Administrative and financial strategies for implementing plans in political capitals.
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Authors: Gordon, David L. A.
Seasons, Mark L.
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 1
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Product: Product Code: 9103100 Foreign Economic & Financial Assistance; 6552100 Housing Developers; 9000144 Expenditures-Total Govt; 9210124 Expenditures-State Govt; 9103570 Nationalism; 6370000 Pension Funds & Benefit Plans; 9915350 Pension Fund Management; 9915100 Financial Management; 9915500 Financial Systems & Controls; 9107130 Urban Planning Assistance; 7999850 Expositions & Fairs; 9300000 Local Government; 9200000 State & Local Government NAICS Code: 92611 Administration of General Economic Programs; 23311 Land Subdivision and Land Development; 92113 Public Finance Activities; 92812 International Affairs; 52511 Pension Funds; 92512 Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development; 71399 All Other Amusement and Recreation Industries; 92 Public Administration SIC Code: 8742 Management consulting services; 8748 Business consulting, not elsewhere classified; 6552 Subdividers and developers, not elsewhere classified; 7999 Amusement and recreation, not elsewhere classified
Organization: Company Name: MIT Press
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia; India; United Kingdom; United States Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia; 9INDI India; 4EUUK United Kingdom
Accession Number: 229218943
Full Text: Abstract

This paper identifies four implementation agency models and several techniques for financing development of political capitals. The research is based upon case studies of Brasilia, Canberra, Chandigarh, Dodoma, New Delhi, Ottawa-Gatineau, and Washington. The implementation agencies included planning and development authorities responsible for entire cities or limited areas, plan preparation commissions, and integrative agencies that programme and plan the symbolic core of the capital. Financing techniques included direct expenditure by the national and local governments, bonds, financing by banks or developers and sale of property to private investors. Important characteristics to foster plan implementation are presented.

Key words: capital cities; plan implementation; implementation agencies; finance


Cet article identifie quatre modeles d'agences de mise en oeuvre, ainsi que plusieurs techniques de financement pour le developpement des capitales politiques. Il fait part d'etudes de cas de Brasilia, Canberra, Chandigarh, Dodoma, New Delhi, Ottawa-Gatineau et Washington. Nous avons etudie les agences d'urbanisme et de developpement, soit a l'echelle de la ville, ou de ses districts, les commissions de preparation des schemas d'urbanisme, et les agences d'amenagement du centre-ville de ces capitales. Nous avons aussi etudie les modes de financement, dont les sommes provenant des gouvernements nationaux et locaux, les obligations d'epargne, le financement des banques et des promoteurs, et la vente d'immobiliers aux investisseurs prives. Nous presentons les conditions necessaires a la realisation des plans d'urbanisme.

Mots cles: capitales; realisation des schemas d'amenagement; agences responsables de la mise en oeuvre; finances


The design and development of new capital cities was a significant task in twentieth century urban planning. New capital cities were often 'big plans' that required mobilization of political support, vast financial resources and the best urban design talent (Vale 2008; Hein 2004; Almandoz 2002; Geo Journal 2000; Dube and Gordon 2000; Hall 1997; Taylor et al. 1993; Gottmann 1983). Implementing these plans might take decades, as in Washington or Canberra. At the other extreme, Brasilia was first carved out of the interior in less than four years.

A capital plan is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for development of a capital city. The plan needs to be implemented. In this article, we examine the roles and types, and the relative strengths and weaknesses, of capital city implementation agencies. We then examine the structures, organizational models, and financial methods that have been used to implement capital plans. We conclude with a discussion of important characteristics that facilitate plan implementation in capital cities.

For the purposes of this paper, a capital city can be defined as an urban area containing the seat of government for a nation-state or province. Peter Hall (1993) identifies at least seven types of capital cities: multi-function capitals; global capitals; political capitals; former capitals; ex-imperial capitals; provincial capitals and super capitals. The research method for the study was a comparison of longitudinal case studies of the planning and development of sixteen capital cities during the twentieth century, selected from global coverage across the seven types (Cordon 2006). This paper focuses upon implementation methods for political capitals--cities that have been developed mainly as a seat of government, especially Brasilia, Canberra, Chandigarh, Dodoma, New Delhi, Ottawa-Gatineau, and Washington.

Urban planning was a particularly important activity for these political capitals, especially for completely new cities on greenfield sites. The planning histories for the seven political capitals mentioned above form the basis for this article, with comparisons to other capitals when appropriate.

