At The Atlantic, Sebastian Mallaby reports:
Paul Romer, a gentle economist at Stanford University [...] is peddling a radical vision: that dysfunctional nations can kick-start their own development by creating new cities with new rules [...] centers of progress that Romer calls “charter cities.” By building urban oases of technocratic sanity, struggling nations could attract investment and jobs; private capital would flood in and foreign aid would not be needed. And since Henry the Lion is not on hand to establish these new cities, Romer looks to the chief source of legitimate coercion that exists today—the governments that preside over the world’s more successful countries. To launch new charter cities, he says, poor countries should lease chunks of territory to enlightened foreign powers, which would take charge as though presiding over some imperial protectorate. Romer’s prescription is not merely neo-medieval, in other words. It is also neo-colonial.
Inevitably, Romer’s big idea attracts some skeptical responses. “Paul is very creative,” says William Easterly, a development economist at New York University, “and sometimes creativity can cross the line into craziness.”
We in the west can hem and haw all we like, but here's my guess: at least some poor countries will take this idea and run with it. Why not? It isn't as if there aren't any takers.