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Urban Development

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.

What will Kenya’s urban future look like for newborns James and Maureen?

Dean Cira's picture



Last year two of my friends welcomed new babies into their families: James and Maureen (not their real names). Both babies were born in Metropolitan Nairobi - the fastest growing urban area in the country. Their births added to the growing urban popluation in Kenya, which will double to 24 million by 2035 and more than triple to 40 million by 2050. The Kenya Urbanization Review projects that by that time, that there will be nearly as many Kenyans living in urban areas as there are Kenyans today. Kenya’s urban transition has begun.

Campaign Art: Using the hot road to cook a meal

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

As per NASA’s definition, global warming is “the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past century primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels.” This increase in temperature has grown exponentially in recent times. According to a World Bank report, warming of close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times is already locked into Earth’s atmospheric system by past and predicted greenhouse gas emissions.

This rise in temperatures is most notable in cities due to the so-called “urban heat island” effect. This is caused by the concentration of people, vehicles, buildings and machinery, all of which generate heat. However, the biggest contributor to the urban heat island effect is the replacement of plants by concrete, according to the Smithsonian’s article.

Deforestation and increased pollution have caused Paraguay’s capital Asunción to be recognized as the hottest city in the world. World Wildlife Fund had an interesting idea to raise awareness amongst Paraguayans about the dangerous effects of global warming. With a local chef, they organized an outdoor restaurant with a “Global Warming menu” cooked directly on the hot asphalt of the street.
 
WWF Global Warming Menu

Make in India: Which exports can drive the next wave of growth?

Saurabh Mishra's picture
Structural transformation depends not only on how much countries export but also on what they export and with whom they trade. In my new IMF working paper with Rahul Anand and Kalpana Kochhar, we break new grounds in analyzing India’s exports by the technological content, quality, sophistication, and complexity of India’s export basket. The paper can be found here. Here are few key pieces of evidence from our paper:
 
Technological content of India’s exports   

The evolution of Indian exports has not followed a “textbook” pattern. The pattern of evolution points to a dichotomy in the Indian economy – a well integrated, technologically advanced services sector and a relatively lagging manufacturing sector. The share of service exports in total exports has grown to over 32 percent in 2013 from 28 percent in 2000. On the other hand, the share of manufacturing exports in total export has declined to 67 percent from nearly 80 percent during 1990-2013.
 
The growth in service exports has been more rapid, resulting in the share of services exports in total exports to increase rapidly over the last decade. This can be explained by technological changes. Many services do not require face-to-face interaction, and can be stored and traded digitally. These services are called modern services. Modern services are the fastest growing sector of the global economy. This is particularly evident in India, where modern services exports account for nearly 70 percent of the total commercial services exports (compared to around 35 percent in EMs) (see Figure 1). 
      
Figure 1. Rapid Growth in Modern Services from India

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.  

2004: Digging deep on mining

Jim Anderson's picture



Continuing our series of blogs looking at the 25 year partnership between Mongolia and the World Bank, today we examine 2004, the year Mongolia’s growth rate accelerated to 10.4%.  After 15 years, real GDP per capita had finally passed the level of 1989. The country was in the midst of a mining boom, and that sector took center stage in 2004. 

‘I matter’: giving unemployed young Papua New Guineans a second chance

Tom Perry's picture

Young people account for almost half of Papua New Guinea’s population and comprise a large part of the urban poor. In the capital, Port Moresby, an increasing number of young people are leaving school without the necessary skills for entry-level jobs.

The Urban Youth Employment Project (UYEP) provides disadvantaged young people (aged between 16 and 35) in Port Moresby with life skills and employment training to increase their chances of finding long-term employment, also the motivation to make a fresh start in life. To help meet immediate economic needs, the project is also providing temporary employment opportunities.

Equal opportunity to women benefits all

Annette Dixon's picture


Celebrating the women of South Asia

As we today mark UN Women’s Day, it is worth considering what the inequality between men and women costs South Asian countries and what can be done about it. 

One big cost of inequality is that South Asian economies do not reach their full potential. In Bangladesh, for example, women account for most unpaid work, and are overrepresented in the low productivity informal sector and among the poor. Raising the female employment rate could contribute significantly to Bangladesh achieving its goal in 2021 of becoming a middle-income country. Yet even middle-income countries in South Asia could prosper from more women in the workforce. Women represent only 34 percent of the employed population in Sri Lanka, a figure that has remained static for decades.

Economic opportunities for women matter not just because they can bring money home. They also matter because opportunities empower women more broadly in society and this can have a positive impact on others.  If women have a bigger say in how household money is spent this can ensure more of it is spent on children.

Improvements in the education and health of women have been linked to better outcomes for their children in countries as varied as Nepal and Pakistan. In India, giving power to women at the local government level led to increases in public services, such as water and sanitation.

Just as the costs of inequality are huge, so is the challenge in overcoming it. The gaps in opportunity between men and women are the product of pervasive and stubborn social norms that privilege men’s and boys’ access to opportunities and resources over women’s and girls’.

 

Singapore: The Pelé of urban design

Abhas Jha's picture

Photo: Nicolas Lannuzel/Flickr
Who is the best soccer player of all time? A Google search will offer this name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly known as Pelé. Kicking off in 1958 as a 17 year old World Cup winner, Pele bookmarked his brilliant career a dozen years later with another World Cup triumph for Brazil. 
 
I like to think of Singapore as the Pelé of urban design. The city regularly appears in the top ranks of globally livableconnected and competitive cities. Pelé once famously said, "Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and, most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”. There is no doubt that Singapore’s accomplishments have been made possible by the hard work, perseverance and far-sightedness of its policy makers.
 
2013 speech by Peter Ho, Chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, outlines the careful thought, planning and attention to detail behind Singapore’s urban policy, particularly the decisions, influence and foresight of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew over the decades of development. One astonishing success has been the provision of affordable housing and the care with which each neighborhood has been designed, taking care of the smallest details, in order to ensure social cohesion and a sense of community. These details include provisions for hawker centers and high quality public green spaces.

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