Speeches & Transcripts

APEC 2017 Dialogue on Sustainable Urbanization

May 14, 2017

Achim Fock, Manager, Portfolio and Operations, World Bank Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam

As Prepared for Delivery

Minister Ha, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman

Living in Hanoi, I cannot help notice the rapid growth that is occurring within and surrounding provinces of Hanoi. Urbanization is one of the most striking features of economic development. Throughout history, cities have served as engines of growth and Vietnam is no exception. I would like to note that today Sustainability is at the heart of the urbanization agenda and there is a strong effort from policymakers across the world to make cities more livable for future generations.

Sustainability comes with the right strategic choices and balancing trade-offs. For example, improving the urban environment requires balancing conflicting demand on land and water, and minimizing the use of natural resources. This can be challenging for developing countries who have to balance economic growth with environment sustainability.

Sustainability also requires an inclusive urban development, wherein urban residents have equal opportunity to benefit from urbanization—to use their labor where they are most productive, to accumulate assets and savings, and to use public services of similar quality across the country. Integrating rural migrants in cities, providing them and their families with social services comparable to those who are already residents, is also critical.     

It is important for leaders across the world to start giving serious thought to the quality and pace of urbanization in order to ensure that the process is environmentally efficient, inclusive and sustainable, while maintaining competitiveness.  Today’s dialogue comes at an opportune moment for the members to start planning and visualizing the next decade of urban development in East Asia and Pacific region.

Let me begin by focusing on the building blocks –

the first building block is good urban planning coupled with strong leadership at the local level. Whilst spatial growth is inevitable, unplanned expansion can have a negative impact on citizens and local governments – increasing travel times, traffic congestion, demand for vehicle ownership, air pollution and resulting in an inexhaustible demand for infrastructure coverage. A lot of cities in Asia are struggling to manage spatial expansion. This is an ideal time to step back and assess how substantial capital investments in infrastructure can be efficiently and effectively targeted in order to achieve smart growth. To accomplish this, an effective multi-sectoral urban master planning process is required under strong leadership at the national and local levels in order to ensure effective implementation across agencies and sectors. Moving forward the need for integrated thinking, deployment and investment across spatial and functional jurisdictions will be critical.

Second, proper urban management is vital for effective urbanization. Today, due to a myriad of regulations in the Government system, there is little coordination of investment planning and deployment in many cities. On the other hand, those cities that have achieved sound urban management have reaped the benefits.  Take for example, the case of Singapore – forty years ago Singapore had slums and insufficient infrastructure. After considering its resource constraints, Singapore made a conscious decision to focus its investments strategically and its development trajectory has closely followed the original master plan that was developed in 1970. This has allowed it to deploy resources efficiently, ensure coordination of infrastructure with a focus on public transport and realistically value land as a finite resource.  The city could not have achieved this without specifically managing urban issues.

Third, fostering growth will continue to be crucial and will require continuous innovation and integration into global value chains. Today, cities are magnets for migrants, students, multi-national industries, tourists and workers in the service industries. We know from global experience, the density and size of cities creates a market for specialized services that includes logistics, advertising, legal support, and management consulting. Think of New York City, where a young fashion designer does not need an in-house lawyer to manage incorporation and intellectual property. She can also link to logistics firms to connect with merchandisers in Hong Kong and to production houses near Colombo, Sri Lanka. This is where the opportunity lies for Asian cities to specialize, integrate and link with other cities in the increasingly global world.

Finally, especially as countries in the Asia-Pacific become wealthier, fostering growth goes hand in hand with the quality of life and citizens’ involvement in the development of their city. In addition to quality services, this requires investing more in green urban infrastructure and innovation. A basis for these development is an active dialogue between leaders and key stakeholders including national and provincial agencies, investors, development partners and citizens. This participatory mechanism will need to actively discuss and debate the future of cities. There are several examples of good practice including Curitiba (Brazil); Bogota (Colombia); Ahmedabad (India); and Guateng Region (South Africa).

On the occasion of the APEC Dialogue on Sustainable Urbanization, on behalf of the World Bank, I would like to encourage the Workshop to focus on the importance of policy dialogue, of learning from best international practice and, of developing strong evidence-based approaches to urban development.  I look forward to our discussions and knowledge sharing over the next two days.

Thank you and Xin Cam on.