Most capital cities contain unique elements associated with their status as a seat of government, such as the parliament building, embassies, cultural facilities and appeal courts. Capital cities have particular planning issues associated with the seat of government (Vale 2008): official residences, embassy districts (NCPC 2003; Gournay and Loeffler 2002), memorials and monuments (Gordon and Osborne 2004; NCPC 2001; Vale 1999), cultural facilities (Gordon 2007), symbolic content (Cullen 1995; Rapoport 1993), and financial strategies and political relations between the local and national governments (Swyngedouw and Baeten 2001; Campbell 2000; Libidi 1993; Rowat 1993; 1973; Savitch 1988). In the newer political capitals, such as Brasilia and Canberra, it was fairly simple to identify these planning issues associated with the seat of government. But as cities like New Delhi and Washington matured and expanded into major metropoli in the late twentieth century, implementing capital city plans became more difficult.

Implementation is an important, difficult and little-understood element of the planning process. A plan that cannot be easily implemented is a poor plan. It wastes the time, money and political consensus needed for its preparation and approval (Pressman & Wildavsky 1973).

Successful plan implementation is difficult to define or measure (Talen 1996a). However, failure may be obvious for agencies responsible for building a new political capital. Early the twentieth century, both Canada and Australia established special-purpose agencies to plan and develop national capitals. By 1955, the lack of progress in transforming Ottawa or Canberra into 'a capital worthy of the nation' was painfully obvious, despite many plans prepared by leading international consultants (Gordon 2002).

Similar failures in policy implementation for American urban programmes sparked some earlier research interest (Walsh 1990; Mazmanian & Sabatier 1983; Bardach 1977; Frieden & Kaplan 1975). Specialized studies of plan implementation followed beginning with specific project types such as downtowns and waterfronts (Sagalyn 2001; Gordon 1996; 1997a; 1997b; Frieden & Sagalyn 1989) and evolving into more general theory building (Seasons 2003; Sies & Silver 1996; Talen 1996a; 1996b; Alexander & Faludi 1989; Dalton 1989). A well-crafted plan is not enough to facilitate implementation; expertise in finance, political management, and administrative arrangements is also needed.

The principal administrative innovation for implementation of twentieth century capital plans was the independent development authority (Mitchell 2001; Axelrod 1992; Leo & Fenton 1990; Henriques 1986; Walsh 1980). These agencies were first used extensively for port authorities (Brown 2008; Doig 2000; Gordon 1997b) and new towns/garden cities (Ward 1992; Hardy 1991; Derthick 1972). Development authorities were also used to build new political capitals on 'greenfield' sites. The agencies used different combinations of the financial tools mentioned below, but they were always subject to intense political criticism. The need for infrastructure or a parliament house requires stable financing over periods that greatly exceed the typical four-year political mandate. The political stability created by an implementation agency often helps generate the financial stability needed to develop a new town or a capital city.

Finally, the best time to negotiate the administrative and financial powers needed to implement a long-term redevelopment project is at the beginning, during the period of political consensus that enables plans for large projects to be approved and construction to begin. The necessary administrative and financial powers may later evolve as major projects move out of the start-up phase into long-term implementation over a period of decades (Sagalyn 2007; Gordon 1997a; 1997b).

Four Models of Capital Implementation Agencies

The case studies from the research programme tell us that capital city planning is a complex enterprise, one that usually involves multiple interests and planning bodies. In almost every instance, an agency was responsible for planning and/ or implementing the plan for a new capital city. Some agencies had more comprehensive mandates than others. Some capital planning organizations had a limited lifespan; others have been in operation since the 19th century. These roles often evolved with time and changing political, institutional and financial circumstances.

We found at least four types of agencies or public authorities involved in plan preparation and implementation for political capitals. These are not mutually exclusive categories. Indeed, over the past century, a capital city's planning and implementation may have been guided by several of these agency types:

1) Planning and development agencies responsible for entire cities; this includes both capital and community planning and development functions;

2) [Re] Development agencies responsible for limited areas--for example, the parliamentary precinct;

3) Plan preparation agencies; these are bodies which are commissioned by the federal government to prepare capital plans; and

4) Integrative agencies which have the mandate to plan, develop, market and animate the capital.

These categories reflect varying needs for capital planning, development, and marketing.

In the first category, capital planning occurs along with community planning so that the host community supports and is integrated with the capital function. In the second category, the capital planning function is narrowly defined and occurs within an existing community, on lands that are designated for capital functions. In the third case, capital plans are created by special purpose bodies which have been established for plan development, not necessarily implementation. In the last category, a comprehensive, vertically integrated approach to capital planning is taken. There is recognition that capital planning and development are necessary but not sufficient conditions for evolving capitals. The built form provides the platform for interpretation of the capital, for telling the capital's and nations story.

