Chartered Territory

Can a New Model for Cities Thrive in Honduras?

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Illustration by Eleanor Grosch

Published on May 14, 2012

Economist Paul Romer believes he can create and launch a new city in much the same way tech companies create and launch startups. Looking to Hong Kong and China’s Shenzen for inspiration, Romer’s theory is that the rules and organizational structures of prosperous nations can be grafted onto poorer nations, or areas within those nations, to become highly functioning states-within-a-state. Though so far untested, the theory has gotten the attention of multinational companies that see the potential it holds to open new markets. After seeing a TED talk on these charter cities given by Romer, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo invited him to to test out his idea in the real world. With its endemic poverty, violent streets and untrusted government, Honduras is in some ways the ideal testing ground for Romer’s radical idea for remaking nations. Writer Greg Lindsay explores the logic and economics behind the charter city model, while taking a close look at the political framework the model will be up against in Honduras.

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