OECD Territorial Reviews

1990-0759 (online)
1990-0767 (print)
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This series offers analysis and policy guidance to national and subnational governments seeking to strengthen territorial development policies and governance. These reviews are part of a larger body of OECD work on regional development that addresses the territorial dimension of a range of policy challenges, including governance, innovation, urban development and rural policy. This work includes both thematic reports and reports on specific countries or regions.

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OECD Territorial Reviews: Venice, Italy 2010

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17 June 2010
9789264083523 (PDF) ;9789264083493(print)

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This Review of Venice, Italy, offers a comprehensive assessment of the city-region’s economy and the extent to which its land use, labour market and environmental policies embrace a metropolitan vision. A new understanding of the provinces of Padua, Treviso and Venice as an interconnected city-region of 2.6 million people guides this study. Venice ranks as among the most dynamic and productive city-regions in the OECD, with high employment levels and growth rates. Though it has thrived on a model of small firms and industrial clusters, it is undergoing a deep economic transformation. Venice confronts growing environmental challenges as a result of rising traffic congestion and costly infrastructure pressures, exacerbated by sprawl. Demographics are also changing, due to ageing inhabitants, immigrant settlement and the rapid depopulation of the historic city of Venice.  

This report offers a comparative analysis of these issues, utilising the OECD’s metropolitan database to benchmark productivity and growth. It draws on regional economics, urban planning, transportation studies and hydrology to throw light on the changes within the city-region. In light of planned inter-city rail extensions, the Review calls for programmes to increase economic synergies between Venice and its neighbours. It evaluates key tools for promoting economic growth and metropolitan governance and proposes enhanced co-ordination of land use policies, additional business development services for small and medium-sized businesses, and the enlargement of university-linked innovation. Given frequent flooding, the report appraises the quality of metropolitan water governance and Venice’s potential to become a powerful reference for climate change adaptation.

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  • Assessment and recommendations
    One of the largest economies in Italy is situated in the Venice city-region, defined as the totality of the provinces of Venice, Padua and Treviso along with the Venice Lagoon and its archipelago of 117 islands. The Venice city-region ranks as among the most dynamic and productive cities in Europe. Although Venetians are richer than the average Italian, they have a per capita GDP (USD 32 941) comparable to that of Toronto or Barcelona, which rank behind the OECD average. However, the Venice city-region is catching up fast. Compared to OECD metro-regions, its economic growth rate can be compared to that of London, Stockholm or Houston, placing it among the top ten performers in Europe.
  • Towards a resilient and integrated metropolitan economy
    Through a global comparative framework, Chapter 1 assesses the competitiveness of the Venice city-region, defined as the totality of the provinces of Venice, Padua, and Treviso along with the 550 square-kilometre Venice Lagoon. A historical section reviews how the Venice city-region has evolved towards a polynodal area composed of a series of connected small towns, rural areas and the cities of Padua, Treviso and Venice. Commuting flow data is presented along with data on the spatial dimensions of economic relationships, infrastructure, ecology and political geography in the city-region. Metropolitan economic trends are reviewed and benchmarked, including GDP per capita, labour productivity growth, participation rates, patenting, employment and unemployment rates. Demographic changes are also assessed: Chapter 1 reveals how rising life expectancy, low fertility and an early pension age have increased the dependency of seniors on the working-age population. Immigration data are presented, which attest to a steady rise. Such changes are occuring amidst a profound economic re-organisation in Veneto through a shift towards highly knowledge-intensive products and a growth in commuting within the Venice city-region. Infrastructure deficits are highlighted and underlie constraints in the mobility of the regional labour force and the consolidation of metropolitan-wide inter-firm linkages. Finally, the chapter assesses the environmental concerns stemming from Venice’s unique combination of hydrological vulnerability, urban sprawl and heavy industry. Metropolitan resiliency would benefit from an integrated approach involving economic, environmental and governance contributions.
  • Towards a competitive city-region
    The economic potency of the Venice city-region derives from its unique combination of unusually strong local communities and an outward-looking, export-oriented economic system. The industrial district model has been highly adaptive and this chapter recommends that policy makers confront three cardinal challenges by capitalising on the city-region’s entrepreneurism, flexibility and cosmopolitanism. First, competitiveness could be bolstered by a regional innovation system, which could improve the relative weakness of science-based technological innovation in the tradable manufacturing sector. A specific approach towards SMEs is required, given their predominance in the Venice city-region’s economy. Acquiring business development tools and strengthening trade associations through business development services would better position SMEs to connect with university departments, private companies, suppliers and their clients. Second, Venice city-region needs to introduce new skills into its labour market and achieve improved labour market integration for designated groups, such as women and older workers, i.e., those in the 55-64 age bracket. Policies to upgrade and adapt the skills of the labour force are critically assessed along with their ability to create inclusive labour markets, especially for immigrants, women and the oldest segment of the working population. Third, more initiatives would enhance connectivity between Padua, Treviso and Venice to ensure the dynamism of the city-region as an organic and synergistic whole. Connecting Venice to the outside by improving rail-port connections and curbing sprawl from the inside through promoting denser urban development merit prioritisation in a metropolitan economic strategy.
  • Effective water governance: from instability to resilience
    Faced with complex hydrological issues, including flooding, water supply security and water quality management, improved water governance could benefit economic development, historic conservation, and quality of life throughout the Venice city-region. This chapter both provides an overview of the main politico-hydrological challenges and proposes key recommendations for improving water governance. The first two sections outline the main water resources in the city-region and discuss the possible impacts of climate change. A series of incipient proposals for climate change adaptation will be evaluated. This is followed by an institutional mapping of what some observers call a "byzantine" structure of water governance, with multiple overlapping agencies and regulatory bodies from the Italian government, Veneto Region, provinces and municipalities. The second half of the chapter summarises key governance issues and "gaps" in the Venice city-region; e.g., "gaps" pertaining to information, co-ordination, funding, capacity, administration and policy. It briefly discusses the consequences of these governance gaps, focusing on Lagoon flood protection and water quality management. The final section explores strategies for improving water governance and concludes with a set of suggested recommendations for urban water governance in the Venice city-region. These include recommendations pertaining to greater vertical and horizontal co-ordination (multi-level and integrated governance), long-term planning, and integration of broader ecological and economic development considerations into water governance.
  • Metropolitan governance: a goal in search of a model
    To effectively address the Venice city-region’s economic and environmental challenges would require changes to current governance practices and frameworks. Co-ordination, both within a single level of government and vertically between levels of government, is necessary to articulate a series of commonly defined policy objectives. Chapter 4 identifies and analyses the factors involved in the most appropriate and effective multilevel governance structure for the Venice city-region. A series of recommendations are proposed to strengthen the Venice city-region’s competitiveness, including tools and instruments for compact land use planning, strengthening planning for a polycentric metropolitan region (especially in such areas as transit, tourism management, and climate change action planning), and the adoption of a metropolitan spatial vision into the public policy process. Given the Venice city-region’s highly polycentric structure, "soft instruments", i.e. voluntary partnerships and the creation of a metropolitan spatial vision, have immediate potential. The chapter proposes new governance arrangements to increase inter-sectoral co-ordination through performance standards and the facilitation of experimentation and pilot projects with area-wide policy co-ordination and service provision.
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