Planning and Development Agencies Responsible for Entire Cities

These are agencies with a specific mandate for the creation of a new capital city. In this model, responsibility for capital region planning resides with the national government that seeks to create a political capital. The national government may also be responsible for local and community planning, although responsibility for community planning-type activities can be delegated to local government. Pivotal capital region lands are acquired and controlled by the national government. The capital region is considered as a capital first, then as an urban community. The capital plan is implemented through national government policies, programs and projects. Local government needs can be met through allocations from the national government, or by resources from semi-autonomous means.


Interestingly, the first overseer for plan implementation in Canberra was Walter Burley Griffin, who with Marion Mahony Griffin, designed the 1912 master plan for the city. However, Griffin proved ineffective as an administrator and was forced out by 1920 (Vernon 2006). Very little progress was made with the development of Canberra from 1920 to the 1950s because of interdepartmental conflicts and the impacts of the Depression and WWII (Australia 1955).

The Federal Capital Commission (FCC) (1924-30) was established to organize development and finance for construction. The FCC operated at arm's length from government; its operations were not subject to Ministerial approval. The FCC acted swiftly and established the Federal Parliament in Canberra before the Great Depression took hold and funding evaporated (Gordon 2002).

The planning and construction of Canberra occurred slowly after 1945. The federal government created a new authority named the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) in 1958. The NCDC reported directly to Cabinet, with tight internal controls over project approvals and expenditures. Between 1958 and 1988, the NCDC orchestrated the construction of many highly significant buildings within the Parliamentary Triangle including the High Court, National Gallery, and the National Library (Overall 1995). The NCDC was also responsible for master plans and building projects that led to the development of residential suburbs and new open space.

New Delhi

A special-purpose body, the Delhi Improvement Trust, had been established by the colonial government in 1913 for building within the 'greenfield' New Delhi site. However, its mandate was too narrow to meet the needs of the burgeoning city-region of Delhi. Following India's independence in 1947, the new national government decided to consolidate its operations in New Delhi, part of the larger metropolis of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. As Joardar (2006) notes, it took almost a decade, from 1947 to 1957, to set up an institutional mechanism for comprehensive planning and integrated development of the NCT. Indeed, responsibility for planning and development was quite fragmented, causing serious project and policy coordination problems.


The Brasilia case is especially interesting. The Brazilian federal government established the Company for the Urbanization of the New Capital (NOVACAP). NOVACAP had wide-ranging powers and was independent of regular official controls. It reported directly to the President, and it had authority to guarantee credit for development and could also let construction contracts without calls for bids. NOVACAP owned or controlled almost all the land in the capital region. It was responsible for all land use planning and the creation of master plans (Batista et al. 2006; Evenson 1973).

Over time, NOVACAP was criticized for shoddy accounting methods and wasteful contracting practices. In 1969, NOVACAP lost much of its power and authority with the creation of the Federal District Government (GDF). In 1988, the Federal District obtained political autonomy with an elected governor and legislature that was responsible for the preparation of land use master plans.

This also meant that the planning and development of Brasilia was subject to the actions of both federal and district agencies who functioned, as Batista et al. (2006, 174) notes, "in a not quite harmonious cohabitation" in their efforts to manage slum housing, environmental management and control urban growth. While NOVACAP lives on, its role is much diminished, limited to the construction and maintenance of parks and gardens.

Characteristics that Supported Implementation

Capital implementation agencies in this model shared several characteristics that led to the implementation of capital plans. In each case, the national government was clearly the driving force behind capital planning and building. There was a strong political will from the top, often from the Prime Minister's Office, to plan and develop the capital. A federal government agency was assigned clear responsibility for creating and implementing the capital plan. The federal government owns the land in the capital region, and exerted direct land use planning powers. In each case, the capital building agency was created to achieve high-profile results through its own efforts, and/or through coordination of other agencies' activities.

[Re] Development Agencies for Limited Areas

Senior governments sometimes establish special purpose redevelopment agencies for special projects that are usually located in limited areas within an existing capital city. While the planning and development agencies discussed above are similar to new town corporations, limited area agencies are like urban renewal authorities (Sagalyn 2001), but with capital city plan implementation objectives. Their mandate is to plan and develop highly symbolic projects that feature high design values with locations on prestigious sites.

For example, in Washington, successive U.S. Presidents supported the revitalization of the long-neglected Pennsylvania Avenue. Kennedy appointed the first Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, which was succeeded by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation in 1966 (PCPA 1964; Gournay 2006). Other examples might include the Tokyo Urban Improvement Commission (Watanabe 2006) and the implementation agency for the EUR district in Rome (Piccinato 2006).

