jobs, that have mass transport and so on, where a leading role was taken by a private actor. And I use the word actor in a broad sense because there is a multiplicity of actors that can be involved. In many cases, these are large developers, but you can have a big company, you can have a business association, you may even have a civil society organizations or in the most extreme cases, governments from a different country. So what we found is there is something that is different from the textbook model of a city where local governments plan, finance, build, run services and what we found is that also this kind of entity was very common in the history of nowadays advanced economies. So we wanted to play with the term private cities to create this call for attention. Here is an entity that is not what we expected and we have not thought so much about.

Jeffrey: And you mentioned that private cities as you’re defining them, there’s sort of a long history there. Setting aside these particular sort of more modern examples, what do you think is the reason why we’ve now seen in the past couple of decades this reemergence of these private city style urban agglomerations?

Martin: Let me first make a comment on the past. In the history of nowadays advanced economies you had private cities probably for some of the same reasons why you see them now in developing countries is that there wasn’t a functional government able to take on these functions and so you had different examples. In the Middle Ages, Paris was mainly run by the guild of the Boatsmen Association because it was a port and it was the way they used to run the business. So if you take in the Renaissance, Florence was the city of the Medit family. So you have a very powerful family and city-state is almost a little kingdom and then you had company towns during the industrial revolution why you had all these things it’s because there wasn’t truly a government that could take on that role. Our sense of the re-emergence of these private cities nowadays is that something else is happening. In some cases. We have some of these very big companies that are creating campuses for their employees and for the services they provide. And they enter into a negotiation with the local government like a big player. Like in the kind of analytical model we have in our book, which is a game theoretical model where you have two big players and trying to find what kind of transfers will make these mutually advantages deal. But we also have cases where we think that nimbus is at play is you have places with enormous potential but each of the entities or jurisdictions in that place may have a veto power for some reason. So you cannot move on from a set of communes to really a city and someone else takes on that role not a traditional local government, but some entity that may be public but has a CEO and is not. Again that image of normal city. So if I had to summarize, I would say in the past it was mainly weak government and that’s what we see now in developing countries nowadays in advanced economies it’s not weak government, it is a mismatch between the constituencies making the decisions and the urban agglomeration that is economically viable.

Jeffrey: Yeah, and I think that’s particularly interesting in the context where a lot of developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, there’s not really much of a sort of formal legal tradition of sort of local municipal government. They’re either very constitutionally, they’re either very weak and reliant on transfers from the center and this kind of thing, or in some cases don’t really exist at all. So I think it is interesting, this context in which some of these projects tend to emerge. And while we’re discussing this sort of high-level topic, I’ll quickly direct our listeners, in addition, of course, to Martin’s book on this topic I’d encourage folks to check out. CCI has recently released our New Cities Map, which isn’t just private cities, it’s all types of cities. It tries to log all of them with information about each since 1945. So I’d encourage our listeners, as a nice supplement to Martin’s book, to go check out our New Cities Map.

Martin: Yeah, definitely. Having an inventory of these new entities, these unusual urban agglomerations is a very important first step in our book. We did detailed inventories for four countries, and that was a relatively major exercise, we found that there were many more than we had imagined, and some of them on a large scale. But if I may go back to a point you made on how constitutionally some places do not have empowered local governments, I think that’s a very valid point. So there is one general issue, of course, in a developing country, you will find less capacity than in an advanced economy. So that, you may think happens everywhere. But in some places, the institutional arrangements are such that the equivalent of a CEO in a private city, which is the mayor in a traditional city, is a figure without power, because most of the decisions on infrastructure, water, and electricity, are made by line ministries and the local departments, and the coordination becomes a big problem. So in that respect, there is something similar to the nimbus of advanced economies, is that you add a coordination problem on top of a capacity problem.

Jeffrey: Yeah, absolutely. Now, you mentioned just now that when you were sort of doing your own accounting of how many of these types of cities there are, and you encountered quite a bit. So one I’m wondering if you could give us a sense of scale. You said four countries. What were the four that you looked at and how many private cities did you find? And then I’m also wondering, obviously, there’s lots of different types of new cities intended to serve some purpose or that purpose. And so there’s kind of a typology of these different types of new cities, of private cities. So could you tell us a little bit about the different types that you found?

