Pedro B. Ortiz: "Santa Cruz has to be the navel of...

Pedro B. Ortiz: "Santa Cruz has to be the navel of South America"

An expert urban planner of international stature visited Santa Cruz as the main figure of the course "The art of modeling the metropolis", sponsored by the University of Aquino in Bolivia. To make matters worse, he has been a consultant for the World Bank, mayor of the Central District of Madrid and is president of the International Metropolitan Institute based in Washington. It is about Pedro B. Ortiz. He chatted with OH! on one of the most notable social, political and economic phenomena of the last decades, and on the Bolivian potential in this matter.

—When does a metropolis, instead of following the successful path, undergo what you call a metastasis and become a suburban?

—When you don't manage a metropolis, what you have is a cancerous growth. In other words, it is growing progressively without the necessary infrastructures, without the equipment and without the green spaces. Then the metastasis of a metropolis takes place, the cancer of the metropolis that is that disorderly growth that here is called "urban stain". The word "stain" is very good because it is negative, it is not knowing how to manage the metropolis. 

"How do you run a metropolis?" 

—It is not managed by the sum of some municipalities. This is because each mayor is thinking about the border of his municipal term and not the whole. Each mayor has his problems with the neighbor, as there may be invasions, garbage, growth to the brim, disconnection between transportation systems. He is thinking of the next one, he is not thinking of the one beyond or of the whole. And you have to have an overall vision and an overall policy. 

I give you an example: a mayor may be thinking about the parks he has to do, in those houses up to the edge of his municipality. But a mayor cannot think of a commuter system that should serve 10, 15 or 25 municipalities because that commuter system cannot be made by the sum of 25 mayors. It has to be done by an overview knowing what the priorities are, what are the most important transfers, those where the car can be replaced by a high-capacity collective transport. 

All of this requires an overview. Sometimes this investment is made in some municipalities and not in others. And that mayor of the other does not benefit from that investment, but later he will benefit from another that will benefit his municipality and not the others. For example, if a train is built in Santa Cruz that goes from Montero to El Torno, Porongo does not feel benefited. But if afterwards a bridge has to be built that connects Porongo with the Santa Cruz riverbank, the person who will not feel benefited will be Montero. But you have to do both. Consequently, a higher-ranking organization is needed, which is not the summation of mayors, but the synthesis of the set of mayors, to make the correct decisions for all.

What are the key elements that can project a metropolis towards this successful path?

—From a territorial point of view, the two aspects that must be articulated first are: green infrastructures, that is, the environment, and gray infrastructures, that is, transport. This is because both have a metropolitan group that must be continuous and cannot be broken into pieces. 

Then there are three other elements that are: housing, productive activities, that is, the land that will be used for commerce, offices and industry, and last but not least, social facilities, that is, health, education, sports, culture, etc. They also have a metropolitan dimension because, for example, the opera palace, we will not have 15, one per municipality, but one for all. Those are the five territorial elements. 

Now, the metropolis has to start thinking about its economy and its sociology. You must see what the role of the metropolis is in an already globalized world where each of the world's metropolises plays a different role. In the case of Santa Cruz, for example, it has to be the center of the south. In other words, Santa Cruz has to be the navel of South America. You have to play the fact that it is 1,500 kilometers from the great South American metropolises such as Bogotá, Santiago, Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, etc. It can play a role of "hub" so that congresses, work meetings, etc. can be found here. 

"Can you cite a similar example?"

—That is, for example, what Madrid decided to be, 25 years ago, between two continents, between Europe and Latin America. This is because we are European, but we are also Latin American. So we go from 9 million to 61 million passengers per year at the airport. That has meant 8 percent of employment, 250 thousand jobs, and 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Madrid. Therefore, this type of politics of long-term vision of a metropolitan structure in the globalized presence of the concert of metropolis is the first thing that the metropolis has to decide.

From this, one builds an economy and those infrastructure elements that are needed to pursue that end. That is to say: the territory is nothing more than the tray of the plate that we are going to have dinner. So first you have to decide if we are going to have fish, meat or soup for dinner and the tray that you are going to design for each case will be different. The first thing to know is what is the role of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba or La Paz-El Alto in that concert of world metropolises. Then, already knowing what your vocation and your role is, build that territory necessary to play well and win in that world chess game. 

"Can you give me examples of successful metropolises?"

—The five great metropolises of the world are New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt and Tokyo. Tokyo is losing strength, it will lose it definitively in the future and will appear as its successor Shanghai or Beijing. But then there are second-rank metropolises. Madrid knows that it cannot be one of the five because it does not have world rank. But Madrid learns that it ranks below the previous ones and plays a specific regional role. 

Another example is Mumbay (India). The role it decided to play, in some exercises that we carried out called “Metropolitan Intelligence Workshops”, was that of “Capital of the Indian Ocean”. In other words, from Cape Town (South Africa) to Ho Chi Min City (Vietnam) Mumbay, with its 23 million inhabitants, is the most important city. We will do these metropolitan intelligence workshops in Santa Cruz in October. 

