Pedro B. Ortiz: "Santa Cruz is the engine of Boliv...

Pedro B. Ortiz: "Santa Cruz is the engine of Bolivia in the world and if this metropolis fails, the country does not exist"

It is a world reference in the metropolitan discipline. From 1989 to 1992, he was mayor of the Central District of Madrid (Salamanca District) and is currently president of the International Metropolitan Institute based in Washington (USA). He came to Santa Cruz to participate in the international course 'The art of modeling the metropolis' that took place at the University of Aquino in Bolivia (Udabol). Days before the event, after a tour of the historic center of the municipality of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, he politely attended us to talk about the metropolis. It was at the 24 de Septiembre Social Club in the heart of the 'city of rings.' It is frontal.

 _ After visiting the historic center of Santa Cruz, what is your assessment?
The king on the chessboard is not the one who sets the strategy. The queen is usually the one that implements that strategy that is usually the international airport with all the companies linked to the base economy - the one that is exported - and that Santa Cruz has to develop because it is in a strategic position from the territorial point of view halfway between Bogotá and Buenos Aires and between San Pablo and Santiago de Chile. It is the navel of South America. But of course, on the chessboard, even if the king does not generate the strategy if they eat it, the game is over, and that is the historic center that must be protected because it gives identity and a sense of team and group.

It is very run down. Santa Cruz has destroyed a large part of its historic center. The traditional constructions are not the same, and they will not be able to have an attractive character due to the quality of its historic center. As the navel of South America, it has a powerful queen that around the Viru Viru airport generates an international activity. 

It is a beautiful city, but not a tourist objective; you must bet on business tourism, given the urban quality environment that gives you all the services to stay a few more days. Twenty years ago, Madrid had to be the intercontinental platform between Europe and Latin America. We went from 9 to 61 million passengers in Barajas, of which 60% is business tourism. If Santa Cruz can generate a South American HUB with those four cities that I mentioned to you and it starts the economic activity soaring, that generates a lot of added value.

_ What is the definition of a metropolis, and what is the difference from the concept of a city?
It is the difference between psychology and sociology. A city is a unit; it is an individual. A metropolis is a set of urban units that share a significant number of commutations on a daily basis. They form a unit because they are the individuals who are interacting, but it is the difference between psychology and sociology. They are totally different because as you intend to manage a group, as you manage yourself, you do very badly and vice versa.

Here's another analogy that may surprise you. When a 15-centimeter worm is one and a half meters tall, it is no longer a worm, that is a snake, and the DNA is totally different, and as long as you intend to manage a snake-like worm, you are going to do very badly. The metropolis cannot be managed as a city because they have nothing to do with cities. It is completely different, and the problem is that professionals and politicians believe that a metropolis is a very big city and has nothing to do with it.

_ How do you see the metropolitan regions of Bolivia in the international context?
A country like Bolivia that has no outlet to the sea has to play as an intercontinental platform between the countries that are in the surroundings, and Bolivia is the center of South America. Therefore, they have to play with that international platform on the South American continent. That platform is not road transport because crossing the Amazon in a truck is not easy, nor is it maritime transport because they do not have it. It has to be air transport.

Every 100 meters of altitude in an airport costs you 1% more kerosene to take off. La Paz, which is 3,600 meters away, is 35% more; any plane that takes off from La Paz costs 50% more than kerosene. La Paz cannot, which happens to Bogotá, which is 2,800 meters away; it cannot be a powerful international airport for those costs, either. Therefore, Santa Cruz at 400 meters high can be a South American international airport, and then that positions them as an international metropolis. The world is ceasing to be a world of countries or nations to be a world of a metropolis.

Of the 100 most economically powerful territorial units in the world that produce the most GDP, 46 are metropolises. If New York or 'megayork,' from Washington to Boston, were a country, it would be the third-largest economy in the world, after the US and China. The metropolises are great 'animals' of production. Madrid's GDP is the equivalent of Peru's; that of Paris is three times more than that of Colombia. The metropolises are the great producers of economic activity. A metropolitan city in the world is 16 times more effective than a non-metropolitan citizen. The metropolises are the great international economic players in the next century. A country that does not have an effective metropolis, a country that does not exist. Bolivia plays an international role in its two most important metropolises, La Paz and Santa Cruz, but they must function.

_ What are the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a metropolis according to your international experience?
The advantages are the increase in productivity that comes from economies of scale. If you know how to manage a metropolis, the effect is to double the market; it does not mean that if there are 2 million inhabitants, we invite another two to make it four million. It means generating a metropolitan structure where the market is unique, and you have managed to integrate twice the population into that market. If you do that, you automatically increase your GDP by 15%. The metropolises are much more efficient than the rest of the country. When it is a capital city and knows how to use its hinterland - the area of ​​influence of a port or a large city - they are usually 30% more efficient than the rest of the country.