Martin: What we decided to have was countries in different contexts. And so we have Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan in our inventories. India and Pakistan, two countries from South Asia, because that’s where our research started. I think the constitutional arrangements in countries in South Asia are exactly like what we were discussing before is that you don’t have empowered local authorities and therefore we expected the phenomenon to be much more important. But it turned out that Indonesia is the country where we found the most of these private cities and it’s not necessarily because of an issue of low capacity. Indonesia is a middle-income country, but it’s because the government, since the reforms, the decentralization that happened at the end of the Suharto regime is tapping the private sector much more deliberately with in fact good, interesting policy frameworks. So in the case of Indonesia, by our definitions, we try to start to have a standard metric on how many square kilometers they need to cover, how much in terms of population and so on. In Indonesia, we have close to 50 private cities that match this. In India and Pakistan, close to 20, in Egypt, half a dozen. And what we did is to classify them into three big types just to have some consistent comparison. One is the places that are really like the company towns of the Industrial Revolution, where you can identify one firm producing goods or services that needs a base for operation that is significant. At the other end, you have what we call strategic cities. Strategic cities, as I mentioned the case of Indonesia where the government deliberately tries to tap the capacity, expertise, the financial resources of some large player and creates a legal framework conducive to that. And in between we have what we call mixed cities where you have this coordination issue. You have a traditional local government trying to run and develop a city and at the same time, one or several large private actors doing the same thing and taking advantage of the infrastructure that the local government is building, for example. So we have these three groups under share in different countries is very different. Again, as I was saying, strategic cities represent a bigger share in Indonesia than the other countries. But also in India we have some cases.

Yue: Again, just to clarify, we are talking about topologies for the inventories, not for the significant cities in that case study. Then to be honest, and I don’t know if we want this for the audience, for the inventory, the initial purpose is to do a pooling and then screening, select the most interesting one and then do more in-depth studies so we understand the dynamic more. So, to be honest, for the inventory in general, we didn’t study its kind of history as detailed as the 14 case studies. That’s kind of the caveat. So perhaps there are some evolution but we don’t capture it as well. We kind of let’s take a snapshot looking at their general characteristics and then to make a classification and do the selection. Yeah, if trying to think of the evolution, there are some cases that for instance in India, there are some of the cases that kind of fall into the so called ICT city and initially it’s more, I would say mixed city in terms of its governance, and then gradually the two sides start to work together in terms of governance and have representative from both sides and try to again try to work together and then from the government side try to leverage the private sector more deliberately. I feel that’s some kind of evolution and then also again, Martin, correct me if I’m wrong, I felt like we talk about especially for the 14 case studies where we pay a more attention, gather the really richer information. What we saw is this again evolution of governance that some of the cities start as more prototype of private cities but gradually the governance kind of getting back to local government. For instance, the Indonesia case, Batam, initially it’s more private sector driven and then you have a development authority, focus on land allocation, focus on providing infrastructure, but gradually the local government. So it’s more kind of almost direct governance structure from the central government, from the president side. But then gradually that governance structure kind of evolved down to local government and then the local government take more traditional role in terms of the city development.

Martin: One could be tempted to say, Jeff, that precisely the success of these private cities in terms of becoming significant urban agglomerations means that they create a constituency, a political constituency. All of a sudden you have tens, hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of people living in one place. And of course when this private city started it was mainly action by the private actors. But when you have tens or hundreds of millions of people in one place, there is clearly a push for voice. And we have found that trend toward having at some point a shift to our traditional city quite consistently. Not everywhere. There is for instance, the case of Jamshedpur in India which is a very successful private city associated with the Tata Group that has been a private city for 100 years and government has been trying to convert it into a traditional city, but Jamshedpur is still fighting that through the courts. And I think in general is a part of the population that is probably satisfied because the quality of the service in Jamshedpur is higher than out of it. But you see that kind of transition. And if I may add something that is interesting is that our sense is not something we elaborate about in the book, but from the conversations and the analysis in different cases. For instance, in the case of Gurgaon in India is that the private actors know that this happened and can use it strategically. Because, for instance, if you have a constituency that will be asking for services of quality electricity that is reliable water and sanitation you can, as a private actor, somewhat underinvest in these things and then through the political dynamic have the government step in and have to provide these things anyway. So this institutional evolution that we see, we also have the impression as part of our future research agenda that is a very important element of the dynamic game that is being played between the private actors and the local government.

Jeffrey: Yeah, I think this interaction that you’re describing is really fascinating and how some of these cities, or maybe even most kind of make this transition from private to traditional at some point in their life cycle while others resist. This either just sort of through inertia, if you will, or in some cases right, like you mentioned, Jamshedpur, where it’s sort of an active battle. Is this a function of how these projects are organized? Are most of these organized as PPPs in a formal sense? What does that relationship typically look like?

