PH cities need better infrastructure, services­­—World Bank

The World Bank said Tuesday cities in the Philippines and other Asian countries need better infrastructure, jobs and services.

The bank said in a report titled “Expanding Opportunities for the Urban Poor” that said cities across East Asia and the Pacific—the world’s most rapidly urbanizing region—were not delivering infrastructure, jobs and services at a pace as rapid as urban development, leading to widening inequalities that might hamper economic growth and lead to social divisions.

It said the region’s average annual urbanization rate of 3 percent 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 to hazards such as flooding,” it said.

“Currently, 75 million people in the region live on less than $3.10 a day. Three countries account for the bulk of the region’s urban poor: China, Indonesia and the Philippines. By 2018, half of the region’s population will be urban—more than 1.2 billion people in all, or one-third of the world’s urban population,” the World Bank said.

It said among the challenges faced by the urban poor was the lack of access to jobs, public transport and other infrastructure and affordable housing. In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, low-income commuters can spend as much as 36 percent of their monthly expenses on bus fare, due to inefficient public transit routes. 

“In Indonesia and the Philippines, 27 percent and 21 percent of the urban population, respectively, have no access to effective sanitation facilities. Slum residents are also more at risk to disasters, as the communities are often in low-lying flood-prone areas,” it said.

The report encouraged 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.

“Failure to expand opportunities for the urban poor impacts the countries’ growth potential. In high-income countries, such as Japan and Korea, inclusive urbanization created the space for higher economic growth. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Singapore’s economy grew at an average of 8 percent annually, largely due to an urban planning strategy that delivered effective infrastructure, affordable housing, and social services,” it said.

Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank vice president for East Asia and the Pacific, said cities across East Asia propelled the region’s tremendous growth. She said the collective challenge was 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 could benefit more from urbanization and help fuel even stronger growth.

The World Bank said while six out of the world’s 10 mega-cities are in East Asia, urban poverty was more prevalent in secondary cities, which were growing in importance. As of 2010, small and medium cities accounted for a quarter of all cities in the region. Julito G. Rada

The World Bank report recommended ten guiding policy principles that could be adapted to specific circumstances. They included connecting the urban poor with job markets; investing in integrated urban planning; ensuring affordable land and housing; recognizing the rights of all citizens to the city; targeting marginalized sub-groups among the urban poor; strengthening local governance and embracing citizen engagement; and investing in better data and information systems, for evidence-based policy making.

Topics: World Bank , Philippines , Asean countries , Infrastructure
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