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Unlocking the Philippines’ urbanization potential

Judy Baker's picture


Fostering Livable Cities
The Philippines is one of the fastest urbanizing countries in East Asia and the Pacific. This can bring many opportunities for growth and poverty reduction. Cities become engines of growth if well planned and well managed.

Rapid urbanization in the Philippines has brought new jobs, educational opportunities, and better living conditions for some. However, it has also brought challenges, which you’ll see when you move around the streets of Metro Manila. It’s a large sprawling metropolitan area of over 12 million, with congestion that is estimated to cost US$70 million (₱3.5 billion) a day. When it rains, streets and homes are quickly flooded because many drains are clogged or non-existent. Because of lack of affordable housing, an estimated 11 percent of the city’s population live in slums. With 17 cities and municipalities in the metropolitan area, trying to tackle these challenges becomes stuck in deep complexities of urban governance and management. While other cities in the Philippines don’t face the scale of these challenges, they tackle similar issues.


Barjor Mehta's picture
Also available in: English



过去二十年间,中国浙江省丽水市遭受洪水灾害、山体滑坡以及高温酷热之苦。如今, 200多万丽水人有很多自豪之处。丽水被认定为中国最著名的风景如画的生态之城、养生天堂和长寿之乡,这得益于丽水市和浙江省政府官员高度重视,首先弄清气候变化带来的问题的根源,随后全面规划、设计和实施了技术上完善的项目。这些项目与穿城而过的河流和谐相依,与周边丘陵地带贯穿全市的天然暴雨排水系统浑然一体。

In Lishui, China’s “home of longevity”: working towards resilience and adaptation to climate change

Barjor Mehta's picture
Also available in: 中文
Photo:Xiao Wu

Over the past three decades, China’s unprecedented pace of urbanization has allowed more than 260 million migrants to move from agriculture to more productive activities. This has helped 500 million people escape poverty and for China to grow at an average 10 percent a year for three consecutive decades. At the same time, between 2000 and 2014, weather-related disasters caused more than RMB 4.645 trillion ($749 billion) in damages.

There is strong evidence that climate change is altering the profile of hazards. The observed frequency and severity of extremely heavy rain storms since the 1950s in China have significantly increased and future climate scenarios suggest that interannual variability in rainfall may increase further, aggravating the risk of flooding and as well as severe lack of water.

Over the past two decades, the city of Lishui in Zhejiang Province of China suffered from devastating floods, landslides, as well as heat waves. Today, the over 2 million people of Lishui have a lot to be proud of. Their city is recognized as China’s “top ecological, picturesque paradise for healthy life and home of longevity”. This is the result of close attention from city and provincial officials in understanding the root causes of the problems caused by the changing climate. This has been followed by inclusive planning, design and implementation of technically sound projects that are in harmony with the rivers flowing through the city in concert with the surrounding hilly terrain’s natural and city-wide storm water drainage systems.

Land at the heart of Myanmar’s transition: Part 1

Anna Wellenstein's picture

Also available in: Myanmar (.pdf)


Mike-Petteri Torhonen / World Bank

Struggles over land in Myanmar have been a defining characteristic of the country’s six decades of armed conflict.
In the past, government acquired lands for extracting natural resources, commercialized farming, and ambitious infrastructure projects, such as building of the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw. Today, claims over land acquisition injustices dominate public discourse and the new government’s agenda. In parallel, infrastructure and institutions for land administration and property markets are grossly outdated and weak.

Các đô thị hiệu quả đóng vai trò then chốt giúp Việt Nam chuyển đổi sang nền kinh tế thu nhập cao

