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How rich is Mumbai really?

A recent survey found Mumbai’s wealth to be a whopping $950 billion (approximately Rs620 lakh core)

mumbai Updated: Feb 15, 2018 15:02 IST
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
Hindustan Times
Mumbai wealth,Silicon Valley,richest cities
Mumbai’s status as India’s pre-eminent mercantile city and home to leading business people — which it has enjoyed for some centuries now —hasn’t been affected.(HT File Photo)

According to a recent survey by global market research group New World Wealth, of the world’s 15 richest cities, Mumbai ranked 12th. None other from the country made the cut: not Delhi, the seat of power, nor Bangalore, widely touted as India’s equivalent of ‘Silicon Valley’.

The ranking is based on the total private wealth held by individuals living in a particular city, based on their assets in property, cash, businesses, net of liabilities.

The survey found Mumbai’s wealth to be a whopping $950 billion (approximately Rs620 lakh core). The city also has 28 ‘dollar billionaires’ to boot, the 10th highest for any city in the world, leaving even the likes of Seoul, Houston and Geneva behind.

Two things are clearly established by the survey. One, even allowing for the dip in the past few years, on a broader canvas, India’s economic growth over the past 10 years has easily been better than most countries.

Secondly, and more pertinently for this column, Mumbai’s status as India’s pre-eminent mercantile city and home to leading business people — which it has enjoyed for some centuries now —hasn’t been affected.

This is undoubtedly a matter of pride. Yet I have compunctions about how much to read in the New World Wealth survey because it is one-dimensional. It focuses on ‘richness’ in terms of assets, not in terms of flavour of the city and quality of life it offers.

Compared to other cities that feature in the list viz New York, London, Tokyo, San Francisco (Bay Area), Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore, Chicago (above Mumbai), Toronto, Frankfurt and Paris (below), Mumbai is still a straggler.

Not all cities in the top 15 belonged to first world countries four to five decades ago, so that can’t be an excuse for Mumbai. Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore, for instance, have worked their way up in this period, not just in the wealth matrix, but also in what they offer their citizens.

Like Mumbai, all cities in the top 15 are also teeming megapolises, not tax havens for the ultra rich. This shows they’ve struggled, coped and overcome sundry challenges that large cities with large populations pose.

I’ve shortlisted five parameters that I believe are crucial in empowering citizenry and providing a quality of life befitting a great modern city.

Ease of Commute: Ease of doing business is impaired by unease of travel. Potholed roads are an annual embarrassment. But the problem is not restricted to this. Mass rapid transport systems are still archaic. And despite the recent influx of A/C buses and trains, travel within the city remains an ordeal.

Health and Education: Great cities are also great centres of learning and health. Splendid private schools, colleges and hospitals abound, but the municipal institutions, which reach out to the maximum number, do not measure up, in fact getting worse by the year. Sadly, even the once-renowned Mumbai University has fallen on bad days.

Exploiting Natural Beauty: The best cities absorb the beauty of their natural environment into their everyday aesthetics. Mumbai has a superb coastline that has been badly exploited, if not abused. It has been valued neither for transport nor for leisure and turned into an eyesore.

Removing Disparate Development: Mumbai is perhaps the only ‘top’ city where a substantial chunk of its population still lives in slums, showing up the dramatic disparity between the haves and have nots. Affordable housing remains a chimera. The slum redevelopment plan has been cock-eyed. Slum-dwellers are shunted out of the city, which in turn affects their livelihood and scope of rising up the development ladder.

Reviving Cosmopolitan Ethos: This year, there was no clamour against celebrating Valentine’s Day, but there is no guarantee this will hold true the next. Not too long ago, Mumbai was renowned for its cosmopolitan, live-and-let-live ethos. This has come increasingly under duress in the past four to five decades, as socio-political partisanship, aided and abetted by political parties, has come to the fore.

Happily, on one parameter, Mumbai compares very well with the top cities featured in the survey: in the control of street and organised crime. All things considered, it is not just the safest metro in India, but among those in the world.

But, there are other aspects where Mumbai falls terribly short. That needs urgent attention to qualify as a wealthy city in its truest sense.

First Published: Feb 15, 2018 15:01 IST