Characteristics that Supported Implementation

In this model, the special-purpose nature of these implementation agencies meant they could focus on specific projects. Mandates were very clearly defined, as were expectations of performance. The national government, in each case, provided sufficient financial resources and professional expertise to ensure these high-profile projects were completed on time (if not always on budget). This model was especially useful when considering the most effective means of building capital-oriented projects in a larger metropolitan context.

Plan Preparation Agencies

Empowering an agency to prepare a plan for others to implement was a common, but rarely effective, practice. In this case, the assumption is that the existence of a plan is sufficient to generate action and implementation activities. The links between plan creation and plan implementation--now clearly understood as essential--seem to have been overlooked.


The exception that illustrates this rule is the 1902 US Senate Parks Commission plan. By all rights, this plan should have failed. Its champion, Senator McMillan, died shortly after the report was printed. He had not obtained Congressional authorization for the planning expenses, making the powerful Speaker of the House a long-term enemy of the plan. Further, there was no implementation agency, nor approved long-term funding. But the plan was extensively publicized by its high profile consultants Daniel Burnham, Charles McKim, and Frederick Law Olmsted. Luckily, President Theodore Roosevelt admired the plan, but direct presidential intervention was needed for minor issues such as the setback of office buildings from the Mail (Gournay 2006). In 1910, Roosevelt finally appointed a Fine Arts Commission chaired by McKim to co-ordinate the federal implementation of the plan, which took over 60 years (Peterson 2003; Kohler 1996; Moore 1921).

New Delhi

The original New Delhi Plan was prepared by a small Town Planning Committee (1912-1913), with expert British consultants. This committee was commissioned directly by the Viceroy and the senior imperial civil servants, who were to be directly involved in implementing the plan, starting with the Imperial Delhi Committee (1913-1917). The colonial government was able to impose this plan as a result of its strong powers over local and national development.

The federal government later generated an Interim General Plan for the Delhi area in 1956 under the auspices of its Town Planning Organisation. An independent Delhi Development Authority prepared the first metropolitan master plan in 1962. However, Joardar (2006) points out that the municipal government never had a role in land use planning or project development and had limited success in controlling Delhi's rapid growth. More recently, in 1985, the Indian government enacted the National Capital Region Planning Board, which was responsible for preparing a regional plan.


Canada's Federal Plan Commission (1913-16) was disbanded after it published its report, which sat on the shelf after it was released. Although WWI and the 1916 Parliament Building the delayed implementation, the Ottawa Improvement Commission and Federal District Commission were not involved in preparing the plan nor had much interest in implementing it (Gordon 1998).

Characteristics that Supported Implementation

These cases demonstrate the importance of making clear and strong links between plan creation and plan implementation. This link was essential for implementation of a capital plan. These experiences also demonstrate the dangers associated with the lack of consultation with key stakeholders when creating plans. Plan preparation that did hOt include the key stakeholders required for implementation was rarely effective, no matter how skilled the consultants retained by the planning commission (Seasons 2003; Talen 1996a; 1996b; Alexander and Faludi 1989; Dalton 1989).

Integrative Agencies: Planning, Implementing and Marketing the Capital

This model signals a shift from capital building to capital animation. Initially these agencies were often responsible for planning and designing the capital. This role was complemented with responsibility for plan implementation. More recently, within the past 20 years, we have seen the increasing importance of bringing the capital to life--of animating, packaging, commemorating and communicating the capital. This is the smallest category of capital city implementation agencies found within mature political capitals.


Trie National Capital Commission (NCC) was formed in 1959 to implement the Greber plan. Its mandate shifted in the mid-1980s from the traditional role of capital building to capital building and animation. This reflected the perception in Canada's federal government that Ottawa-Gatineau was a mature political capital that needed to play a greater role in promoting national unity by animating and interpreting the capital's built and natural heritage. The story of Canada was to be told through the capital experience--through its cultural institutions, parks, thematic events and festivals. This newer role complements the NCC's traditional capital planning and implementation responsibilities (Paquet et al. 2006; NCC 1998).


Canberra's NCDC was disbanded in 1989 with the advent of ACT (Australian Capital Territory) self-government, and was then succeeded by the National Capital Planning Authority (NCPA) whose focus was the administrative and symbolic capital; urban planning became the responsibility of the Territory government (Vernon 2006). By 1997, the NCPA scope was expanded to include marketing, interpretation and animation of the capital, similar to the post-1980s mandate of the NCC in Ottawa-Gatineau (Gordon 2002). The Canberra agency is now called the National Capital Authority; there is no mention of planning in its title.