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: English

Quá trình đô thị hóa nhanh chóng là một điểm nhấn quan trọng trong quá trình phát triển của Việt Nam trong những thập kỷ qua. Năm 1986 dân số đô thị của Việt Nam chỉ là dưới13 triệu người; hiện nay con số đó đã là 30 triệu. Các thành phố đã trở thành trụ cột phát triển mạnh mẽ, tăng trưởng kinh tế của khu vực đô thị cao gấp hai lần mức bình quân của cả nước, đóng góp trên một nửa tổng sản phẩm quốc nội (GDP).
Các khu vực đô thị ngày càng đóng vai trò quan trọng trong tăng trưởng, và điều đó không có gì đáng ngạc nhiên. Một thực tế được thừa nhận trên phạm vi toàn cầu là nếu quản lý tốt, quá trình đô thị hoá sẽ góp phần làm tăng năng suất lao động và tăng trưởng kinh tế nhờ hiệu ứng tập trung, chẳng hạn như thị trường lao động sẽ có quy mô lớn hơn và hoạt động hiệu quả hơn, chi phí giao dịch thấp hơn và tri thức được lan tỏa dễ dàng hơn. Tuy nhiên, khi quan sát cụ thể hơn, có thể thấy đô thị hóa ở Việt Nam hiện nay cần những thay đổi lớn về tư duy để đảm bảo rằng quá trình này sẽ đóng góp toàn diện vào mục tiêu trở thành nước thu nhập cao.
Việt Nam cần sắp xếp lại quá trình đô thị hóa để xây dựng những thành phố hiệu quả hơn – những thành phố có mật độ dân số vừa đủ, kết nối tốt trong nội bộ và trong vùng, cũng như được quản lý tốt. Bên cạnh đó, để phù hợp với ưu tiên mạnh mẽ của Việt Nam trong đảm bảo công bằng xã hội, các thành phố cũng cần đảm bảo rằng mọi người dân đều được hưởng lợi từ quá trình phát triển, không một nhóm người hoặc khu vực nào bị bỏ lại phía sau. 

Efficient cities are crucial to Vietnam’s transformation into a high-income society

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: Tiếng Việt

A striking feature of Vietnam’s remarkable progress over the last few decades is the rapid pace of urbanization. In 1986, there were fewer than 13 million urban residents. Today there are 30 million. Cities have become strong growth poles, with urban areas growing twice as fast as the national average rate, and contributing over half of the country’s gross domestic product.  
The increasing importance of Vietnam’s urban areas in driving growth is not surprising. It is widely acknowledged globally that urbanization, if managed well, can lead to higher productivity and growth, through positive agglomeration effects such as larger, more efficient labor markets, lower transaction costs and easier knowledge spillovers. However, a closer look suggests that the current urbanization process in Vietnam needs a major rethink to ensure that it contributes fully to the goal of achieving a high-income country.
Vietnam needs to reshape its urbanization process to create more efficient cities – cities that have sufficient population densities, are well connected internally and regionally, and well managed. In addition, in line with Vietnam’s strong preference for social equity, cities will need to ensure inclusion of all residents, with no groups or area “left behind.”   

How Ho Chi Minh City got a facelift: sustainable development solutions are changing a city

Madhu Raghunath's picture
Also available in: Tiếng Việt

When I visited Vietnam for the first time three years ago, I imagined a Ho Chi Minh City out of Hollywood movies, with panoramic buildings of French architecture, tree-lined, long boulevards and the melting pot of Indochine cuisine.

After I began working in the city as an urban professional in 2012, I quickly learned to see it as much more: a vibrant, young, hip and energetic city with a vision and determination to become a leading metropolis in East Asia, not just in Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the region.

And it has taken all the right steps just to do that, combining infrastructure development with social services to make sure the city is more livable and growth more sustainable. As the World Cities Day approaches, I thought it would be useful to share the city’s experience with the world. 

Acting on aspirations for a better Vietnam

Mai Thi Hong Bo's picture
Also available in: Tiếng Việt

Luu Vinh Trinh is an 18-year-old student, born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, with a dream of becoming an English teacher. Trinh and one million other students across Vietnam just completed the final high school graduation exam this July. After spending 12 years in school, Trinh and her friends have observed many issues that could be addressed to improve the quality of education in Vietnam.


Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: English
 Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth






Tracking Urbanization: How big data can drive policies to make cities work for the poor

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: 中文
 Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth

Every minute, dozens of people in East Asia move from the countryside to the city.

The massive population shift is creating some of the world’s biggest mega-cities including Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Seoul and Manila, as well as hundreds of medium and smaller urban areas.