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Speeches & Transcripts

Managing Urban Transformation, the Case of Sri Lanka

May 8, 2014

Francoise Clottes Kandy, Sri Lanka

As Prepared for Delivery

Honorable Governor Tikiri Kobbekaduwa, Honorable Mayor Ratwatte of Kandy, participants from all South Asian countries, colleagues: it is my honor to be invited to attend the Urban Transformation Workshop which is held in this beautiful city of Kandy. The World Bank has been organizing a series of knowledge events in the past 2 years in different countries, on the topic of urbanization in the South Asia Region. Over 200 policy makers and practitioners have been actively involved and contributing to it. I am delighted that we can co-host this year’s event in Kandy with the Mayor, and that we also have a good representation from all South Asian countries and South Korea and Philippines, including Deputy Ministers, Secretaries, Mayors, members of Academia, and practitioners. We warmly welcome you to Kandy Sri Lanka, which is rich in culture and history.

" Strong leadership is and will remain the key to manage urban transformation beneficial to all people without compromising the protection of the environment and societal needs.  "

Francoise Clottes

Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Why do we need to manage urban transformation?

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world. 2011 was the year when, for the first time in history more than 50 percent of the world’s population lived in cities.

By 2030 the global urban population will have doubled, adding 2 billion more to cities popultion. The size of built-up areas will have tripled from what it was in 2000.

If managed well, urbanization can create enormous opportunities: allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge, saving energy, land and natural resources, managing climate and the risk of disasters.

Globally, almost 80 % of GDP is generated in cities. It will be difficult for any country to reach middle income status and beyond without getting urbanization right. So the stakes are high.

Urbanization creates opportunities. But cities also consume around 70% of the world’s energy and account for nearly 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Strong leadership is and will remain the key to manage urban transformation beneficial to all people without compromising the protection of the environment and societal needs. It is a difficult challenge.

Sri Lanka right now is dealing with this challenge and has lessons to share with the rest of the world.

This type of sharing knowledge, capacity, and experience is vital to development success. Whether it happens within the session or outside the session.

Sri Lanka’s Development in context

In the recent past, Sri Lanka has been successful in overcoming many development challenges including moving people out of poverty and taking measures to boost shared prosperity. Now the country is focusing on addressing new challenges involving bold decisions and transformational approaches.

Sustaining high rates of economic growth is at the heart of the government’s objectives—the Mahinda Chintana. The ambitious vision rests on Sri Lanka’s becoming an Asian hub in five strategic areas: a naval hub, an aviation hub, a commercial hub, an energy hub, and a knowledge hub. The strategy, with its focus on hubs, is fundamentally an outward-oriented one. Within this development plan, rapid urbanization becomes an inevitable phenomenon. .

Six Decades of Development Partnership

This year marks the 60th anniversary since signing of the first World Bank loan to Sri Lanka for Aberdeen and Lakshapana power project. Since then, our partnership has evolved and changed significantly.

The World Bank as an institution is changing to focus more on program based approaches that would support our client governments to take charge and drive for results in key development sectors.

Once again leadership in addition to political will and public support are Key to making this happen and we are encouraged to witness many transformational changes taking place in some of the sectors we are engaged in such as health, education, transport and urbanization to name a few.

World Bank support

Given the magnitude of the urbanization process, Sri Lankan cities will have tremendous opportunities for economic and social development. At the same timecities will face unprecedented policy challenges. Urbanization also means greater pressure on land and housing as well as all the networked infrastructure underlying the supply of basic urban services, leading to a rapid deterioration in a quality of life for their citizens. The challenge is to respond fast and efficiently.

Urban development is a relatively new area of engagement for the World Bank, supported by the first IBRD loan to Sri Lanka in 2012 to regenerate Sri Lanka’s urban areas. The Metro Colombo Urban Development project is currently helping the Colombo Metropolitan Region to address obstacles to realizing its full economic potential, including inadequate infrastructure and services and significant vulnerability to flooding. Further support isextended  to the Colombo Metropolitan Region through the Colombo Green Growth program, which provides a holistic framework and incentive mechanism for participating municipalities and ministries to propose, plan, and implement environmentally and socially sustainable and resilient urban development projects and policies.

The World Bank is extending its support to Government of Sri Lanka in the urban sector through a second large project which was  approved by the World Bank Board 3 days ago- the Strategic Cities Development Project, which focuses on urban services improvement in two cities: Kandy and Galle.

In the meantime, the World Bank will deepen its support for the development of a strong network of well-connected and sustainable cities through further policy and analytical work. Sri Lanka is taking important steps to implement its urban vision, including connectivity improvements, urban renewal and sustainable initiatives in its strategic cities. The Bank will stand ready to provide support to understand the economic drivers of rapidly growing cities. Fostering economic growth in major urban centers outside of Colombo should produce a more spatially balanced contribution to the economic opportunities and bolster shared prosperity and overall national economic growth.


I want to conclude by highlighting that Leadership is key to managing urban transformation in an inclusive and sustainable manner. It doesn’t happen without conversations and discussions. Collaboration and coordination with other sectors is essential to manage and succeed in developing livable cities. Based on Sri Lanka’s case, it is evident that the Government of Sri Lanka is not only aware of issues connected with urbanization but also provides the space to deliberate and find means of addressing these issues.

You will hear more on our engagements in the urban sector from my colleagues and by the many participants in these sessions. Once again, I welcome you all to Sri Lanka and wish you all a successful two days of exchange of ideas that would lead to innovative solutions to address the worldwide challenges in the urban sector.


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