The Big Smoke vs. The City of Lights

In this article, Zenia Khajotia presents the argument for London to take inspiration from Paris in its continued efforts to uphold its reputation as a ‘world city’.

If London is to fulfil Boris Johnson’s dream of becoming the ‘best big city on earth’, it could actually benefit from learning a few things from its close neighbour, Paris. With a journey time of under two hours between the two, both London and Paris boast global economic power, world-class education, as well as dining, museums and historical landmarks. This combined with further political and social factors, places these two iconic cities in the elite list of the world’s ‘global cities’. But how exactly have the two come here? They have taken very different approaches in order to climb to the top of the global ladder, however does London narrowly fall short?

In terms of competition for economic growth, it is undoubtable that London takes the lead. However, with a large proportion of investment and market structure dependant on financial services, this also leaves the London market volatile and vulnerable to global swings. It is possible another global financial crisis like that of 2008 could rock the city, and potentially knock it off its top spot. London needs to watch out, and perhaps should look to Paris as inspiration to expand its other industries such as commerce and transportation, where over 80% of Paris’ enterprises operate. London could also seek to adopt Paris’ successful ‘favourable integrated’ bargaining environment which would require the city to rely more on the state for revenues and expand its defining industries such as finance and fashion and shopping.

Another thing London should take note on is Paris’ impressive entrepreneurial spirit; with thousands of independent coffee shops, butchers and bakers, Paris encourages local businesses to thrive whereas London streets would in comparison showcase an endless array of chains restaurants, Starbucks, Costa, and far too many Pret A Manger branches. This stifles and discourages London’s independent stores.

Whilst the City of Lights can be seen to focus on a preservative and restorative approach to renewal, London is constantly aiming for innovation, chasing after change, and obsessed with regeneration. Whilst this has its benefits, this high pace of change inevitably leads to vast numbers of displacement, and leaves the city skyline littered with unsightly cranes. Currently Paris is in the process of renovating old office blocks in the city centre into homes, in order to meet the demand for affordable housing. This is a policy that could potentially help to solve some of the housing crisis currently being experienced in London.

All in all, Paris’ friendly and safe atmosphere attracts more families to settle down, rather than throwing them out of the centre, and allows them to live affordably with more reasonably priced food and public transportation than London, not to mention Paris’ lower crime rate. Housing prices are reaching unreasonable highs in The Big Smoke, and overcrowding is becoming a real issue. If London is to become the ‘best big city on earth’ it certainly has a lot of work to do, the city needs to stop neglecting at start listening to the cries from the very thing that keeps it running: the people.


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