Shortly after taking power, Porfirio Lobo, then president of Honduras, and prompted by a young aide Octavio Rubén Sánchez Barrientos, sought out the assistance of Paul Romer, son of former Colorado Governor Roy Romer and a proponent of endogenous growth theory, which holds that economic growth is primarily the result internal institutions and processes within a given nation state. According to Barrientos, the Charter City or "special development region" (SDR) was initially proposed during the presidency of Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero, who had restructured Honduras' economy along neoliberal lines in the early 1990s. According to Barrientos, a charter city would be free from the restrictions of the central government, like democracy and self-rule:
Journal: Who will control the charter city, and how will it insulate its economy from the political pitfalls that have plagued Honduras in the past?If you think this sounds familiar, you may recall a crisis regime imposed on New York City with a similar governance model. And it should perhaps come as no surprise that Romer's employer, the Marron Institute, was also commissioned by Detroit's Emergency Manager to study alternative governance models for Detroit, post-bankruptcy.
Sanchez: It has a lot to do with the government structure of the SDR. It is designed so that the central government has no power to intervene in this region. You may have all kinds of political crises outside of the region, but the region can make long-term plans without getting bogged down by national problems.
The city will be led by a governor, who will be accountable to a body called the Transparency Commission that functions like a board of trustees. Nine independent experts will be appointed to the commission and will be charged with the hiring and firing of the city's governor. The commission can include anyone from anywhere in the world. It can include Hondurans expatriates, foreigners or well-respected Hondurans who reside in the country. The commission can also be reformed so that it can grow and incorporate other members beyond the initial nine.
The key to the success of the city is granting it a very high degree of autonomy. Once we finish deciding which areas of the country will be affected by this project and we set up the governance structure, it can run on its own--forever.
Journal: Is there another body, like a legislature, to which the Transparency Commission will be accountable?
Sanchez: At this point there is no other institution or governing body besides the Transparency Commission. Eventually there will be a legislature, which is required once the city population reaches a certain level.
At that point, if a member of the Transparency Commission is not acting appropriately, the people of the city can decide to amend the basic law--the constitutional statute--and create a different structure. But initially there will be very few people in the city.