Mumbai, also known as Maximum City or the City that Never Sleeps is the commercial and financial capital of India. The population of Mumbai is approximately 26 million and is projected to continue growing to more than 45 million people by 2052. It is a city of huge contrasts, great wealth often surrounded by great poverty. The dream of one day making Mumbai as efficient, clean and wealthy as Singapore was first mooted and discussed extensively in the early 2000s and since then, the argument has raged on and off. But why make Mumbai’s model as Singapore? Why not New York, Sydney or Vancouver? Singapore is widely regarded as one of the safest countries in the world, with consistently low crime rates and a transparent legal system; however, Singapore is bigger than Mumbai in all aspects except population. Singapore’s economy is open to trade and capital and consistently attracts a first-class labour force. Put simply, Singapore is a destination of choice. Is Mumbai a destination of choice globally and if not, can Mumbai follow the Singapore model to become one?
What are the obstacles that Mumbai faces? The challenges faced by Mumbai are myriad. The major social problems are poor housing and squalor, breeding misery and crime. Mumbai’s real estate bubble has raised good housing out of the reach of many with no sign in sight that the real estate prices will go down. The economic challenges faced are unemployment and if employed, poor wages. Environmental problems of pollution, unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation are continuing to be addressed but much still needs to be done.
Since 2019, Mumbai with assistance from the World Bank and Cities Alliance, has undertaken a 10-year plan to make Mumbai into a world class city. This would require that the current approximately 60% of the population who live in slums decreases to 15%. The housing policy for Mumbai has to be implemented in a transparent and efficient way. Planning development concepts require wholistic input. Historical buildings and neighbourhoods must be upgraded. Corruption must be eliminated and the cleanliness drive must be implemented wholeheartedly.
Historically, poor from other states in India have been drawn to Mumbai to take a chance on a dream of making it big. Mumbai has long been one of India’s foremost centres for art and culture. Bollywood remains a big draw for people throughout India and abroad. The entertainment industry in Mumbai employs vast numbers and as a tax base contributes big amounts to the exchequer.
Under the current dispensation of attracting investment to India, in the financial year 2020/21 only Gujarat received more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) than Maharashtra, although Maharashtra still attracted 28% of the country’s inflows. That said, Mumbai and Maharashtra have also felt the economic blow of the COVID pandemic, especially with the tourism and the automotive industry. While the tourism and upmarket car industry recover, foreign investment to Mumbai will now be focused on its other big opportunities: infrastructure, construction, textile, food processing, IT and pharma/biotech.
Put simply, Mumbai is a rough diamond. It has the potential in terms of the industriousness of the workforce, age and talent of the workforce, central location and the unique industries situated in Mumbai to become a world class city like Singapore. What Mumbai needs is good governance. All the parameters are ready and waiting for Mumbai to define its greatness.