WB urges countries to uplift urban poor

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Philippine cities are among those in East Asia and the Pacific that are rapidly developing but not delivering on infrastructure, jobs and services, the World Bank said.

In a report titled “Expanding Opportunities for the Urban Poor” released on Tuesday, the Washington-based multilateral lender said the region had the world’s largest slum population: 250 million people with poor-quality housing, limited access to basic services and at risk to hazards such as flooding.

Some 75 million live on less than $3.10 a day and three countries — China, Indonesia, and the Philippines — account for the bulk of the urban poor, the World Bank said.

It noted that the 2008-2009 financial crisis, “for example … is estimated to have resulted in an additional 1.4 million people living below the poverty line in the Philippines, primarily because of labor income losses,” it said.


The southern city of Cebu was classified as in the intermediate urbanization level – comprising cities that are medium to large and growing rapidly – while Manila was advanced, meaning it has higher middle-income status, much wealth and substantial institutional capacity.

The World Bank said that across the region, access to housing and basic services varied considerably, with 27 percent and 21 percent, for example, of the urban population in Indonesia and the Philippines respectively having no access to effective sanitation facilities.

Slum residents are also more at risk to disasters as their communities are often in low-lying flood-prone areas, thus the World Bank encourages local governments to adopt a multi-dimensional approach to planning.

“Other countries, such as Cambodia, Mongolia and the Philippines, have a substantial need for slum upgrading, which requires urgent attention,” it noted.

Judy Baker, World Bank lead urban specialist and lead author of the report, said rapid urbanization was bot a challenge and an opportunity.

“Provide low-income residents with affordable transport services or housing, so they can save for their children’s education. Ensure that social protection programs are in place to help families cope during difficult times, such as in the aftermath of natural disasters,” she said.

“Solutions for inclusive urban growth are not one-size-fits-all, but they are practicable, effective, and necessary for the greater good,” she added.

The report also said that while six out of the world’s 10 mega-cities are in East Asia, urban poverty was more prevalent in secondary cities that are growing in importance.

As of 2010, small and medium cities accounted for a quarter of all cities in the region, it noted.

Ten policy principles that can be adapted to specific circumstances were recommended, including connecting the urban poor with job markets; investing in integrated urban planning; ensuring affordable land and housing; recognizing the rights of all citizens to the city; targeting marginalized sub-groups among the urban poor; strengthening local governance and embracing citizen engagement; and investing in better data and information systems for evidence-based policymaking.

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