The BBMP’s bright idea of organising Bangalore Investors’ Meet (BIM) to attract foreign investors to develop a slew of civic projects may appear to be an answer to its own deficiency in funds to develop projects in the city, but civic experts say the problem actually lies in the city’s premier civic agency being deficient in good cost-effective ideas to spruce up Bangalore.
Civic experts questioned the need for having local ward-level representatives if finally the BBMP has to look outside the country for investors to come clean up the mess that Bangalore has turned into.
“The BBMP’s plan (of holding BIM in October) is going to be a disaster,” said Ashwin Mahesh, ABIDe member and urban researcher at IIM-B.
“There is money in the city, but BBMP does not know what the city needs or what to do to address the problems. That’s the deficiency and no foreigner will be able to solve this,” he said, adding that unless the roots of the problems are addressed, foreign investment will simply worsen it.
“I will not allow it,” he said. “There is no way I am going to allow a foreigner to ‘develop’ my city. I need my representative to solve the problems in my area; not some multi-national company.”
V Ravichandar, chairman, Feedback Consulting, and a citizen activist, said the challenge is to attract foreign investment in this space. “What return will the foreign investors have?” he said.
“The BBMP will have to structure projects that are viable. Highways can be tolled, but projects under PPP (public-private partnership) within the city are quite a challenge,” he said, indicating that in the final analysis, to make these viable, the citizens will be milked, especially so if foreign investors are involved.
“Even if the project got investors, these would be in sectors where there will be some return such as building elevated corridors or widening roads. What will happen to the urban poor and free water distribution, where making a profit will be difficult? These will take a back seat,” said Vijayan Menon of Koramangala Initiative.
BBMP’s plans have only shown that the civic agency does not have the bandwidth or the skills to solve Bangalore’s problems, he said, even as he wondered which foreign investor would actually invest, considering the magnitude of problems here.
“And what credibility does the BBMP have for an investor? It has a poor balance sheet; it is in debt; and it cannot even run its own corporation or plug leakages,” he said.
The ideal solution: Involve citizens
With citizens taking it upon themselves to develop their neighbourhood, why does the BBMP have to look outside the country for solutions? The Puttenahalli Lake development programme is a classic example of how the citizens themselves decided what needed to be done. And they did it.
Instead of inviting foreigners to invest in the city’s infrastructure, the BBMP should look at involving the community to participate in building the city, said experts.
The Community Participation Act is an example of how resistant the city’s representatives are in involving citizens in the projects.
“The neighbourhood district improvement programmes tried in various global cities, such as Cape Town in Africa, are proof that it will work,” said Ravichandar.
“The neighbourhood improvement programmes involves the local citizens, the municipal corporation—such as the BBMP—and, may be, a private investor to fund the project/s. For instance, residents of Koramangala could pool in `100 per household for a year or two, which can be used for improvement work in that neighbourhood,” he said.
“Involve the community in projects. If you are unable to come up with ideas, ask citizens who know the problems and are aware of the solutions, and can contribute in funding as well as maintaining the projects,” he said.