A recent study on cities by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that Mumbai will lose its status as the commercial capital to New Delhi after a decade or so. The conclusion is based on a projection that New Delhi’s GDP is likely to be $211 billion by 2025 while Mumbai’s is expected to be $193 billion. If this happens, the political capital’s economy will have overtaken Mumbai’s.
There could be several arguments on this. If the Delhi city economy includes areas such as Noida then we should be measuring the economy of the Mumbai metropolitan area, which includes bustling cities such as Thane and Navi Mumbai.
The Delhi-versus-Mumbai argument is not new in political circles. Many in Delhi’s power circles always rued the fact that financial power was in Mumbai. And as Noida and Gurgaon have developed over the past decade, they believed that it was a matter of time that most of Mumbai’s corporate houses would shift closer to the national capital.
But a section of politicians and Mumbaiites always believed that there was a conspiracy to take away their city’s status as India’s financial capital. That was why the Centre has always been reluctant to release funds for Mumbai while it pours money in to Delhi to build metros and roads. The Centre is also not keen to clear an ambitious international financial centre plan for Mumbai, they point out.
What is the correct story?
There is no conspiracy. Those who should be paying attention to developing and maintaining the city are not doing their job properly. The blame lies at the door of Maharashtra’s politicians and bureaucrats, who never paid enough attention to Mumbai. More than a decade ago, the state government chalked out a Rs 42,000-crore plan to rebuild the city’s infrastructure, but not even one-fourth is ready.
Many in the government probably treated the plan as a money-making venture and showed interest only in giving away contracts to private entities. Parties such as the Shiv Sena periodically raise the bogey that the Marathi manoos is losing control over Mumbai but they don’t do what is needed.
To blame are also builders, who have raised real estate prices to such levels that buying office space has become exorbitant. If Mumbai ceases to be financial capital after a decade we know who all will be at fault.
Mumbai is no longer the only business destination. Besides Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune have emerged as options. Many people are saying that the state government has to pull up its socks. It needs to improve the city’s transport infrastructure, to speed up construction of an airport at Navi Mumbai and a sealink connecting the city with the mainland. It needs to develop at least two more cities like Navi Mumbai. The city needs leaders who can really push this agenda. Unfortunately, all we have are short-sighted politicians who cannot see anything beyond power politics and have no commitment to the city or its people.