On a foggy winter morning in Dhaka, 41-year-old Jahid was sipping tea by a roadside stall.
“Life was very peaceful back in my village,” he reminisced, “but there was no work, so I moved to Dhaka. Even if I live in a slum, my children are better off here.”
Jahid is one of the 500,000 people that move to Dhaka city each year. Driven by the promise of economic opportunity as well as poverty in rural and coastal areas, it is estimated that half the population of Bangladesh will migrate to urban areas by 2030.
The Rocky Road to Urbanization
Urbanization can be catalyst for growth. Density – the clustering of firms and workers – can drive productivity, innovation and job creation. It is the benefits of agglomeration that once drew the country’s most important industry – the ready-made garments sector to Dhaka city.
However, it is the costs from congestion that are now pushing factories away, mainly to peri-urban areas. Why are factory owners leaving?
For starters, the tide of new migrants has overwhelmed urban infrastructure, basic services, as well as the stock of affordable housing – eroding the both the livability and competitiveness of Dhaka city. A recent World Bank report described South Asia’s urbanization trajectory as “messy and hidden” – reflected in the large-scale proliferation of slums and urban sprawl.
Recently, an undergraduate engineering student from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) in Bangladesh showed me his mobile app that helps a blind person navigate while enabling family and friends to track their whereabouts. I was impressed with his capacity to apply electronics, geographic information system, and programming knowledge to develop a real-life solution.
Like this student, the ability to innovate harnessing existing talent and infrastructure already exist in Bangladesh. Leading universities, like Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), KUET, Bangladesh Agricultural University, and University of Dhaka already have analog fabrication labs for molding, casting, wood and metal workshops and robotics. The BUET even has a 3D printer, although it is an early version. What is missing is a transformation from analog to digital to improve precision, design, and speed of fabrication and prototyping, a market-oriented product development, and multi-disciplinary teaching, learning, research, and entrepreneurship to advance innovation.
A local innovation ecosystem has also been emerging. Last year, the first hardware startup competition called “Make-a-thon” (website and video) connected young entrepreneurs, industries, and professors to jointly make solutions. BRAC has also organized a 36-hour hackathon event called “Bracathon” to provide a platform for the youth to make mobile applications for social innovation.
To foster innovation and university-industry partnership, the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Program (HEQEP), have been supporting Universities with an Academic Innovation Fund (AIF). To accelerate this effort, the project team organized a workshop on the digital fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) potential to introduce Fab Lab concept.
Bangladesh has a major opportunity to address one of its most pressing development challenges: creating 20 million new jobs over the next decade. And the trade agenda will be a centerpiece of any strategy that seeks to address this challenge.
Below are some 4 highlights from the report, which we will be discussing. I look forward to your questions and a vibrant discussion!
Bangladesh will need to expand its linkages with neighboring countries such as China and India as well as other Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. Not only are these very large markets, they are also potential sources of greater foreign direct investment. What are the critical steps that will allow this to happen? How can the recently signed Motor Vehicles Agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal help? What are the barriers to Bangladesh’s venturing into new markets?
Bangladesh will need to gradually diversify its export base into new product areas while also strengthening its position as the second-largest garment producer in the world (after China). Our report explores the critical challenges that could allow this to happen. In your view, what challenges lie ahead if Bangladesh tries to diversify its exports? Can you name some prospective industries (for diversification)? What will be the role of foreign direct investment in this diversification? What kind of reforms are needed to attract more domestic as well as foreign direct investment?
When my team and I saw this boat passing by us in July 2013 in rural Bangladesh, near the border with Mizoram, Northeast India, and Myanmar, I felt immediately empathic.
How many people are on that boat? Eighty? Does it have a motor? Can those people swim, especially the women? No lifejackets! I wondered how long their trip was, and then I thought: What if they needed a bathroom break? Memories of my family's escape from Vietnam by boat in 1981 flashed back—34 refugees jammed into a traditional fishing boat normally home to a family of seven, with no motor, no life jackets, and no toilets! We floated around the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean for 16 days. Most of us could not swim, certainly not the women and girls.