When management in metropolises is efficient, they are between 30 and 40% more effective than the rest of the country and, therefore, it is the engine of positioning and economic activity.

_Santa Cruz is the most populated nucleus of Bolivia. In a conurbation of six municipalities (Santa Cruz de la Sierra, La Guardia, Warnes, Cotoca, El Torno, and Porongo), what should be the course to achieve the metropolitan structure in this region ?
A conurbation is the cancer of the metropolis. It is the metastasis of the metropolis. A metropolis has to allow and achieve that the different nuclei (municipalities) remain isolated but connected by a transport system that allows going to any point without a problem. A metropolis is a set of urban units or municipalities that share a significant number of commutations on a daily basis.

As long as Santa Cruz does not have a commuter transport system, it will not be a metropolis; it will be a 'metastatic' conurbation of municipalities that come together, creating situations impossible to manage that, in addition, create daily collapse and that make Santa Cruz neither competitive nor can position itself internationally. A metropolis is not monocentric; that is another of the failures of metastasis. The metropolises have to have different centers; each municipality has to have its own personality and contribute something to the metropolises. In the case of Madrid, at one point, we have the metallurgical industry, at another the metal mechanics, at another the electromechanical, and at another the graphic arts. They are clusters.

In the game of chess, municipalities are the bishops of the game. There must be an articulation, a dialogue between the clusters of economic activity. When you don't know how to manage it, a tangle of incompetence is created that makes you unable to develop as an internationally competitive metropolis.

_Santa Cruz has two relevant conditions –it concentrates agricultural production and economic power-, how relevant are these two aspects in the structure of a metropolis? 
Value-added. You should not sell lettuce; what you should do is sell a freeze-dried salad on Fifth Avenue in New York. Lettuce is worth one boliviano, but you add value if you make that lettuce into a freeze-dried salad and pack it. Going from costing a Bolivian to a dollar, that is the work of the metropolis: the added value, the transformation of this agricultural product. I was screwed up in Buenaventura -Colombia's Pacific port- when I saw 70-kilo sacks of coffee on my way to Seattle, where Starbucks -an international chain of coffee shops- is located. Those 70 kilos were worth $ 250; when they arrived at Starbucks, they became 30,000 units that marketed gave $ 60,000. In other words, the Americans with $ 250 us put an added value of $ 60,000. Santa Cruz's job is to give added value to this agricultural production. The agri-food transformation of that agricultural production so that it goes out to the world, also by plane.

When a product is worth very little per kilo, it is not worth taking it by plane, but when its cost is high (a computer or a laptop) it goes by plane, it does not go by boat because it would reach the destination market when a new generation has come out. In the San Francisco Bay (USA), there are 14 airports, three are passengers, and 11 are freight because all value-added products leave by plane. The more Santa Cruz generates value-added products, the more useful your airport will be. Santa Cruz has to concentrate on transforming these agri-food products, adding value to them so that they travel and position them in markets in Latin America, the US, and Europe.

_And what happens when exports are regulated and restricted?
You talk to me about food safety; first, all Bolivians must eat, and once they all eat, we export the rest.

That is an economy that is not globalized because we eat fish from Chile, lettuce from Uruguay, and flowers from Colombia in Madrid. When you have a globalized market, you know that these products are going to be found cheaper abroad than it would cost you to produce them. Therefore, we dedicate ourselves to making those things that we can export and that produce enough money to be able to buy the products we want in the countries that produce them cheaper. When you do not have that export capacity, you do not have money, and you can only eat what you are producing. That is autarky, and autarky is never competitive.

_What is the importance of the metropolis in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?
The importance of the metropolis in the GDP is fundamental. First, as I said before, the metropolises are the engines, and the presence of the countries in globalization and globalization is not going to stop. The metropolises are the connecting cord with the rest of the world, and that metropolis has to use the country, give the country work and accumulate added values.

The metropolis is 30% more efficient than the rest of the country. Countries are those that are their metropolises in the global market. We currently have 500 metropolises that produce 75% of the world's GDP. You take a metropolis from me, and you become a pasture.


Pedro Ortiz is a Senior Fellow at the Marron Institute of Urban Management. He is also Senior Consultant on Metropolitan Management and Planning for OIG (International Government Organizations) such as the United Nations, the European Union, UN-Habitat, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and others.

A sesora to national and local governments, through consulting companies. From 1989 to 1992, he was mayor of the Central District of Madrid (Salamanca District). He was director of the 'Madrid Strategic Plan' (1991-1994) and General Director of Spatial Planning and Urban Planning of the Community of Madrid.


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