Martin: We have not seen many organizers as PPPs even if that will seem like the natural way to approach this gigantic investment project where you want to tap the expertise on the financial capacity of a private player. But we have found an explicit PPP model or some kind of contracting mainly in East Asia, in China, in Vietnam and there the transition may be part of the design, the institutional revolution may be part of the design. Say after 50 years the city will be handed over to a local government. Or it may be an arrangement, an open ended arrangement like oh, the city will be 30%, the return from the city will be 30% government and 70% private whole life of the city over a longer period, say 99 years. These cases are very interesting but they seem to be more the exception than the rule. What we see is an interplay where often it looks as if the local government was almost caught by surprise by the emergence of displayers like the emergence of disorganization not being very clear on how to handle it and is a setting that evolves as investments are being made, as population settles in, as firms start producing in place rather than through a clear design beforehand, which really requires a lot of capacity.

Jeffrey: So on this topic of governance arrangements, a lot of the new cities that CCI either works with or that we simply observe today in Africa and elsewhere, a lot are organized under some kind of special economic zone law. Do you see much of that in the private cities that you’ve studied or are these cities typically playing kind of under the same in terms of economic activity, the same regulatory frameworks as cities elsewhere?

Yue: We do see very interesting and stimulating feature of private cities being some of them not all taking on economic activities more or less kind of industrial and entrepreneurial, but not state, but kind of entrepreneurial uptake on the economic activities at the city level. But it doesn’t always come with special economic policy. Again, because we see it as private sector driven. So it doesn’t always come with okay, the government give it. So it’s again a full spectrum. It starts in some cases the private sector take the lead and seeking through maybe political activism to seek some favorable treatment in terms of bounded area and favorable taxation that we observed in the early cases of Latin America and in the case of Samperasula. And in the other spectrum, as Jeff you asked, for instance in the case of Batama, again is the government give a special economic zone type of treatment from the start and then combined with providing infrastructure so the Singaporean government linked developers can develop those industrial parks and support economic activities. And in between there is also just the private sector being active without necessarily have very explicit tax treatment or special economic zone treatment. For instance, in China, the case is that the firms thinking about city industry development is their selling point, differentiating them from other real estate developer. So they don’t focus just on residential, high end residential. They focus on having an army of people to identify what kind of activities may be suitable for this city and try to then actively seek people to invest in the area. And similarly in the case of Gogon India, the private sector is the one and somewhat in the autobiography he described that with support of government but meet with a significant investor from the US and that lead to this whole backend services sector investment in India.

Jeffrey: Thanks. So, while we’re sort of on this topic of governance, one thing that you guys devoted chapter in the book too, I think is really important and is really interesting, especially when thinking about sort of an economic model for these types of projects, is the issue of land value capture and how these private cities can use land value capture. So what does that sort of look like in this context? How are private cities using land value capture? What are the tools in the land value capture toolbox that they have at their disposal?

