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Can other cities be as competitive as Singapore?

Sameh Wahba's picture
Photo: Joyfull/Shutterstock
Singapore is an example of one of the most competitive cities in Asia and in the world. Many, many other cities want to be the next Singapore. In fact, Singapore has been so successful that some believe that its success cannot be emulated. They forget that in the 1960s, Singapore faced several challenges – high unemployment, a small domestic market, limited natural resources, not to mention that most of the population lived in overcrowded unsanitary conditions in slums. Challenges that would sound very familiar to a large number of cities in the developing world.

And so, what better place than Singapore for the Asia Launch of the Competitive Cities for Jobs and Growth: What, Who & How report. The World Bank Group, along with the Centre for Liveable Cities and International Enterprise Singapore co-sponsored the launch as part of Urban Week held in Singapore from 8-11 March, 2016. The roundtable was attended by over 100 delegates representing cities from 23 countries.

The competitiveness potential for cities is enormous. Almost 19 million extra jobs, annually, could be created globally if cities performed at the level of the top quartile of competitive cities. Of this potential, more than 1/3, i.e. equivalent to an additional 7 million jobs, comes from cities in East Asia. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 200 million people moved to East Asia's urban centers – these people will need jobs. Where will these jobs come from? How will they be generated?

A global conversation about collaborating for better infrastructure delivery

Clive Harris's picture

Conversation may be an art, but the best conversations spur action, too – and the upcoming Global Infrastructure Forum 2016 will focus on strengthening and formalizing collaboration among multilateral development banks (MDBs) to improve infrastructure delivery around the world.  This unprecedented daylong gathering in Washington, DC brings together the leaders of the MDBs, as well as development partners and representatives of the G20, G-24, and G-77 and the United Nations, with the aim of enhancing multilateral collaborative mechanisms to improve infrastructure delivery globally.

It’s time to change the way we talk about the “Infrastructure Gap”

Marianne Fay's picture
Credit: ADB

Back in 2000, a research assistant and I received a request from a multilateral development bank that wanted a model for how much money was needed for them to invest in Latin America. I put together a very simple model – it was actually more of a benchmarking exercise – asking what kind of infrastructure in roads, energy, and water/sanitation that countries had at that time, based on income, economic structure, and urbanization. Then I created projections in terms of income and urbanization. I thought, “Well, assuming countries grow this way and follow the patterns of the past, it’s quite easy to deduce an investment pattern and an investment amount.” I called this final figure the “infrastructure gap.” Little did I expect it, but the term caught on and a subset of literature of infrastructure investment was born. We’re still talking about the infrastructure gap today, and it is a focus of the upcoming Global Infrastructure Forum 2016.

But a lot has changed in 16 years, and it’s time to re-cast our conversation about the infrastructure gap. In fact, it’s imperative to change the conversation if we want to achieve our goals. And the Forum is the right place to start.

New ideas for financing American infrastructure: a conversation with Henry Petroski

Alison Buckholtz's picture
Henry Petroski, author of The Road Taken:
The History and Future
of America’s Infrastructure

Editor’s Note: Renowned engineer and historian Henry Petroski, author of the just-published The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure, has a unique perspective on public-private partnerships (PPPs). He spoke to the PPP Blog about why the U.S. is at a much earlier stage of PPP development than the rest of the world, how America’s infrastructure PPPs are different than other countries’, and which European PPP models are influencing American progress. It’s an especially timely issue for PPP Blog readers who were reminded of the state of American infrastructure by the sudden closure of the Washington, DC Metro (subway) system earlier this month.

Q: Why is the U.S. so much “younger” than the rest of the world when it comes to PPPs?  
Henry: In the U.S. during the 19th century, almost all our large infrastructure projects, like railroads, were created through private investment.  If someone wanted to build a bridge, a corporation would be formed, find financing, and proceed on that basis. Owners might need a government concession so that they could put the bridge where they wanted, but aside from that it was a purely private enterprise. The Ambassador Bridge, which has linked Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, since 1929, is a good example; it was privately financed and remains wholly privately owned.

How capacity building and market analysis achieved speedy implementation in China

Jianjun Guo's picture
Photo credit: Jianjun Guo

Is it possible to complete advanced contracting for the construction of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines within two or three months and have the lines in operation within six months?

The simple answer is, yes.

The China Urumqi Urban Transport Project II, a US$537 million project, achieved just this as it looked to improve mobility in selected transport corridors in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Province in West China.

What can Chinese cities learn from Singapore?

Wanli Fang's picture
One of Singapore’s latest redevelopment projects included the construction of a freshwater reservoir. Photo: 10 FACE/Shutterstock

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Singapore Urban Week along with other colleagues from the World Bank Beijing office, as well as delegates from China’s national government and participating cities. For all of us, this trip to Singapore was an eye-opening experience that highlighted the essential role of integrated urban planning in building sustainable cities, and provided practical solutions that can be readily adapted to help achieve each city’s own development vision. A couple of key lessons learned:

Putting people at the center of development strategies

This is only possible when planners always keep in mind people’s daily experience of urban space and invite them as part of decision-making process through citizen engagement.

For instance, in many cities, public transit has been perceived as a low-end, unattractive option of travel, causing ridership to stagnate despite severe traffic congestion. But in Singapore, public transit accounts for 2/3 of the total travel modal share in 2014. Moving around the city by metro is comfortable and efficient because transfers between different modes and lines are easy, with clear signage of directions, air-conditioned connecting corridors, and considerate spatial designs and facilities for the elderly and physically-challenged users. In addition, metro stations are co-located with major retail and commercial activities and other urban amenities, significantly reducing last-mile connectivity issues.

Reforming the Centre of Government? It’s the basics, silly

Zubair Bhatti's picture
Riding the Lahore Rapid Transit -   photo: Asian Development Bank

Successful leaders —presidents of countries, chief executives of corporations, or middle managers of counties — focus on a few priorities by deploying the right resources, reviewing progress, and unblocking constraints.  
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the Pakistani province of Punjab (population 100 million) and a tireless, hard driving manager, built a 27 km mass transit system in Lahore in less than a year in 2012-13.  This visible show of results, according to many observers, helped his landslide victory in the 2013 election.
Did a specialized unit deliver for the chief minister? No. Just a group of well-chosen, motivated civil servants and, of course, the impending election deadline. 
What is therefore fundamentally new or useful about the current ferment in the “science of delivery”? The “delivery unit” approach can work wonders, according to Sir Michael Barber, who headed the Delivery Unit in the United Kingdom from 2001 to 20015 and has distilled his advice into 57 rules in a recent book.  

Why regional integration is so important for resource-driven diversification in Africa

Gözde Isik's picture
Industrial area in Kitwe, Zambia / Photo: Arne Hoel

Natural resources management, particularly in the extractives industry, can make a meaningful contribution to a country’s economic growth when it leads to linkages to the broader economy. To maximize the economic benefits of extractives, the sector needs to broaden its use of non-mining goods and services and policymakers need to ensure that the sectors infrastructure needs are closely aligned with those of the country’s development plans.

In Africa, especially, mining and other companies that handle natural resources traditionally provide their own power, railways, roads, and services to run their operations. This “enclave” approach to infrastructure development is not always aligned with national infrastructure development plans.