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“But what about Singapore?” Lessons from the best public housing program in the world

Abhas Jha's picture
Also available in: Mongolian | Chinese
 
Photo of Singapore by Lois Goh / World Bank

 
As we approach the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur next week, one of the essential challenges in implementing the New Urban Agenda that governments are struggling with is the provision at scale of high quality affordable housing, a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 of building sustainable cities and communities.
 
When I worked on affordable housing in Latin America, one consistent piece of advice we would give our clients was that it is not a good idea for governments to build and provide housing themselves. Instead, in the words of the famous (and sadly late) World Bank economist Steve Mayo, we should enable housing markets to work. Our clients would always respond by saying, “But what about Singapore?” And we would say the Singapore case is too sui generis and non-replicable.

[Learn more about the World Bank's participation in the World Urban Forum]
 
Now, having lived in the beautiful red-dot city state for two and half years, and seeing up close the experience of public housing in Singapore, one is struck by elements of the Singapore housing experience that are striking for its foresight and, yes, its replicability!
 
Singapore’s governing philosophy has famously been described as “think ahead, think again and think across.” Nowhere is this more apparent than how the founding fathers designed the national housing program, and how it has adapted and evolved over the years, responding to changed circumstances and needs.

It is hard to believe today but in 1947 the British Housing Committee reported that 72% of a total population of 938,000 of Singapore was living within the 80 square kilometers that made up the central city area. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. Today, 80% of Singaporeans live a government built apartment. There are about one million Housing and Development Board (HDB) apartments, largely clustered in 23 self-contained new towns that extend around the city’s coastal core.
 
How has Singapore succeeded where so many other countries have failed dismally? At the risk of over-simplification, there seem to be four essential ingredients to this astonishing success story:

Chart: Economic Development and the Composition of Wealth

Tariq Khokhar's picture

The composition of wealth fundamentally changes with economic development. Natural capital—energy, minerals, land and forests—is the largest component of wealth in low-income countries. Its value goes up, but its share of total wealth decreases as economies develop. By contrast, the share of human capital, estimated as the present value of future incomes for the labor force, increases as economies develop. Overall, human capital accounts for two-thirds of the wealth of nations. Read more in The Changing Wealth of Nations

 

Chart: Global Wealth Grew 66% Between 1995 and 2014

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Global wealth grew by 66% between 1995 and 2014 to a total of over 1,140 Trillion dollars. The share of the world’s wealth held by middle-income countries is growing — it increased from 19% to 28% between 1995 and 2014, while the share of high-income OECD countries fell from 75% to 65%. Read more in The Changing Wealth of Nations

 

Incentives for cleaner cities in Nepal

Charis Lypiridis's picture
The "orange city" of Dhankuta, Nepal. Photo: World Bank
The "orange city" of Dhankuta, Nepal. Photo: World Bank


Cities across Nepal—and in the developing world—produce more waste than ever before, due to a spike in population and a surge in new economic activity and urbanization. Properly disposing and managing solid waste has thus become urgent for city municipalities.

Although collecting, storing, and recycling solid waste can represent up to 50 percent of a municipality’s annual budget, many local governments don’t collect enough revenue from waste management services to cover these costs.

As a result, landscapes and public spaces in Nepal’s urban centers are deteriorating. Less than half of the 700,000 tons of waste generated in Nepal’s cities each year is collected. Most waste is dumped without any regulation or oversight and several municipalities do not have a designated disposal site, leading to haphazard disposal of waste—often next to a river—further aggrevating the problem.

With urbanization rising, the costs of inaction are piling up and compromising people’s health and the environment. In most cases, the poor suffer the most from the resulting negative economic, environmental, and human health impacts.

Limitations of Cash Payment Limitations

Nikos Passas's picture
Back in March 2017, the European Union Commission announced a public consultation about a possible introduction of cash payment limitations (CPL). This follows the adoption of an action plan dated 2.2.2016 “against the financing of terrorism”. This action plan suggests that because “payments in cash are widely used in the financing of terrorist activities” we should explore “the relevance of potential upper limits to cash payments”.

The Middle East and North Africa outlook in five charts: Recovery after a weak 2017

Lei Sandy Ye's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Growth in the Middle East and North Africa region is estimated to have slowed sharply in 2017 and is forecast to recover to 3 percent in 2018. Regional activity is anticipated to strengthen gradually over the medium term in response to policy reforms and easing fiscal adjustments. A number of downside risks continue to cloud the outlook for the region, including geopolitical tensions and conflict, weakness in oil prices, and obstacles to reform progress. These are only partly offset by the possibility of stronger-than-expected Euro Area activity.
 
Regional growth tumbled last year, led by oil exporters

Growth in the Middle East and North Africa is estimated to have slowed sharply to 1.8 percent in 2017 from 5 percent the year before, driven by decline in growth among oil exporters. Growth declined among Gulf Cooperation Council and non-GCC oil exporters, with oil production cuts and continued geopolitical tensions contributing to the fall-off.
Growth

Innovate to irrigate: 19 innovations to increase food production without draining the earth

Brittany Scalise's picture
Also available in: Arabic, Chinese, French
Whenever you bite into a piece of food, do you think about where it comes from? How did it get from the ground to your table? Who are the farmers and entrepreneurs who cultivated and sourced it? It’s strange to think that this doesn’t cross our minds more often.
 
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
 
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the
Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.

How PPIAF leveraged $17.1 billion for infrastructure by focusing on the critical upstream

François Bergere's picture


Photo: BrilliantEye | iStock

As the only global facility specifically dedicated to reinforcing the legal, institutional and policy underpinnings of private sector participation in infrastructure—which we call the critical upstream—we at the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) realize we have a key responsibility to developing countries.

That responsibility is to help client governments unlock their potential by de-risking investments and creating an enabling environment for private sector participation, itself a condition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and climate-smart objectives. As such, PPIAF fits neatly into the new Maximizing Financing for Development (MFD) approach to crowd in the private sector, an initiative launched by the World Bank Group and other multilateral development banks last year.

Igniting action for farmer-led irrigation at Water for Food International Forum

Lauren Nicole Core's picture
Water scarcity, lack of access and rights to water for irrigation, and climate shocks are just a few of the challenges that global farmers face. These issues emerged as major themes during the Water for Food International Forum taking place today and tomorrow (January 29-30, 2018) at the World Bank, which brought together farmers, governments, private food and technology companies, financial institutions, and researchers and practitioners from around the world. 

Why investors must take a chance in the world's most fragile countries

Stephanie von Friedeburg's picture
Microfinance in DRC. © Anna Koblanck/IFC
Microfinance in DRC. © Anna Koblanck/IFC


Fragility, conflict and violence affect more than two billion people across the globe. And while poverty on the whole is declining, that's not the case in countries affected by conflict.

It is these countries plagued by near-constant political and economic instability that are often the ones most in need of private investment. Yet they are also the places few private investors are willing to go. The risks seem to outweigh the rewards.


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