Martin: I would like to go back a bit to your question about the industrial park regime. So I think that in the way you describe the African experience or some of the African experience, there seems to be something that is a bit sequential. The government creates a legal framework that basically identifies zones in which the private sector can operate with some advantages and then the private sector comes in and uses that framework. And that already suggests that there is clarity on the government side on how to approach this urban development. What we found in many cases is that the initiative was much clearly on the private sector side which took on the land assembly who got a special regime from time to time on how to assemble land, not necessarily industrial parks, how to assemble land, how to convert land from agriculture to urban uses. That was special. But where the initiative for that regime clearly came from the private actor, it’s not like a setting is who is the first mover? And while I think by now the success of some of these private cities has made the Industrial Park, big Industrial Park model appealing in the cases we review we have a much more mixed history of emergence on the combination between land assembly, the legal regime, the infrastructure available, the services. So, what we find overall is that across the 14 cities we studied in more detail which roles and which functions the private actor and the local government take varies quite a Lot. So we’ll not say that there is a single model that is dominant. Let me go back to the issue of land value capture. We see the issue of land value capture of course as central to the viability of this privacy and our assessment is that the private sector even in the best scenario cannot capture all the value it creates by developing a city. So, a first implication. Why? Because there are spillovers of different sorts because they will be selling the land at the value of the marginal unit of land but the whole value will need to consider the cverage, not the marginal and you have a situation TP of decreasing return. So there are various reasons why the private sector, even in the best case scenario for the private sector is not able to appropriate all the land value. That suggests that private cities alone will be suboptimal because even if they do their best to appropriate all the land value capture that’s not what society is getting and so they will underinvest. But there are also problems, important problems of equity that are associated with the land value capture. What I just said the fact that the private sector does not appropriate the full value of what it creates will suggest that in some way it needs to be subsidized for efficiency. And if you think what happens in advanced economies when these big companies in ICT sector negotiate with cities, in fact they are getting a transfer. The cities are paying them for developing their huge city like campuses. But that creates a problem of equity. And what we have found in our research is that the problem of equity has been addressed in very creative ways in different cities. For instance by allowing the original residents to keep their villages within the new cities that are developing so that they will have a significant appreciation of the land and will share some of the benefits in some cases even converting the land into shares of the private city project. And of course, there are other ways to recover value for the government through taxation. But what we see in developing countries is that things like property taxes are completely underdeveloped. So there has to be some other mechanisms like general taxation to try to recover some of the value generated for the city and address the equity issues that these private cities raise. So we see this issue of land value capture as very central. And remember how this conversation started. It started by saying one of the main reasons why we see private cities emerging is because of the limited capacity of local government. So if a local government doesn’t have the capacity to plan a city or to build infrastructure for a city, will it have the capacity to design land value capture mechanisms that can address both efficiency and equity? We see this in terms of the research agenda going forward as a very important component in the conversation. Before with Yue, we were mentioning the MP knowing more about the cities with the city as a unit of observation or with household and firms as a unit of observation. But there is a very important conceptual issue of mechanisms design which is how to ensure that land value capture along the way is structured so that we can have efficiency, which is what we want from urbanization, but also equity. That these private cities are not islands of prosperity for the benefit of a small group, including the private actors involved and become really a source of prosperity for the countries they are in.

Jeffrey: Sure. So one thing I’d like to dig into a little bit here rather than from a sort of policy point of view is from the point of view of the actual end user or the resident. We kind of have an expectation in a traditional city of your citizen, resident, taxpayer, et cetera. And there’s an expectation of as being a member of these categories, you have an expectation, at least in theory, of getting these particular functions and services with a private city. At least the term private kind of implies a similar but maybe slightly different relationship about payer versus non payer. Or maybe there’s not. But it seems like there could be sort of a distinction to be drawn there. So I’m wondering if from your study you could describe what the city to resident relationship looks like. And obviously I’m sure it varies greatly across the examples you studied. But what sort of can you tell us about the sort of citizen or the resident versus city relationship?

Martin: I think that the clearest model is the cities that are a bit like premium cities that are offering to companies that things will function to households that they will have good services, green, clean environment that they will not find in traditional cities in their countries. And these residents, households and firms are willing to pay more to pay a premium for the land because of these advantages. In a way it is a transaction where when you think about it that way, the land value capture comes in quite clearly. The developer or the company is working on the city is getting compensated by the fact that land in that area is way more expensive. And as long as they have some grip on the land when they start the process and they sell it gradually or buy blocks to different players, industrial households, commercial, whatever it is, it works that way. It allows them to capture back the investment and more. But not all the private cities we studied are of this sort. For instance, there is a clear difference between those that really cater to the aspiring middle class that wants to be in a safe environment. Security is a big consideration in many of these countries, not just a green environment living in a safe place and cities where the main private actor is a business association, where there is less attention to residents, much more attention to what businesses need in order to operate. Or we have in the case where the private actor is civil society which is El Alto in Bolivia. The residents there were mainly from an ending minority that felt that the government was not providing them services. And so, as residents, what they were trying to do is to organize themselves to get those services that the government was not providing them. So again, it’s not just one model. In all cases firms and households are trying to get in these private cities something that they don’t get well elsewhere or they will not get in that same place without a significant private actor. But the way it works for firms, for houses can vary depending on the type of model. Where we are talking about a premium city is like the aspiration of being a Dubai or a Singapore in a developing country and sometimes the cities are marketed that way. But that’s not the only model.

