WORLD BANK REPORT BRINGS LIGHT TO ISSUES OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN ASIAN CITIES
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.”