This blog is not above fanning a little inter-city rivalry. A recent released study of the economic performance of 150 cities over the 1993-2010 period shows Melbourne to have consistently outpunched its Northern rival Sydney.
The report from the Brookings Institute is focussed on the variation in recovery between cities around the world (and also within countries), and thus reports the cities’ performances (in terms of Economic Value Added per capita) over three distinct (but overlapping) periods
- Pre-Recession (1993-2007 – I guess that dotcom thingie was just a blip),
- the Recession (2007-2010), and
- the Recovery (2009-2010)
Melbourne (47th/150, 22nd & 14th respectively) outranks Sydney (76th, 30th & 45th) during all three epochs. Indeed, Melbourne is only outpaced by a single developed world city – Singapore (#4) in the Recovery phase. The remainder is a mix of BRIC cities and a few similarly emerging burghs (Istanbul and Santiago).
I don’t have any particular profound insights into Melbourne’s success here. It remains unclear how Economic Value Added is apportioned – I do wonder whether we might be riding on the back of BHP’s (partial) head office being here.
Nor am I sure we’ll stick it out near the top if the big hit to international student revenues continues, but I’ll bask in the ‘victory’ for now. And for those wondering, Perth isn’t one of the cities they measure (Brisbane is – #27, #23, #64).
At a less parochial level, I do find the approach of assessing and ranking cities a fascinating and much-needed one. There is a big danger in treating a country as a homogenous unit of analysis (in the same way that treating the world as a one-size-fits-all marketplace for anything is perilous).
There are substantial variations in the resources and opportunities from city to city within and across countries. These may be driven by geography, infrastructure, culture, history, chance, entrepreneurial efforts and/or governmental actions (or inactions). We do know that multinationals (and domestic firms) make very conscious choices to locate ‘bits’ of their business in particular cities. Indexes like this go some way towards tracking/assisting this process.
The report helpfully provides an excellent reference list of similar efforts from other research teams:
“Metropolis Now: The Global Cities Index 2010.” Foreign Policy, September/October 2010.
“Cities of Opportunity” (Partnership for New York City and PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 2010).
“Winning in Emerging-Market Cities: A Guide to the World’s Largest Growth Opportunity” (Boston Consulting Group, 2010).
I haven’t looked up the Melbourne-Sydney comparisons on any of these, but presume we win out each time