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Links Roundup: April 2020

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Covid, Trump, and Sri Lanka: Charter Cities Commentary

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re doing well and staying safe.

Marc Andreessen emerged from his Twitter and writing hibernation with an inspiring call to action, It’s Time to Build. Covid has shown that Western institutions are in disarray. To revitalize ourselves, we need to re-commit to building great things. The Charter Cities Institute has run into the complacency he describes in the article. Multi-lateral institutions, which dominate the international development landscape, are resistant to new ideas. They explain why something can’t work, instead of trying to figure out how it might. I used to think I could change their minds. Now I know at best they’ll follow once there’s a successful charter city.

Trump suspended funding of the WHO. Support for Trump or for the WHO has fallen across typical lines. Those more right leaning support the decision to defund the WHO. Those more left leaning, which includes much of the international development community, oppose Trump’s decision. Lyman Stone has a take which I find myself agreeing with. He argues that the WHO has strayed from it’s original mission and funding should be used a leverage to re-set its priorities. This fits within Andreessen’s point about institutional failure. More generally, expect multi-lateral institutions to come under increasing suspicion as the old order decays.

Sri Lanka is building a charter city, though perhaps charter district is a better term, near the capital, Colombo. They are reclaiming two square kilometers to build the district which will include commercial and residential areas, and create 80,000 new jobs. The district is part of Belt and Road and will have its own economic and commercial laws.

Our friends at Utopia organized a fun discussion about innovation in cities and slums with Ed Glaeser and others.

Covid has caused a debt crisis in many emerging markets. There has been some debt relief by the IMF, but more is necessary. Given that a V shaped recovery is increasingly unlikely, many resource rich emerging markets will need to find alternative revenue sources.

As always,

Thank you for reading.

Mark Lutter
Founder and Executive Director, Charter Cities Institute

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