Secondary Cities are An Untapped Resource

loading Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The concentration on capital cities has been an unspoken policy in Asean countries over the last half century. This has brought growth that has many detrimental effects. Now when the global economy is experiencing its deepest crisis since the 1930s, how secondary cities can contribute not only economically but also by altering our understanding of development should be discussed.

With the slowdown of the world economy, many growth estimates across the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) are being revised downwards. Strategies to offset the weak demand from the traditional export markets of the US and Europe involve the stimulation of domestic demand and a strengthening of interregional cooperation and trade.

While much of the focus is on national-level cooperation and the gradual dismantling of barriers to trade, one needs to ask what role Asean’s cities can play in fostering interregional cooperation. Since the early 1970s (Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities, 1970) cities have been acknowledged as the primary drivers of economic development, and the policy assumption that economies belong to nations rather than cities is considered detrimental to economic development; and therefore city development.

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