Invest in small cities


A newly released World Bank report is encouraging the Philippines to invest in developing small and medium cities in the peripheries of Metro Manila to ensure that economic growth will be more inclusive.

In a report titled “East Asia’s Changing Urban Landscape: Measuring a Decade of Spatial Growth,” the Washington-based lender said that almost 200 million people moved to urban areas in East Asia from 2000-2010 —a figure that would be the world’s sixth-largest population for any single country.

The report found a direct link between urbanization and income growth, showing how economic output per capita increased throughout the region as the percentage of people living in urban areas went up.

“For the Philippines, urban areas in the country are among the densest in the region, and are becoming denser,” it said.

The publication said the Philippines is home to one of the region’s megacities of 10 million or more inhabitants: the Manila urban area, which is home to 16.5 million people in 2010.

However, it said that there is a “missing middle,” or an absence of medium-sized competitors to Metro Manila.

“The Manila urban area is the Philippines’ undisputed primate city, with no close competitors,” it stated.

In 2010, the Philippine capital had 56 percent of the urban land in the country and more than 70 percent of the country’s urban population, though these proportions decreased slightly between 2000 and 2010.

It is spatially seven times larger than the second-largest urban area, Angeles City, and 10 times more populous than the second most populous urban area, Cebu, it added.

The report also pointed out that Manila grew spatially from about 1,000 square kilometers to 1,300 between 2000 and 2010 (2.2 percent a year). During this period, the population of this urban area increased from 12.2 million people to 16.5 million (3.1 percent a year).

The Manila urban area is also one of the densest in the Philippines and becoming even denser with population density increasing from 11,900 people per square kilometer to almost 13,000 between 2000 and 2010.

With this, the World Bank recommended that policy makers at the national and municipal levels have important roles to play in ensuring that urbanization proceeds in an economically efficient, sustainable, and inclusive manner.

“Once cities are built, their urban form and land-use patterns are locked in for generations,” said Marisela Montoliu Munoz, director of the World Bank Group Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice.

“Improving the quality of data to understand trends in urban expansion is important, so that policy makers can make better-informed decisions to support sustainable communities in a rapidly changing environment, with access to services, jobs and housing,” she said.

Governments with rapid urban population growth, can prepare for future spatial expansion by facilitating the supply of urban land, the lender said.

It pointed out that national governments can help foster the economic benefits of urbanization through national urbanization strategies and by supporting investment in small and medium-sized cities, where the largest amount of urban growth is occurring.

“Spatial planning can help reduce inequality in access to urban opportunities and amenities. The pattern of urban form is one of many factors that affect the ability of the urban poor to access economic opportunities in their cities,” it stated.

Ensuring a spatial match between jobs, affordable retail, public transportation, health and education services, recreational areas, and affordable housing is one of the means of fostering such access, it concluded.


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