Jeffrey: Yeah, I do think it’s interesting these different forms of organization and especially those like some of those you mentioned that aren’t just pursuing a sort of premium model but are really trying to create something that is sort of widely accessible. And I think that that’s a particularly interesting type of new city project that we’re increasingly seeing more and more of. I’m wondering if obviously you have this new book. I’m wondering if you could speak to the extent to which we really have empirical evidence about private cities, about how effective they are at providing the services they want to provide or generating investment, their level of affordability. This is something that we’ve kind of observed is that this private cities, new cities, et cetera space is really kind of a nascent research field or it’s often dominated by case study and it’s not particularly an empirically rigorous field. I know that’s something that you’ve tried to introduce a little bit more to this space with this work here and as well as some of your other work in this area. So I’m wondering if you could sort of describe a little bit the sort of state of the research surrounding private cities.

Martin: Sure. As you said, these are completely under research field for several reasons. One is that many of these cities have been growing a bit under the radar screen, and the private sector obviously does not want to disclose too much information about them. So of course you have the sources like satellite imagery, you have population census from time to time, but it’s very different when you have a level of government involved, when you may have development agencies working with a traditional city and funding and when you have a parliament that is requiring transparency on the use of public monies. So the first thing is we have much less data on them. Second, I think there has been a sort of cognitive bias because we tend to think of cities, traditional cities and we tend to interact with local governments when it comes to cities we have for instance in international organizations much less experience about working with these new entities and understanding these new entities. So we see, what we did in our book was, as I mentioned, kind of detailed inventory for four countries. But four countries is small number in an event, even if they are very interesting. And these 14 case studies that were much more in depth, where we tried to codify so as to do like a meta analysis, how was the land assembled? Who was the main private actor? How did the private actor interact with the local government? How did land value capture operate? So we tried to document using a consistent format the 14 cities and try to extract regularities and we believe that we learned a lot that we didn’t know when we started this research just out of this. But our sense that we are scratching the surface, that there is an entire agenda that includes what you are doing at CCI, which is to have really a full inventory and standard metrics for the cities population, surface economic activity or night lights or whatever it is that one wants to use, but also informations of other sorts. For instance in a lot of what we do in economic development we use household level data, firm level data to analyze performance and it will be interesting for instance to use these same kind of analysis using the boundaries of these private cities as almost natural experiments. So how different is the dynamic of comparable firms on one side on the other side of the border? So what kind of contribution to economic dynamics these places make? How much if you take the household side, how much wealthier and equal they are compared to the surroundings? So there is an empirical agenda that involves both cities as unit of observation and firms and households as units of observation to try to understand more. So we believe that with this book what we have done or we have aspired to do is to put this agenda on the table and we are not the only ones. You at CCI have been basically doing something similar but we see quite a lot of new research needed before. For instance, we come to conclusions like what are the risk? What are the potentials how to address the potential pitfalls so that we make the most of private cities in our book, based on the analysis we conduct, we try to explore different options, but it’s still relatively tentative. So for us, this is just the beginning of our research.

Yue: Yeah, to add to what Martin just said, I think, again, I fully agree. It’s really challenging in terms of data collection. Again, not to add too much new, just highlight first is where are the cities located? What are the boundaries if we want to compare thinking about segregation? So, can we get accurate information either from government or private sector? What’s the boundaries for private cities? Secondly, how to maybe use some of the modern data, like cell phone information to help capture some of the measure economic activities and so on and so forth?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I think this is a great sort of call to research. And I was going to ask, where are you going with this work anyway? So thank you for preempting me. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation on private cities and on your work. And I think the work that you two have done is really sort of pioneering in this burgeoning research space. You’re really sort of laying down some key foundational building blocks here. I think it’s an excellent point and a great point to stop. So I want to thank you both for coming on the show and for sharing this really excellent work with us. I want to remind listeners it’s Private Cities: Outstanding Examples from Developing Countries and Their Implications for Urban Policy. And you can download it right from the World Bank. So I want to thank you both for joining today and looking forward to seeing your additional research in this topic and I hope our listeners will continue to engage with your really interesting and exciting work.

Martin: Thank you very much, Jeff, for having us with you, and thank you to the audience for the interest. We look forward to continue collaborating with CCI. It has been an excellent collaboration so far and our agendas are really very close.

Yue: Yeah. Just echo, Martin. Thanks for the opportunity and looking forward to work more, perhaps on the Empirical part on PPP as we discussed. Thank you.

Jeffrey: Fantastic. Thank you both.

Martin: Thank you, Jeff.

Kurtis: Thanks so much for listening. We love engaging with our listeners, so please always feel free to reach out. Contact information is listed in the show notes. To find out more about the work of the Charter Cities Institute, please follow us on social media or visit

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