Inside the World Class City

South African municipalities are legally obligated to develop medium-term integrated development plans (IDPs) and annual business plans and budgets. Where IDPs allow for incremental five-year planning, thereby facilitating achievement of long-term goals through medium-term delivery, business plans allow for detailed operational planning and the articulation of deliverables per department, for the financial year ahead. The city’s executive accepts that basing both the IDP and business plans on a long-term city strategy is essential, especially when “far reaching developmental outcomes” are at stake. The City of Johannesburg’s first long-term strategy document was passed in 2006 and set out to offer a “coherent story” of Johannesburg’s future development path. Responding to recent developmental shifts, including South Africa’s incorporation into the BRICS bloc of developing economies, the introduction of the New Growth Path, and the establishment of the National Planning Commission and a new Department of Human Settlements, the City of Johannesburg recently revised its 2006 growth and development strategy (GDS) with the introduction of a new forward-looking strategy. GDS 2040, as it is known, “envisions Johannesburg as a World Class African City of the Future—a vibrant, economically inclusive and multi-cultural African city”. Johannesburg is not the only city aspiring to be “world-class”. Many Indian cities are actively redefining themselves to be presentably “world-class”, including Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. “As an instance of homegrown neoliberalism, the Indian world-class city is inevitably a normative project,” writes urban studies scholar Ananya Roy in Worlding Cities (2011). The analysis easily transposes to South Africa, where worldliness is high on the branding agenda, both in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Why? And for whose benefit is the world-class city? We look at two urban scenarios: Johannesburg and Bangalore.

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