As the world urbanizes rapidly, – it is estimated that only 1.5% of the world’s land is home to about half of global production.
Such economic concentration is a built-in feature of human settlement development and a key driver of growth. However, while some countries have succeeded in spreading economic benefits to most of their citizens, many other countries have not.
Especially outside the economic centers that concentrate production, there are “lagging areas” with persistent disparities in living standards and a lack of access to basic services and economic opportunities.
Over one billion people live in underserved slums with many disparities from the rest of the city in terms of access to infrastructure and services, tenure security, and vulnerability to disaster risk. A further one billion people live in underdeveloped areas with few job opportunities and public services.
How can countries address the division between the leading and lagging regions?
As discussed at the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
[Download: World Bank publications on urban development]
On May 31 we had the pleasure of presenting the first phase of the Poland Catching-up Regions Program, an initiative of the European Commission and the World Bank. In just over one year, this initiative has successfully addressed a number of key development challenges faced by two "lagging regions" in Poland – Podkarpackie and Świetokrzyskie.
The initiative's successes range from faster business registration in Rzeszow and Kielce (the capitals of the two regions, respectively) to the setting-up of a vocational education training system in Świteokrzyskie and design of a Technology Transfer Center in Rzeszow. Partnered with outstanding teams from the European Commission and Poland, the World Bank was able to support this progress by bringing together global expertise and hands-on collaboration in both design and implementation of policies. This is important for Poland and for the lessons it provides for other developing countries.
This importance of cities for regional and national development now serves as a foundation for the dialogue between the World Bank and the European Commission, with respect to the design of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the 2014-2020 Programming Period. The ERDF is the world’s largest investment program targeting sub-national public infrastructure investments.
In this video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, Senior Urban Development Specialist from Romania Country Office team, discuss the importance of cities in regional and national growth and development, and the role the Bank is playing in the design of the world’s largest sub-national investment fund.
While some cities have grown, others still lag behind. Such inequalities in development are usually characterized by weak economic performance, low human development indicators, and high concentration of poverty. For example, Mexico achieved incredible growth as a nation, yet per capita income in the northern states is two or three times higher than in the southern states. Disparities in other social and infrastructure metrics are even more dramatic.