Give Tel Aviv greater powers

Eyal Zaum argues that Tel Aviv must be allowed to compete against other global cities.

Has the time come to seriously consider the idea of the State of Tel Aviv? The concept emerged in critique of the lifestyle in the center of Israeli cultural and economic life, but it has real meaning, reflecting the lifestyle and urban functioning which resembles global cities.

The State of Tel Aviv is ostensibly a place free of internal politics and national worries, but focused on economic development and cultural issues, free of budget problems, and, most of all, leaves behind an entire country struggling with financial problems and political dilemmas.

The state of Tel Aviv is similar to the state of many cities in the world. In recent decades, the global economy has concentrated in key cities, whose economic weight relative to their countries is disproportionate to their physical size or populations.

There are countries which identified the trend and understood that cities should be given more freedom to manage their affairs, in order to let them grow in the fast-paced global economy, and to compete against other cities in the world. The independence granted the cities frees them from the slow processes characteristic of government conduct, and allows them to respond rapidly and professionally to changes and developments in the global economy.

The UK launched an initiative to grant some of its bigger cities the power to manage their economic fate. Five of England's biggest cities - Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham, and Sheffield - were granted greater autonomy over their economies and infrastructures. This autonomy had already been given to Liverpool and Manchester.

Cities are becoming an ever larger organic unit of the global economy, a fact which British government decision-makers realized. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says that cities are England's power stations, so it isonly logical that cities should decide for themselves how to strengthen their local economies.

Policies that prod innovation, creativity, and economic development are more effective at the local level than the national level. Mayors have closer relations with the local economy, and they are often more pragmatic and less ideologically driven than members of the government.

Japan's Diet has passed legislation to allow large cities to create new municipal governments. The law will allow cities such as Osaka and Yokohama to reorganize in 2015 on the basis of the Tokyo government model.

This relationship between key cities and their countries was once used to describe London as a first-class city to which a second-class country is attached. London is, without question, one of the world's capitals, while people living elsewhere in the UK feel as if in a completely different world. London underwent a recession, but it did not last long. The city's economy grew 12.5% in 2007-11, double the rate of the rest of the UK, and the city's real estate market barely stopped for even a moment. The latest research estimates that real estate in London has increased 15% in value since the economic crisis began, and that the real estate in the city's top ten boroughs is worth more than Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland combined. The Office for National Statistics reports that the average Londoner contributes 70% more to the UK economy than a non-Londoner, and that Londoners receive less from the government.

If we examine "The State of Tel Aviv" headline in depth, a fundamental dilemma immediately emerges: what is "Tel Aviv"? Is it the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, or the metropolis that includes Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Bnei Brak, Herzliya, Holon, Bat Yam, and other cities?

This is a fundamental question because the multiple municipalities blocks growth, development, and progress of Israel's economic center. If we add to this the central government, which retains authority which elsewhere in world was transferred to cities long ago, we find that Israel actively hinders the growth of its economic center.

Attempts to unify the municipalities and grant Israel's cities greater autonomy have lasted for decades, without results. The longer the government continues to delay implementing these necessary changes, it will continue to delay the growth of metropolitan Tel Aviv and the economy of the county as a whole.

The author is the editor of the blog City and Branding

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 9, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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