A lot of things have happened over the last three months – we went to Brazil, other advanced zones are evolving, new translations of our book were published, and the Coronavirus brought the world to a standstill.
Brazil’s Charter City Roundtable
The first major event of the year took place in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. The National School of Public Administration (ENAP) invited me, also on behalf of Pronomos Capital, to a seminar on the challenges of state modernization in early February. That was followed by a roundtable discussion on the possibility of implementing Charter Cities in the country. This was a high-profile discussion, with specialists from both Brazil and abroad. The event was very productive; there was considerable interest in the idea from the participants, confirming our expectations that the country is indeed open to trying out new ideas.
Due to requests for more material on how this proposal would impact the Brazilian economy, our consulting agency TIPOLIS along with the Institute for Competitive Governance produced a Prosperity Zone Economic Projection Report, which makes a powerful case for advanced special jurisdictions like Free Private Cities. For this, we’ve used the case studies of Singapore, Hong-Kong and the Dubai International Financial Centre to create a model to predict the economic impact of such a jurisdiction in a host country. The report is available both in English and Portuguese and was warmly welcomed by members of the Brazilian government.
Trends in the SEZ space towards more autonomy
In our last newsletter, I mentioned that SEZs with their own commercial law and independent courts were gaining traction. Furthermore, I predicted that SEZs would start integrating more areas beyond commercial law into these models. Both affirmations are being confirmed by the recent developments.
Firstly, the DIFC is moving closer to international standards by introducing a lease law geared to the real estate market. The DIFC Authority’s newly enacted Leasing Law and Regulations introduces areas of protection and assurance to lessors and lessees entering into leases at properties based in the dynamic financial ecosystem of the DIFC. These kinds of regulation can prove especially interesting for the development of Free Private Cities operating under a leasehold model, or for when a government initially leases out a territory to a Free Private City before plot acquisition.
Secondly, last year the new courts of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) arbitered their first case and hosted three mediation cases, without costs to the involved parties. Trust in the AIFC Court is so high that the AIFC Court and its International Arbitration Centre were included in more than 1300 business contracts for future dispute resolution purposes. They also launched their eJustice system in 2019 to enable parties to have their commercial disputes resolved electronically using the most up to date digital technology – free of charge, which is very interesting from a governance and tech perspective.
Both these developments show 1) an increasing expansion of the scope of zones and 2) the attractiveness of these more advanced and diversified models.
Interesting city developments are also taking place worldwide. In Africa, the Charter Cities Institute recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zambia Development Agency. Their aim is to work on creating the framework for charter cities in the country, which already has a private city being built, called Nkwashi. The challenge here is, as everywhere, that in order to implement autonomous courts and legislation, even if limited to commercial areas, you probably need to change a country’s constitution. There might be ways around it, but it is not easy.
In Asia, Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, is going to be expanded with a new district built on land reclaimed from the sea. What’s interesting is that this new district will have its own economic and commercial laws and is bound to become the biggest private sector development in Sri Lanka’s history. Having its own laws without having its own courts might not be an optimal solution, but it is a first step. We will keep following the project.
Spreading the idea
We’re excited to announce that the Free Private Cities book and website are now available in Spanish and Italian. Central and Latin America are some of the most promising regions in the world for Free Private City and Prosperity Zone projects, given the level of unrealized potential. Italy and Spain, as some of the countries most affected by Covid-19, must also look for new ways of achieving growth and development. We hope these publications will help inspire more people to start their own projects in these countries. If you’d like to help, please share this with your Spanish and Italian-speaking friends.
Besides that, a French translation of both the book and website are on the works and should be published by the next newsletter.
To help popularize Free Private Cities in these countries and manage the tasks arising from the growth of our company, we have also hired a new intern. That is Matheus Infante, a Brazilian financial administration student that is fluent in both French and Spanish. He will help us with internal organization and in reaching out to content creators.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, most conferences we were going to attend in the near future have been cancelled. However, there’s still one event in which we’re participating. That’s the Startup Societies Virtual Summit about “Special Jurisdictions in a Post-Covid World”, which will take place on the 1st and 2nd of May. Our advisors Oliver Porter and Tom W. Bell and our ambassador Michael Strong will join me as speakers in the event. You can register here.
Also regarding Covid, a lot of people have also asked me how a Free Private City would handle pandemics and this sort of crisis we’re facing right now. I’ve written a blog post recently addressing this topic, in case you’re interested.
As always, we’re counting on your support to help spread the idea as much as possible. Please share with friends, think tanks, (social) media channels, politicians and others that might be interested. If you’d like to represent Free Private Cities, consider applying to become a local ambassador for your region.
Thank you for your continued interest and support. For any questions, proposals, criticism, etc. you are welcome to write at [email protected].
Monaco, March 2020