Are­cent re­port by the World Bank ti­tled “Ex­pand­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Ur­ban Poor”, out­lined the dis­crep­an­cies be­tween ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and the de­liv­ery of in­fra­struc­ture, jobs, and ser­vices by gov­ern­ments in East Asia and the Pa­cific.

Cities across East Asia and the Pa­cific – the world’s most rapidly ur­ban­iz­ing re­gion – are not de­liv­er­ing in­fra­struc­ture, jobs, and ser­vices at a pace as rapid as ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, lead­ing to widen­ing in­equal­i­ties that may ham­per eco­nomic growth and lead to so­cial di­vi­sions, said the re­port.

In Mon­go­lia’s case, the un­der­de­vel­oped pub­lic trans­port was brought up as an is­sue for low-in­come com­muters.

“In Ulaan­baatar, Mon­go­lia, low­in­come com­muters can spend as much as 36 per­cent of their monthly ex­penses on bus fare, due to in­ef­fi­cient pub­lic tran­sit routes,” the re­port out­lined.

Amongst the chal­lenges faced by the ur­ban poor is the lack of ac­cess to jobs, pub­lic trans­port and other in­fra­struc­ture, and af­ford­able hous­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the Asian re­gion’s av­er­age an­nual ur­ban­iza­tion rate of three per­cent has helped lift 655 mil­lion peo­ple out of poverty in the last two decades. Yet the re­gion also has the world’s largest slum pop­u­la­tion, 250 mil­lion peo­ple with poor-qual­ity hous­ing, lim­ited ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices, and at risk of haz­ards such as flood­ing.

Fail­ure to ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties for the ur­ban poor im­pacts the coun­tries’ growth po­ten­tial, the re­port said.

Ja­pan and South Korea were men­tioned to have higher eco­nomic growth due to in­clu­sive ur­ban­iza­tion.

“Through­out the 1970s and 1980s, Sin­ga­pore’s econ­omy grew at an av­er­age of eight per­cent an­nu­ally, largely due to an ur­ban plan­ning strat­egy that de­liv­ered ef­fec­tive in­fra­struc­ture, af­ford­able hous­ing, and so­cial ser­vices,” the re­port stated.

“Cities across East Asia have pro­pelled the re­gion’s tremen­dous growth. Our col­lec­tive chal­lenge is to ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties to all in the cities – from new mi­grants liv­ing in the pe­riph­eries to fac­tory work­ers strug­gling to pay rent – so that they can ben­e­fit more from ur­ban­iza­tion and help fuel even stronger growth,” said Vic­to­ria Kwakwa, World Bank vice pres­i­dent for East Asia and the Pa­cific.

The re­port en­cour­ages city gov­ern­ments to have a multi-di­men­sional ap­proach to plan­ning, in­cor­po­rat­ing as­pects of eco­nomic, spa­tial, and so­cial in­clu­sion to foster eco­nomic growth and re­duce poverty.

“Rapid ur­ban­iza­tion is a chal­lenge and an op­por­tu­nity. Pro­vide low-in­come res­i­dents with af­ford­able trans­port ser­vices or hous­ing, so they can save for their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion. En­sure that so­cial pro­tec­tion pro­grams are in place to help fam­i­lies cope dur­ing dif­fi­cult times, such as in the af­ter­math of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters,” said Judy Baker, World Bank lead ur­ban spe­cial­ist and lead au­thor of the re­port. “So­lu­tions for in­clu­sive ur­ban growth are not one-size-fits-all, but they are prac­ti­ca­ble, ef­fec­tive, and nec­es­sary for the greater good.”


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