On January 31, 2020, the Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre (MHRC) at LUMS organized its first Mahbub ul Haq Reform Dialogue with Professor Ehtisham Ahmad on ‘Financing Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Pakistani Cities’. Professor Ahmad is a Visiting Professor at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and University Professor at Zhejiang University. He currently directs a program of research on Financing Sustainable Development in Emergent Market Countries, with a special emphasis on China and Mexico.
Moderated by Dr Ali Cheema, Director of the MHRC, the Dialogue explored the potential of 'beneficial property tax' as a reform that can strengthen accountability and finance critical public investments and services in Pakistani cities. In his talk, Professor Ahmad shared that inclusive and sustainable urbanization can create jobs, increase GDP growth, and improve living standards. However, cities face significant financing gaps in infrastructure. Traditionally, the solution to fill this gap has involved focusing on bank lending, bonds, land-based financing and PPPs. These instruments have considerable potential, but their effective utilization requires robust fiscal underpinnings.
Professor Ahmad also spoke of current public sector deliberations to strengthen city financing, and leverage urban property tax as a tool to generate revenue for urban service delivery.
Professor Ahmad’s lecture was followed by a rich Q&A session with faculty, students, journalists, public sector representatives, and other experts in the field.