—And in the case of even smaller metropolises in relation to their centers?

—Bucaramanga (Colombia) decided that it had to be “the umbilical cord of Venezuela”. This is because, for Venezuela, its high interconnection routes are the port and the Caracas airport. But everything that is done by road or by land has to go through Bucaramanga. It is their only way out by land to the rest of the continent. When Venezuela has to be rebuilt, all materials that do not come by boat or plane will have to go through Bucaramanga. Clearly an umbilical cord. 

Ahmedabad has decided to be "the Boston of India", that is, the center of universities and technological training. This is because it is halfway between New Delhi and Mombay. New Delhi will soon be the largest capital in population terms in the world with 42 million inhabitants, that is, four Bolivias tucked into a city. It is an hour and a half away by high-speed train, a train that is being built. 

—What is the importance of the metropolises worldwide?

—Each metropolis has a different role to play. There are 500 metropolises with more than a million inhabitants in the world. Those 500 metropolises produce 75 percent of world GDP. In other words, 25 percent of the planet's population produces 75 percent of the world's GDP. Metropolitan citizens are 16 times more productive than non-metropolitans. 

These are figures of which until now were not aware because the metropolis is a new phenomenon that appeared in the last 70 years. In the history of humanity there were only three and now there are 500. So we have to adapt those competitiveness policies because we are in a globalized world. You have to be able to position yourself in that set. 

Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz-El Alto have to play that game because, if not, they will be left out and suffer it. It suffers with low per capita income. Consequently, the insufficiency of social services arises for the population that needs these services, and there is no capacity to provide them. 

- Am I wrong, or do these metropolises in a good number of cases have a GDP greater than that of countries, and not precisely small countries? 

—Los Angeles - San Diego have a GDP equivalent to that of Spain, Madrid's is equivalent to the GDP of Peru. The GDP of Paris is three times that of Colombia. Dallas, a city of 5 million inhabitants, has a GDP equivalent to that of Argentina. The metropolises already have the economic power of the countries. What they do not have is the political structure necessary to manage the complexity of those systems. 

In some countries, national governments are afraid of metropolises because of the power they have achieved. For example, Manila has 70 percent of the GDP of the Philippines. If there would be a metropolitan mayor of Manila, he could tell President Duterte to go home. In some countries that metropolitan power is scary and they are not giving the metropolises the necessary institutions to manage this complexity. And that is paid. 

—How would this error be paid for in the Bolivian case?

—If your metropolis is unable to compete internationally, your country will be out of the game. The rest of the non-metropolitan population will also pay the consequences of not having an internationally competitive body. Hence the importance of the Bolivian metropolises working well, knowing what they have to be and making the necessary infrastructures to do so. In the case of Santa Cruz it is very clear, it is absolutely necessary, for the benefit of Bolivia, that the Santa Cruz airport be a Latin American “hub”. Because of this, benefits will be derived for Cochabamba, for La Paz-El Alto and the rest of the country. 

Those metropolises pull the rest of the country economically. Countries are the hinterland of these metropolises. Instead of making espadrilles in Madrid, we make them in Cuenca or Valladolid. But it is Madrid that sells these espadrilles internationally and the regions benefit. The hinterland of Madrid is Spain. It is necessary to know how to combine a metropolitan national policy and a dialogue with those metropolises for the benefit of all.

—In several metropolises, and increasingly also in Santa Cruz there is the phenomenon of an accelerated destruction of the environment. It runs wild on account of large real estate complexes. what to do in that case? 

—The fault is of an administration that does not put the means so that that does not happen. In the case of the environment, it is evident: when permission is given to build an urbanization where there should not be one, who is giving permission? The administration that does not have a vision of the territory, that does not have control of that territory. 

Maybe it does not have the vision of the future and sustainability, or it does not have the capacity to enforce legality. Or, sometimes there are other forces operating surreptitiously, to put it mildly. So there is an administrative responsibility and not a private one. The private wants to maximize its profit and abuse everything that is public. It wants to generate negative externalization on the social from the private because it is its objective, but the administration has to limit that. If you don't, you take the blame. 

—And in the case of the emergence of a kind of ghettos of very poor people that grow near citadels or private condominiums?

—The administration also has a duty of compensation. Solutions such as that in any urban development there should be a minimum proportionality between rich and poor so that society is not segmented. And when land is generated, by the private sector, there may be legislation that forces part of that land to be transferred to the administration. Then it uses that land to generate social housing. In that there is a segmentation of the purchasing power of citizens. 

Some can buy the house perfectly. Others need a little help, usually financing. There are those who need a lot of help, so there is usually a cession of land where the citizen can build his home. And there are also those who need absolute help because when you earn two dollars a day you only think about what you will eat tomorrow.