Imagine There’s No Country: Three Questions about a New Charter City in Honduras

June 14, 2012

Paul Romer has an out-of-the-box vision to promote global development without aid or charity—whatSebastian Mallaby in The Atlantic called “the politically incorrect guide to ending poverty.” Hisproposal, in a nutshell, is to build more Hong Kongs: places where third-world immigrants and firstworldgovernance can meet on neutral territory. But as Honduras launches the first trial of Romer’scharter city model, a number of core challenges remain.

The genius of the model is that it provides a politically feasible way to capitalize on one of the mosteffective (yet underexploited) policy tools for reducing global poverty: immigration. For the time being,as long as rich countries with strong institutions and good economic opportunities—Romer oftencites Canada—don’t want more Honduran or Haitian immigrants, charter cities with Canadian-stylegovernance provide a second-best solution.

But for all of its attractions, the charter city model – and the Honduran plan in particular – still facessignificant challenges before it can muster the kind of widespread support from potential partners itneeds to succeed. What follows are three big questions we think supporters of the new Honduran cityneed to address, and two ways to do so.

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