In Washington, the focus of recent planning has been on the highly symbolic monumental core. However, in the mid 20th century, the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (NCPPC) (1926-1952) performed park acquisition and comprehensive planning for both federal and local governments. Post-war, Washington was at the forefront of urban renewal and the NCPPC was mandated to designate urban renewal areas and adopt plans for them as early as 1945. The NCPPC's plans were carried out through its implementation arm, the D.C. Development Land Agency. However, the NCPPC was understaffed and thus relatively ineffective. In 1952, the National Capital Planning Commission was established with a mandate to redevelop and renew the monumental core (Gournay 2006). The National Park Service assumed the parks function, q-he bureaucratic hierarchy was further complicated by the addition of the new National Capital Region Planning Council.

In Washington, national pride is reflected in continual significant investments in the capital, but, as Gournay (2006:116) explains, "to be initiated and implemented, plans continue to depend upon 'feudal' congressional appropriation, an inadequate system given the transient and volatile nature of U.S. legislative and executive leadership." The 1996 Extending the Legacy vision plan re-focuses on the monumental core (NCPC 1997), but the NCPC has few funds for implementation. It must parmer with the local government and the private sector to make progress.

Characteristics that Supported Implementation

This model suggests that capital building needs to be complemented by animation, interpretation and programming activities. This strategy is particularly appropriate for mature, political capitals that have evolved past the capital building stage, especially in federal systems with political capitals. In this context, plan implementation can be facilitated through strategic investments in facilities and infrastructure that support the animation function. It is also important to remember that capitals require continual maintenance and redevelopment of/upgrades to structures and infrastructure.

Other Implementation Models

As political capitals grow and mature, other implementation models may be possible. Once a mature and capable municipal government is in place, it may be possible to implement some capital city planning objectives with a close partnership with the local government, such as the expansion of Helsinki from a provincial to national capital (Kolbe 2006), or the post-reunification reconstruction of Berlin (Sonne 2006; Wise 1998). Similarly, if a city has a large and competent private sector, some capital development projects may be accomplished by public-private partnerships. For example, the Belgian government worked informally with the private sector to create many facilities to support the European seat of government in Brussels, with mixed results (Hein 2006; 2004). Similarly, New York used a variety of public-private partnerships to develop the United Nations, Rockefeller Center, the former World Trade Center and Lincoln Center projects, which help solidify its position as a global capital of culture and finance (Birch 2006).

Financing Capital City Development

Capital city planners should also pay close attention to the financial strategy for implementing plans. Political capitals on greenfield sites often have difficult financial problems. A new town is a costly and long-term investment, and a national capital has additional costs to construct key governmental buildings, monuments and public spaces to a standard that inspires national pride. Few of these symbolic investments generate any revenue, and to make matters worse, the infrastructure, which as no political benefits, must be built first. Canberra, New Delhi and Chandigarh faced major delays due to lack of funds and Brasilia almost bankrupted Brazil.

A comprehensive plan, political support and an implementation agency were hOt enough to create a new national capital for Tanzania when the money simply was hOt available.

Unfortunately, most analyses of capital city development stick to their politics and urban design, mainly because the fiscal data is difficult to find. Detailed financial analysis of large scale public private developments is uncommon (Sagalyn 2007) and for capital cities it is quite rare, since the projects are hyper-politicized and tend to go over budget and over schedule. As a result, the national governments and implementation agencies often bury or fragment the data. Canada's NCC is a delightful exception to this research difficulty, since its financial records are in the public domain, along with those of its predecessor agencies from 1899 forward.

This section of the paper draws from six cases where some financial data were available, and where important lessons would be learned from good or bad fiscal management. Unlike the administrative analysis above, no clear organisational models emerged from the research, so the cases are presented in rough chronological order, followed by a brief summary of financial techniques.


In Canberra, funding was only available for planning and site work until after World War I. The Federal Capital Advisory Committee (1921-25) had poor financial arrangements. The funding was inadequate, late and without certainty of the size of next year's allocation from parliament. Very little progress was made until the Federal Capital Commission (1925-1930) under businessman Sir John Buttars. This agency had the authority to borrow money, hire consultants and issue construction contracts, and it moved quickly to complete the provisional parliament house and 'temporary' offices by a 1927 deadline. But a change in government and the 1930s Depression destroyed the political support for capital building. The agency was dismantled in 1930.

Canberra's development did hOt pick up speed again until the NCDC started in the late 1950s. Sir John Overall, the dynamic leader of the NCDC, demonstrated that the best time to acquire the powers needed to implement a plan was during the period of consensus cleared by the project's political champion. He repeatedly refused to accept the appointment as chairman of the new agency until Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies agreed to the independent administrative and financial structure that allowed the NCDC to escape the political and bureaucratic in-fighting that had stalled capital development for over 20 years (Overall 1995).

