Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness
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Handbook of Regions and Competitiveness

Contemporary Theories and Perspectives on Economic Development

Edited by Robert Huggins and Piers Thompson

The aim of this Handbook is to take stock of regional competitiveness and complementary concepts as a means of presenting a state-of-the-art discussion of the contemporary theories, perspectives and empirical explanations that help make sense of the determinants of uneven development across regions. Drawing on an international field of leading scholars, the book is assembled and organized so that readers can first learn about the theoretical underpinnings of regional competitiveness and development theory, before moving on to deeper discussions of key factors and principal elements, the emergence of allied concepts, empirical applications, and the policy context.
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Chapter 17: Urban land, infrastructure and competitiveness in the global South

Ivan Turok


The determinants of a region’s competitive advantage, and therefore its ability to sustain economic progress, are the quality of local productive inputs and how well they complement each other. Theories of regional competitiveness in the advanced global North have placed emphasis on ‘soft’ or intangible assets at the expense of physical resources. The tendency to relegate the importance of the built environment also stems from its perception as an inert productive input with diminishing returns, rather than a dynamic resource and a source of ongoing improvements to productivity and competitive advantage. This chapter argues that the urban land and infrastructure system (ULIS) is a cornerstone of regional prosperity and too important to be neglected. A functional and adaptable ULIS amplifies and reinforces the other, softer drivers of competitiveness. Improving the ULIS is particularly important for countries in the global South that are undergoing rapid urbanization in order to accelerate economic progress. Better urban management could help to prevent worsening urban congestion, land-use conflicts, squalid living conditions and a host of related problems. Neglecting the urban form will give rise to common-pool liabilities rather than decent and productive places. It will lock in inefficiency, poverty and social exclusion for decades. This chapter examines the three core pillars of the ULIS: land management, infrastructure investment and coordination of the built environment. Each has an independent effect on productivity and development, but as the chapter illustrates that their influence is enhanced if they combine together and reinforce each other in a cumulative, city-wide process.

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