PwC: Holistic cities with balanced economies to dominate

The Edge Financial Daily

KUALA LUMPUR: Holistic cities with balanced economies and strong quality of life will offer an attractive alternative in a more virtual and mobile world, says a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Partnership for New York City.

The report released on Tuesday, June 7 said the holistic cities were more resilient during downturns and had greater allure for skilled people. Hence, the finance and business centres of the future may not be the traditional capitals of global dominance.

PwC said 26 global centres of finance, business and culture were analysed and ranked based on 10 key indicators. New York leads the 2011 study, followed closely by Toronto, San Francisco, Stockholm and Sydney – cities more notable for quality of life and balance than global business dominance.

PwC Malaysia executive director Andrew Chan Yik Hong said: “The study is very timely. For Malaysia to be competitive, especially Kuala Lumpur, we need to improve the social, educational and technological indicators, as well as the hard economic indicators like economic clout, transportation and infrastructure, and cost.”

Chan, who leads capital projects and infrastructure, added the Malaysian government “appears to be on the right track” with the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Government Transformation Programme (GTP).

“Both focus on the same indicators which make the cities analysed in this study the leading ones of the world– such as enhancing education and health, improving Kuala Lumpur’s public transport system and reducing crime,” he added.

The report stated that while the other cities in the top five cannot match the size or clout of longstanding commercial hubs like London, New York, Paris or Tokyo, they highlight a changing global dynamic.

Modern cities are less dependent on geography and historic connections. Instead, they rely more on holistic approaches to attracting and keeping creative minds and cutting-edge businesses.

New York, despite finishing first, hardly dominates across the indicators. It leads because of balanced performance, likely a key to the city's continued economic resilience, and outstanding performance in measures of intellectual capital, lifestyle assets and technology readiness.

Among the 10 indicators, five correlate in a close positive pattern: intellectual capital and innovation; health; safety and security; ease of doing business; technology readiness and demographics and liveability. In other words, when one goes up, the other tends to do so as well. For instance, the indicators that include health and intellectual capital correlate a striking +87%.

This is consistent when compared with the 2008 Asia Pacific Cities of Opportunity report by PwC for the Sydney Chamber of Commerce which ranked Malaysia first and fourth for its cost and ease of doing business respectively. However, on other indicators, Kuala Lumpur performed poorly when compared to other major cities in the Asia Pacific region.

The PwC report stated that through the ETP, the government’s vision for Kuala Lumpur can be summarised as “20-20” by 2020.

It also stated that the hope was Kuala Lumpur would be the only city that simultaneously achieves a top-20 ranking in city economic growth (as defined by city GDP growth rates) and is mong the global top-20 most liveable cities by 2020. This again is in line with the findings of the study.

Chan said the most compelling conclusion from the study for Kuala Lumpur was that a broadly positive quality of life may serve as a foundation of both a resilient economy and lasting global success.

Simply stated, the most globally competitive cities are almost always those in which its intellectual capital is offered professional and personal surroundings that can reasonably ensure their health and safety. This is important for individuals looking for not just a place to work, but also a place to live, build families and invest in the future,” he added.