This new agency negotiated annual grants with the Treasury, while sharing medium-term (5-year) financial plans with their overseers. The NCDC, which the Prime Minister and Cabinet respected, scrupulously guarded its image of financial effectiveness, never went over-budget, and stockpiled construction materials for the next season if it was under-budget. It had a reputation for starting construction the day after its project budgets were approved (Gordon 2002).

New Delhi

In New Delhi, there was no redevelopment agency, but the project was managed by senior staff of the famously effective Indian Civil Service. Indian taxpayers paid for the new imperial capital--there were no subsides or loans from Britain. India was a poor country, and there was a constant struggle to find funds for the project. The initial cost estimates for Imperial Delhi were vague, and political controversy erupted over their continual increases. If Viscount Hardinge had hOt begun construction prior to 1914, the project probably would have been cancelled. As it was, the annual appropriateness fluctuated wildly as WWI and other national priorities competed for resources.

The new capital was hOt completed/inaugurated until 1931, over a decade late (Irving 1981). Some impetus to complete the project came from the ministers and civil servants themselves, since the entire government had been moved into truly temporary quarters north of Delhi in 1914. In Brazil, Australia and Tanzania the bureaucrats and politicians initially refused to fund the new capitals, since they opposed the move from Rio, Melbourne and Dar es Salaam, respectively.


Although we classify Ottawa as a political capital, it was hOt a new town project like Canberra, New Delhi, Brasilia, Chandigarh and Dodoma. The post-World War II reconstruction of Canada's capital started with an existing city of 250,000. The NCC spent over $1.2 billion (1999 Canadian dollars) from 1947 to 1970 to implement Jacques Greber's master plan (See Figure 1). Prime Minister Mackenzie King constructed a powerful political rationale for this expenditure by making reconstruction of the national capital Canada's principal World War II memorial. The NCC used a system like Canberra's it negotiated annual grants from the Cabinet, based upon a medium-term capital plan (Gordon 2002). The Canadian agency might just as well have been building a new town since it had to spend substantial sums on land acquisition and infrastructure. The federal government was in a hurry, so it paid for sewage treatment, roads, parks and other infrastructure that was often the responsibility of other levels of government.


The Indian civil servants who ran the Chandigarh development agency appear to have learned from New Delhi's experience (Perara 2006). The chief administrator and chief engineer prepared a massive, multi-volume cost estimate for all the elements of the project in advance. Le Corbusier was left entirely free to create his own architecture, provided it met the requirements of the program and had absolute respect for the price, to the last rupee (Evenson in Eldredge 1975: 4045). This was a powerful incentive for the architect, who responded by developing construction methods that effectively used local unskilled labour.

The overall budget for Chandigarh was US $39 million, and the national government paid directly for the land, infrastructure and water supply. The capital costs were offset by the public sale of lots, so that the net expenditure was $18 million, but this was a major burden for cash-strapped India in the mid 1950s (Evenson 1975; Kalia 1999).

Chandigarh's construction budget included the cost of building housing for civil servants. Following Indian tradition, the government built houses and rented them to the public servants at a standard 10% of their salary. This resulted in clusters of housing that separated the residents spatially by social class and building type: senior officials lived in clusters of bungalows, while junior clerks rented tiny apartments (Kalia 1999: 150-1). The financial structure of Chandigarh fell apart in the 1970s after Punjab was partitioned into Sikh and Hindu provinces, which both claimed Chandigarh as their capital. After being forced to share the city as a capital district on a temporary basis, both provinces refused to pay their share of the rent on the government buildings, and the national government was forced to subsidize the project (Kalia 1999:156-66).



NOVACAP also hoped to use land sales to subsidize the construction of the capital. Unfortunately, the sales were tainted by corrupt practices (Batista et al. 2006). The market for lots was also ruined by scandals created by speculators who subdivided parcels many kilometres from the Pilot plan (Evenson 1973:156-7). The national government was forced to directly fund private contractors to build infrastructure and major public buildings. Private developers funded by public sector pension funds and government banks undertook residential construction of the superblocks.

