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Small states (SST)

Livability is an economic imperative for cities

Sangmoo Kim's picture
Sarbamati Riverfront Development before
Sarbamati Riverfront Development before
Sarbamati Riverfront Development after
Sarbamati Riverfront development after

Robert Solow once said: “Livability is not a middle-class luxury, it is an economic imperative.” But how related are livability and economic development?  Furthermore, how can we define and measure livability?

Recently as part of the South Asia Urbanization Flagship Report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability, our team compared a sample of South Asian cities with peers from around the world. The report’s framework considered livability (along with prosperity) as being a key outcome of urbanization.

We wanted to highlight that while urbanization has undoubtedly contributed to economic growth in South Asia, its impact on livability is more complex. As they have grown, South Asian cities have faced challenges arising from the pressure of their populations on basic services, infrastructure, land, housing, and the environment.  This has helped to give rise to what the report terms “messy” urbanization, characterized by slums and sprawl, not to mention levels of ambient outdoor air pollution that rank amongst the highest across cities globally.

The report suggests that to have a full understanding of the urbanization process in South Asia, it is necessary to discuss not only the positive productivity benefits that are associated with urban size and density, but also the negative “congestion” forces.  How successfully South Asian cities manage these forces will help to determine the quality of life not only of the region’s current half a billion urban residents, but also of the additional 250 million that will be added over the next 15 years.

Conflict and development: the World Bank Group’s new strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region

Omer Karasapan's picture
Damascus,Syria - Volodymyr Borodin l Shutterstock.com

In February 2012, I wrote a blog about the relevance to the Arab revolutions that had swept the region of  the UN’s then recently unveiled “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future worth Choosing,” which called for the eventual adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now three and a half years later, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, , world leaders endorsed the SDGs, an ambitious agenda that aims to end poverty, promote prosperity and protect the environment. 

Can better spatial planning and management transform South Asian cities?

Jon Kher Kaw's picture
Aerial view of Dhaka
Aerial view of Dhaka

South Asia’s urbanization has been described as “messy, hidden and underleveraged." A lot has to do with how South Asian countries manage their cities’ spatial development.

Having visited many cities in South Asia, the sight of the built environment in the region is a familiar one–a rapid expansion of built-up areas and an accompanying low-density sprawl that has, all too often, gone hand-in-hand with poorly managed transportation systems, planning constraints, underutilized land, and a lack of institutional capacity and resources. These forces result in high land and rental costs that make it extremely challenging for cities to support affordable housing and commercial space, and to maintain a livable public realm.

Toward South Asian regional economic integration: A Bangladeshi perspective

Tariq Karim's picture
Motijheel commercial area
Mortijheel Commercial area Photo credit: Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan


South Asia can become a powerful locomotive of global development but it could just as easily regress into becoming the crucible for global instability and insecurity

This blog is part of the series #OneSouthAsia exploring how South Asia can become a more integrated, thus more economically dynamic region. The blog series is a  lead up to the South Asia Economic Conclave, an event dedicated to deepening existing economic links through policy and investments in regional businesses.

SAARC countries need to think of pragmatic approaches and reimagine regional cooperation. One can conceive of SAARC as comprising three sub-regions within the larger South Asian landscape namely: the eastern sub-region of  Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN); the southern sub -region of India, Maldives and Sri Lanka (IMS); and the western sub -region of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan (AIP). 

South Asian Urbanization: Messy and hidden

Mark Roberts's picture

South Asia is not fully realizing the potential of its cities for prosperity and livability, and, according to a new report by The World Bank, a big reason is that its urbanization has been both messy and hidden. Messy and hidden urbanization is a symptom of the failure to adequately address congestion constraints that arise from the pressure that larger urban populations put on infrastructure, basic services, land, housing, and the environment.

South Asia Urbanization Infrastructure infographic

Does legal aid reduce poverty?

Paul Prettitore's picture
 Emad Abd El Hady l World Bank

Last week I attended a gathering of legal aid providers, a somewhat informal group mostly from rich countries but with a slowly growing number of developing country participants. Legal aid services—covering public information and awareness, group and individual counseling, and representation by a lawyer—are generally delivered free of charge to the poor and vulnerable, so they can better understand their rights and the procedures to enforce them, and improve their access to formal justice sector services (those provided by courts, other dispute resolution bodies, and lawyers). 

Imagine a South Asia without borders

Annette Dixon's picture
Cranes in Bangladesh Harbor
Cranes in Bangladesh Harbor. Credit: Eric Nora / The World Bank

This blog is part of the series #OneSouthAsia exploring how South Asia can become a more integrated, thus more economically dynamic region. The blog series is a  lead up to the South Asia Economic Conclave, an event dedicated to deepening existing economic links through policy and investments in regional businesses.

Imagine a South Asia without borders. People, industries, goods and services flow freely in the most profitable way for all. Imagine that necessities sorely needed in one area are freely available from areas where there is plenty. South Asia’s story of poverty amidst plenty would begin to change.

