Today’s developed countries urbanized mostly gradually, their cities expanding over a period of 100 years or more as jobs shifted from farms to factories. The pace allowed for trial and error in growth patterns and policies. Developing countries today don’t have that luxury. They’re facing rapid migration that will tilt some populations from less than 20 percent urban today to more than 60 percent in just 30 years.
City leaders must figure out now how they will provide the affordable homes, transportation, jobs, and basic infrastructure and services necessary to support already ballooning urban populations, do so with the least impact on the environment and prepare for increasing vulnerabilities stemming from climate change.
Getting this rapidly paced urbanization right is the key to resilient and sustainable growth. The challenge goes well beyond planning – governments must find innovative ways to finance infrastructure.
A new World Bank report, Planning, Connecting and Financing-Now: What City Leaders Need to Know, provides a framework for urban growth planning and finance, backed by case studies, to help leaders identify the impediments to urbanization and find the right combinations of policy options that would work politically, technically, and fiscally for their cities and countries. It helps them think through questions such as, What must be done to create jobs and expand basic services? What must be done to improve living conditions in slums and hazard-prone areas? What must be done to manage the city’s physical form?
“City leaders at all levels must start now with careful land use planning that looks well into the future for the sake of their city’s economy, equity, and sustainability. How they prepare for rapid urbanization matters not only to the future of their cities but to global economic progress,” said report author Somik Lall, lead urban economist at the World Bank.
The report’s urban development framework is based on three dimensions:
- Planning — charting a course for cities by setting the terms of urbanization, particularly policies for using urban land and expanding basic infrastructure and public services.
- Connecting — making a city’s labor, goods, and services available across the city and to other cities and export markets.
- Financing — finding the up-front capital to provide infrastructure and services as urbanization picks up speed.