Brasilia had a schedule, but no budget. Implementation was driven by the absolute requirement for the 1960 opening ceremony at the end of President Kubitschek's term. Since this was only three years past the selection of Costa's plan, construction proceeded at a breakneck pace, with most of the costs picked up by the national government. According to William Holford, one of the competition judges:

Nobody knows, least of all I think the New Town Corporation (NOVACAP), what this new town has cost. When I asked Dr. Pinheiro, the President of NOVACAP,, whether he was bothered by accountants over capital expenditure, or by capital accounts committees and things of that kind, he said, "No, no, no." I said, "Do tell me the secret. How is it that you survive?" He said, "It is quite simple. We have fixed a D-Day-April 21, 1960. The town must be ready then. I have said to parliament, 'If you criticize me, you do not get your town.'" (Holford, cited in Evenson 1973: 155)

Subsequent estimates by scholars and financial analysts put the initial cost at between US $400 and $600 million, with another $1 billion spent in the next decade to complete the existing projects (Evenson 1973). Braslia was a political triumph for Kubitschek, but the economic cost was almost more than the country could bear in such a short period. It was estimated that Brazil's new political capital consumed between 2 and 3 percent ofthe GNP for the period, driving up inflation and devaluing the cruzeiro (Lafer, cited in Batista et al. 2006).


The Tanzanian government never funded the construction of Dodoma's planned infrastructure at a level close to the budget established in the plans. A drought, post-OPEC oil shock and a war with Uganda absorbed the country's reserves and foreign aid could not pick up the slack (UNCHS 1987). Even fewer resources were available after the national economy collapsed in the mid 1980s, and minor corruption scandals in the new capital's implementation agency made it an unpopular venue for investment.

Few public servants and no diplomats wanted to relocate to a town with inadequate infrastructure and insufficient housing, so most of the ministries and all of the embassies remain in Dar es Salaam. Under these conditions, the bureaucratic and political will to find additional financial resources to complete the capital is weak, similar to Canberra's relationship with Melbourne from 1920-1960. Dodoma will likely have to wait even longer, and with many other pressing national priorities in Tanzania, this may be a case where slow implementation is successful implementation.

In summary, the capital cities examined in this article were typically funded by a combination of the following techniques.

* Direct expenditure by the national government

* Direct expenditure by the local government

* Long-term bonds issued by local or national government

* Financing by national banks or pension funds

* Financing by private contractors or developers

* Sale of serviced lots to private developers

Most of these techniques are not new--many were used by Haussman to finance the reconstruction of Paris (Hall 1998, 706-745; Sutcliffe 1993; Evenson 1979; Lavedan 1975). More recently, developing countries such as Tanzania have used international aid to help finance capital city construction (Tanzania 1988).

Many countries used memorials or small special events to justify expenditures that embellish their capitals. Canberra, New Delhi and Ottawa all used World War I memorials to implement public spaces in their plans. However, large special events like Olympics and World's Fairs are conspicuous by their absence in political capitals. These mega-events often leave a legacy of infrastructure, housing and cultural facilities, as well as visitor amenities that fit the internal and external tourism agendas of many capitals (Gold and Gold 2007; Burbank et al. 2001; Roche 2000; Essex & Chalkley 2004; 1999; 1998). Although fifteen modern Olympiads and nine World's Fairs have been staged in national capitals, only the 1936 Berlin games and 1958 Brussels fair were held in political capitals. Large metropolitan capitals like London, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo and Beijing use these events to finance transportation, culture and sports infrastructure, while weaker federal capitals such as Ottawa, Canberra and Washington tend to be passed over in favour of larger cities like Montreal, Sydney, Melbourne or Los Angeles.

Summary and Conclusions/Lessons Learned

In this article we have identified administrative and financial techniques that aided in the implementation of plans for political capitals, q-he broad findings were similar to the implementation literature: special purpose agencies were useful and a variety of public funding sources were needed, since private investment was minimal in the start-up phases. However, the unique symbolic requirements of a political capital made implementation different from and perhaps more difficult than building a new town or redeveloping a waterfront.

Administrative Strategy

The most important finding from this research is that special purpose agencies are essential for the implementation of plans for political capitals. We found four major types of implementation agencies:

1) Planning and development agencies responsible for entire cities

2) [Re] Development agencies responsible for limited areas

3) Plan preparation agencies

4) Integrative agencies

We found that these special purpose agencies were essential players in most of the case studies, and significant progress in building a new capital city was often delayed until an effective implementation agency emerged.

The type of agency required for effective implementation changes as the project matures. Plan preparation commissions and development authorities may be required to get started on a political capital on a greenfield site. As the new city emerges and matures, integrative agencies that focus on programming the capital and interpreting it to the nation become more important, and there is less need for powerful urban development authorities.

A political champion for the plan can be crucial in the start-up period, as we saw with Kubitschek in Brasilia, Menzies in Canberra and Mackenzie King in Ottawa. A capital plan needs champions who understand the need to reflect the values, dreams and aspirations of a nation through its capital and will assemble the necessary administrative and financial resources to implement the project. Building a political capital is a long-term, sustained process that requires continued effort over many decades. Further, commitments must transcend the relatively short electoral cycle, and survive the changes in regime that often occur. Even the longest-serving leaders, like Mackenzie King, can merely launch the development of a political capital. Long-term implementation requires an agency that will act as champion for the capital city, and the agency may sometimes require bipartisan support.