South Asia not realizing full potential of urbanization

Mark Roberts's picture
 
Urbanization Report Cover

Urbanization provides South Asian countries with the potential to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations in both prosperity and livability. And, indeed the region has made strides in the early part of the century when its urban population grew by 130 million. Average GDP per capita is up and absolute poverty is down.

Sharing is scaring: Can shared corporate services save costs in the public sector?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez's picture
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank


In late June, we sent two of our bravest colleagues, Marta and Marcelo, on a daring mission into the Tundra, close to the Arctic Circle. Even though the temperature was in the mid-80s (mid-20s Celsius), you could feel the glacial breezes. Since our unit focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, you might wonder what brought them so far north.

The team had arrived in Toronto, Ontario with a mission: to learn more about shared corporate services (SCS) and their potential application to save costs and improve government efficiency in other parts of the world.   

In the late 90s, reeling from a financial crisis, the provincial government of Ontario was faced with a daunting task: to cut a third of its administrative budget in one year. In other words, they had to do more with less. Over the next decade the government managed to save C$43 million in direct costs and C$227 million through efficiency gains. Their secret was an innovative solution borrowed from the private sector.

Why Fatima had to lose her house

Wael Zakout's picture
 Sarah Al Bayya l World Bank

I’ve just returned from a mission to Palestine. During the visit, I met Fatima. She was happily married until last summer, when suddenly she lost everything. 

Urbanization in South Asia: How is it going?

Mark Roberts's picture
 World Bank
Street in old Delhi, India. Credit: World Bank
South Asia’s urban population grew by 130 million – more than the population of Japan – between 2001 and 2011, and is expected to rise by almost 250 million people by 2030. If recent history is any guide, this trend could propel the region toward greater growth and prosperity.
 
A key characteristic of urbanization is that the coming together of people and enterprises in towns and cities  -- a process known as agglomeration – improves productivity and spurs job creation. That’s particularly the case in manufacturing and services. Over the long term, successful urbanization is accompanied by a convergence of living standards between urban and rural areas as economic and social benefits spill beyond urban boundaries.
 
So how is South Asia doing in realizing the potential of its cities for prosperity and livability? What are the challenges facing the region’s countries as their urban populations grow? Are they meeting those challenges or are policy reforms needed?  And, if so, what type of reforms?
 
On September 24, the World Bank will release a new report titled, “Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability.
Urbanization in South Asia Report Cover
Urbanization in South Asia Report Cover.
Credit: World Bank

“Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here”

Ellen Goldstein's picture


I am the World Bank’s Director for the Western Balkans, and I live in Vienna, Austria, where thousands of refugees, mostly fleeing from conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, are now straggling across the border from Hungary after harrowing trips on crowded boats, uncomfortable stays in makeshift camps, cramped bus rides and long journeys on foot when all else fails.

My father’s parents were refugees to America.  They were Jewish peasants from Russia who fled the pogroms of the early twentieth century.  My mother’s great-grandparents were economic migrants, educated German Jews who went to Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century to seek their fortune in grain futures and real estate.  When my parents married in the early 1950s, theirs was considered a “mixed marriage”: Russian and German; peasant stock and educated elite; refugees and economic migrants.  I know the difference between the latter two:  refugees are pushed out of their home countries by war, persecution and a fear of death; economic migrants are pulled out of their home countries by the promise of a more prosperous life for themselves and their children.

What is a university degree worth in the Arab world?

Christine Petré's picture
 Ramzi Maalouf

Graduation—a long-awaited day in most students' lives. Yet, according to Amir Fakih, himself a recent graduate from Lebanon’s Notre Dame University, a graduation ceremony also comes with grievances. To illustrate his perception of the future for Lebanon’s young university graduates, he decided to dress himself in his graduation gown doing low-income jobs. 

Do global rankings tell the whole truth about universities in the Arab world?

Simon Thacker's picture
Zurijeta l Shutterstock.com

Choosing a college or university is one of life’s pivotal decisions—it can influence your career and future opportunities. For students in the Middle East and North Africa, as elsewhere, that decision depends on many factors, large and small. But in today’s world that choice is increasingly influenced by rankings, that is, how an institution lines up against other universities when it’s rated. 

Which South Asia do you live in?

Prabha Chandran's picture




This blog is part of the series #OneSouthAsia exploring how South Asia can become a more integrated, thus more economically dynamic region. The blog series is a  lead up to the South Asia Economic Conclave, an event dedicated to deepen existing economic links through policy and investments in regional businesses.

Which South Asia do you live in? The one which offers world-class metros and malls, super-specialty hospitals, gourmet eateries and designer homes where servants make your meals, drive your car or clean your mess? 

Or do you live in the South Asia where sanitation, water and electricity are a luxury, where filth, ignorance and violence means death comes early and more frequently from illness, poverty and natural disasters? Statistically, the latter is more likely.

Having lived in Southeast Asia, where the emergence of the Tigers has transformed the lives of millions of poor through investment in human development, infrastructure and exports producing high growth rates, the visible poverty and chaotic streets of South Asia are troubling. So, too, is the contrast provided by India's dollar billionaires -- the third-largest rich man's club in the world.


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