यह एक सच्चाई है: लकड़ी, चारकोल, कोयले, गोबर के उपलों और फसल के बचे हुए हिस्सों सहित ठोस जलावन (सॉलिड फ्यूल) की खुली आग और पारंपरिक चूल्हों में खाना पकाने से घर के भीतर होने वाला वायु प्रदूषण दुनिया में, हृदय और फेफड़ों की बीमारी और सांस के संक्रमण के बाद मृत्यु का चौथा सबसे बड़ा कारण है।
लगभग 290 करोड़ लोग, जिनमें से ज़्यादातर महिलाएँ हैं, अभी भी गंदगी, धुआँ और कालिख- पैदा करने वाले चूल्हों और ठोस जलावन से खाना पकाती हें। हालत यह है कि इतने ज़्यादा लोग इन खतरनाक उपकरणों का इस्तेमाल कर रहे हैं जो भारत और चीन की कुल आबादी से भी ज़्यादा हैं।
इसे बदलने की जरूरत है। और बदलाव हो रहा है जैसा कि मैंने पिछले सप्ताह में एक्रा, घाना में संपन्न क्लीन कुकिंग फोरम 2015 की कई बातचीतों को सुना। घाना के पेट्रोलियम मंत्री और महिला व विकास उपमंत्री की बात सुनकर, मुझे अहसास हुआ कि सर्वाधिक जरूरतमंद परिवारों को स्वच्छ चूल्हे व स्वच्छ ईंधन उपलब्ध कराने की गहरी इच्छा निश्चित रूप से यहाँ मौजूद है। लेकिन इच्छाओं को सच्चाई में बदलना एक चुनौती है। यह बात न केवल घाना में बल्कि दुनिया के कई हिस्सों के लिए भी सही है।
बाद में मैंने इस बारे में काफी सोचा खास तौर पर जब हमने पेरिस में होने वाली जलवायु परिवर्तन कॉन्फ्रेंस (सीओपी21) पर ध्यान दिया जहाँ दुनिया के नेता जलवायु परिवर्तन के दुष्प्रभाव कम करने के वैश्विक समझौते पर सहमति बनाने के लिए इकट्ठा होंगे। उस लक्ष्य तक पहुंचने की एक महत्वपूर्ण कुंजी ऊर्जा के स्वच्छ स्रोतों को अपनाना भी है। इस लिहाज से, संयुक्त राष्ट्र संघ का सस्टेनेबल एनर्जी गोल (एसडीजी7) का एक मकसद - किफायती, भरोसेमंद, वहनीय (सस्टेनेबिल) और आधुनिक ऊर्जा तक सभी की पहुंच सुनिश्चित करना - यह भी है कि ऐसे 290 करोड़ लोगों तक खाना पकाने के स्वच्छ समाधान पहुंचाएँ जाएँ, जो आज उनके पास नहीं हैं।
Cities are created for human experiences and not for satellites in the sky. So why are there so many cities that while look impressive on a map, exclude so many of their residents from enjoying the full extent of their benefits? The key may be that details matter for inclusion of cities.
Inclusion means that all people and communities have access to rights, opportunities, and resources. Urbanization provides cities the potential to increase prosperity and livability. However, many suffer from poor environments, social instability, inequality, and concentrated pockets of poverty that create exclusion. In South Asia, as in other regions, segregation within cities cause poorer areas to suffer from the lack of access to facilities and services that exacerbate misery and crime.
Medellin, Colombia was once the most dangerous city on the planet with astounding gaps between the wealthy and the poor, vastly different access to services, and the highest homicide rate in the world. Its turnaround has been impressive. Much of the progress has been attributed to the thoughtfulness of its planning to ensure greater inclusion. What can South Asian cities learn from this South American city?
Planning policies and action have often been concentrated on the broad structures and functions of cities. However, drilling down the details can realize an inclusive urban environment that improves life for all in public spaces. In our definition, inclusive cities provide:
Mobility: A high level of movement between different neighborhoods that provide opportunities for jobs, education, and culture;
Services: All neighborhoods have a basic level of facilities and affordable necesities such as housing, water, and sanitation;
Accessibility: Urban spaces are designed so that everyone can easily and safety enjoy public spaces.
What happened in Medellin, Colombia? Medellin offers an inspiring example of how improved planning and sound implementation can increase social inclusion. Two decades ago, Medellin was the homicide capital of the world. Illicit drugs were a major export and hillside slums were particularly affected by violence. In response, the government created public facilities inclusive of libraries and schools, public transportation links, and recreational spaces in the poorest neighborhoods; and connecting them with the city’s commercial and industrial centers. As a result of a planning model that seeks to serve all residents, the city has become safer, healthier, more educated and equitable.
South Asia can now reap the benefits of greater regional integration it once enjoyed before its partition into various countries. But first, the region must break down the barriers that impede its intra-regional trade.
You don’t have to be a number-cruncher to enjoy this challenge:
1, 5, 200, and 2,800,000. Close your eyes after reading these numbers. Can you recite them in the right order?
Intrigued? If you’re interested in the development of South Asia, these four numbers will resonate with you. They represent four areas of opportunity for the region to further integrate and thrive economically.
Last month, prior to the South Asia Economic Conclave #SAEC15, Sanjay met with 30 Indian graduate students holding or currently pursuing advanced degrees in history, economics, and South Asia studies. He shared the 4 numbers with them and observed their responses. Here’s an overview of the conversation:
Urbanization provides the countries of South Asia with the opportunity to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations. But to reap the benefits of urbanization, nations must address the challenges it poses. Growing urban populations put pressure on a city’s infrastructure; they increase the demand for basic services, land and housing, and they add stress to the environment.
Particularly harmful are high concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially that of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5). They can penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the likelihood of asthma, lung cancer, severe respiratory illness, and heart disease.
Data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2014 shows Delhi to have the most polluted air of any city in the world, with an annual mean concentration of PM2.5 of 152.6 μg/m3 . That is more than 15 times greater than the WHO’s guideline value and high enough to make Beijing’s air—known for its bad quality—look comparatively clean.
But Delhi is far from unique among South Asia’s cities.
Need to know how sustained infrastructure investments could boost Bangladesh’s economy? How the delay in implementing key reforms on the domestic front, a weak trade performance and the recent slowdown in rural wage growth pose risks to growth in India? Or how Pakistan could achieve sustained and inclusive growth through reforms in energy and taxation, and increasing investment?
There is a one-stop place to find out what the World Bank is doing in your country and what it thinks about economic prospects there.