As a political capital grows and matures, the municipal government of its residents will champion its own plans that focus on local issues. Tensions can be caused in capital regions comprising shared jurisdiction because of differing mandates and conflicting visions for land use planning and urban design. These issues are more complex when the national capital spans several states or provinces, as in India, Canada and the USA. It is clear that the national government should be responsible for planning and implementation of those special elements that make a capital city: the seat of government, official residences, embassy districts, memorials, monuments and other symbolic content. The capital planning agency will eventually need to share planning for other issues like office districts, parks, cultural and transportation facilities with state and local governments and other national departments.

Inter-departmental and inter-agency conflict is another reality in many capitals. Problems can arise in complex decision-making environments as other national, state and local agencies may not share what may be perceived as nebulous capital-building goals in the face of immediate problems caused by metropolitan growth. As a result, it can be difficult to achieve the inter-agency support needed to advance the capital building agenda. Clarity of the capital city agency's mandate and powers seems a necessary condition for implementation of capital-building initiatives in these complex environments (Paquet et al. 2006).

Financial Management Strategy

While monuments, national institutions and related facilities are certainly important aspects of political capitals, planning organizations may have to justify why significant national resources are expended on capital planning and building. As with more 'generic' plan implementation for projects like new towns and waterfronts, the capital planning agency must consider financial constraints and opportunities from the outset of the plan-making process. It appears that implementation of a capital plan can be accelerated by a financial strategy that secures public resources on a multi-year basis in the start-up period. In addition, the agency should demonstrate that it is well-managed and a responsible steward of the public purse--and perceived by such by stakeholders in the capital. The development of an effective project finance strategy seems to be an effective means of communicating fiscal well-being and reliability, which are important to maintaining political support.

The most frequently used financial techniques appear to be direct expenditure by national and local governments and long-term infrastructure bonds. Public-private financing from land, contractors or developers was often ineffective in the early stages of building political capitals, as we saw in Brasilia and Dodoma. While private land values may eventually become significant in a capital city, the long time required for the political capitals to transform into larger, full-function metropolitan areas makes it unlikely that public-private finance could assist with the considerable start-up costs. Sponsoring governments should expect to use traditional grant financing for most expenses, although long-term bonds may be useful for some utilities and infrastructure.

Building a reputation for financial probity and efficient expenditure of public funds appears to be a useful financial strategy for implementation agencies for political capitals, as seen in Canberra, New Delhi, Chandigarh and Ottawa. Other regions of a federation are often jealous of the funds needed to build a capital city, and the necessary political support may dry up if financial scandals abound. However, this strategy is not always followed when political deadlines and national pride are at risk, as illustrated by Brasilia. India could ill-afford this sort of result for Chandigarh in the 1950s, soit was fortunate that the new Punjab capital had a little more time for planning, budgeting and administrative control.

Finally, a bit of macro-economic luck is also useful, since no clever financial strategies can help if the nation is mired in financial constraints such as the 1930s Depression for Canberra or Tanzania's mid- 1970s drought and oil shock.

Planning for capital cities may not be a growth industry, as it was after the collapse of empires during the twentieth century. Yet, perhaps twenty new nation-states have emerged in the past two decades, despite suggestions that the rise of globalism is rendering the concept obsolete. Other countries are struggling to maintain their national identity despite these global pressures (Saul 2008; 2005) so there may still be a role for a political capital with symbolic content. In addition, provincial capitals are becoming more important as power devolves in some nations. Political capitals that are considering new projects can learn from the implementation experiences of previous plans.


The capital cities research benefited from advice from Eugenie Birch, Michael Hebbert, Javier Monclus, Ann Rudkin, Tony Sutcliffe and Larry Vale. The Canberra research was assisted by comments from Rob Freestone, Christopher Vernon and Bruce Wright. The Ottawa financial research was conducted by Xiao Zhiliang and revised by Anthony Hommik. An enthusiastic and talented team of research assistants contributed to the project, including Cheryl Dow, Laura Evangelista, Wes Hayward, John Kozuskanich, Dayna Lafferty, Kelly McNicol, Will Plexman and Amanda Slaunwhite. Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants and a Fulbright Senior Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania financially supported the capitals research.


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David L.A. Gordon

School of Urban and Regional Planning

Queen's University

Mark L. Seasons

School of Planning

University of Waterloo
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