Moscow mega-city is the largest in Europe

Moscow mega-city is the largest in Europe
Photo: Photo by the Mayor and Moscow Government Press Service. Denis Grishkin
The Moscow Government continues to develop the infrastructure, upgrade schools and outpatient clinics and create a quality urban environment. These measures will help the city remain people-friendly and win the global race for human resources.

The Moscow megalopolis, that includes Moscow and the Moscow Region, ranks among the ten largest mega-cities in the world and is the largest in Europe. The population exceeds 20 million. This megalopolis makes up about 14 percent of the entire Russian population and produces about 26 percent of the country’s GDP.

The city economy is growing faster than the national economy. Moscow is a major sales market for Russia’s regions and consumes about three trillion roubles annually. It employs about 2.5 million people from other regions. Moscow is a driving force in economic growth with a growth rate about 15 percent higher than the Russian economy on the average, over the past 20 years,” Sergei Sobyanin said at a plenary meeting of the Federation Council. Moscow owes its economic growth to innovation, the service sector, finance and other similar sectors.

Mega-city growth rates largely determine national and regional growth. “The Russian economy would simply lag behind other leading countries if local urbanisation rates and the development of big cities slow. Whether we agree or disagree with the concept, global development trends show this to be true,” Mr. Sobyanin stressed.

In 2025, the world’s 600 largest cities (megalopolises) will have a population of two billion or 25 percent of the entire global population, and these cities will account for 60 percent of the world’s GDP.

In addition, the modern world faces new type of competition. Ancient cities vied for control over trade routes. During the Industrial Revolution, they tried hard to control manufacturing. Today, global mega-cities are struggling to attract human resources because an increasing number of educated and successful people can choose their place of residence among cities or by simply looking at a map of the world. “Over the past decade, inter-city migration volumes have increased three-fold. Today, expats from other regions account for 40 percent of the people living in big cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong and London. This highlights an intensive redistribution of the economically active population between the biggest mega-cities,” Mr Sobyanin noted.

Instead of preventing Russian citizens from coming to Moscow, we need to discourage the economically active population from leaving the country, he added. “Moscow is a reliable partner to other regions, rather than a rival. Moscow is part of Russia, and open to cooperation with other Russian regions. We have signed long-term cooperation agreements with almost all of them; these documents stipulate industrial co-production arrangements, expanded agricultural trade, the provision of medical services and other aspects,” Mr Sobyanin explained. In the past six years, the capital has increased its federal tax obligations by 62 percent, and this figure is growing by 50 billion annually.

The Moscow Government continues to implement comprehensive programmes to develop the infrastructure, to upgrade the social sector and to create a high-quality urban environment. These measures will help the city to remain people-friendly and win the global race for human capital. “A mega-city cannot develop by itself. We need to work on our infrastructure and people-friendly environment because, instead of generating synergy and economic development, we would otherwise face degradation, obsolescence, and social, economic and political problems,” Mr Sobyanin added.

Moscow has changed and become more beautiful in the past few years, said Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko. “So many new public gardens, parks and pedestrian streets have appeared. Mr Sobyanin, no one believed it would be possible to make a dent in traffic congestion. You have accomplished this by expanding the road-and-street system. The Moscow Central Circle railway alone deserves every praise. This is the longest such project in the world. You are opening so many new metro stations each year. Many other improvements could be listed. Moscow has blossomed, has become more beautiful, clean and tidy, and we are proud of our country’s capital,” she noted.

New roads and metro

From 2011 through 2020, the city is to build about 1,000 kilometres of new roads and about 100 new metro and MCC stations. Large-scale transport construction, upgraded rolling stock, the creation of a modern parking system and the introduction of the intelligent parking system will ensure quick and convenient traffic in the Moscow megalopolis. This programme has already been implemented by over 50 percent. Each year, the capital invests about 300 billion roubles in the development of transport infrastructure.

People’s economic potential and labour productivity tend to increase if they spend less time travelling to their place of work, schools or universities; this improves economic performance, and people themselves feel better, receiving more time for work and leisure,” Mr Sobyanin said.

City residents and citizens from other Russian regions benefit from the expanding transport infrastructure, he noted. “Moscow is a major national transport hub transiting up to 50 percent of all passenger traffic in the country,” he added.

New developments and other improvements

The Moscow Government is focused on well-balanced polycentric development, while implementing its urban development policy. The city also aims to create new centres of business activity in the newly incorporated territories and in redeveloped industrial zones. There are plans to build about eight million square metres of housing and commercial properties annually.

The creation of a people-friendly urban environment is another priority. Since 2011, the city has improved over 20,000 courtyards, 450 parks and nature areas. “Every rouble invested in the economy spurs economic development. The tourist industry alone nets the municipal economy about 400 billion roubles. The people-friendly environment attracts people to the city and helps it compete with other foreign mega-cities,” Mr Sobyanin explained.

The city is now implementing the large My Street improvement programme and is working to create the world-class Zaryadye, Nagatino, Dream Island and other parks.

High-quality education and healthcare

The Moscow Government is working hard to provide high-quality education on par with the best foreign cities. This calls for the latest equipment in schools, a high professional level from teachers, modern education standards and a wide range of in-depth professional training projects.

In 2016, the city tested students under PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) standards. The results confirmed that Moscow is the tenth best city worldwide in terms of education levels. “150 Moscow schools are the best in the world in terms of these education services,” Mr Sobyanin added.

Speaking of healthcare, the city mostly strives to provide high-quality treatment in a comfortable setting by using the most advanced methods and equipment. Since 2011, the average life expectancy of city residents has increased from 74 to 77 years. This shows that the city’s healthcare system has improved considerably. “Moscow’s healthcare system serves city residents and the entire country. Patients from all Russian regions account for over 50 percent of those at the city’s federal clinics. In addition, Moscow clinics treat people from other regions whose share is 20-25 percent,” Mr Sobyanin added.

New housing to replace obsolete five-storey buildings

In 2017, the Moscow Government will begin implementing the most ambitious national programme for housing renovation; this programme is also one of the largest worldwide.

Over the next 15 years, the city will relocate people now living in first-generation five-storey residential buildings. Theoretically, the programme could encompass up to 7,900 residential buildings with an area of 25.1 million square metres where about 1.6 million people live. This is a particularly sensitive city-level programme. “Moscow launched this construction programme earlier than other regions. Actually, the city has experimented with industrial prefab housing construction. And the results of this experiment were not always very good. Some concrete panels were molded with construction waste,” Mr Sobyanin said.

The State Duma is now considering a draft federal law stipulating a Moscow renovation standard that includes the following:

  • comprehensive construction of high-quality modern residential buildings with the necessary social infrastructure in renovated areas;
  • relocating tenants only with their consent;
  • relocating former tenants of five-story buildings to flats with the same area in their home districts or in nearby areas;
  • exempting residents of buildings included in the renovation programme from paying for residential-building major repairs.

In his speech, Mr Sobyanin asked Federation Council members to support this draft federal law.

In conclusion, Mr Sobyanin quoted the national leaders who are focusing on the development of major city megalopolises. “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, leader of the United Russia party, has said that a modern economy largely implies the economy of the big cities, and this, of course, does not underestimate the importance of the rural population or that of small towns. They are all important integral components of the country. And President Vladimir Putin has stressed that our cities should aspire to the future,” he said.