In December 2005, a new government headed by Evo Morales, was elected. With a strong mandate for a new approach to addressing the country’s long-standing social problems, the new government set poverty reduction as one of its priorities. Urban areas were targeted for investment because of (i) the fast pace of urbanization (the portion of the population living in urban areas increased from 56 percent in 1990 to 64 percent in 2005); (ii) the high (relative and absolute) levels of urban poverty; and (iii) urban areas’ vulnerability to natural disasters, limited access to quality basic services, and transport congestion disproportionately affecting poorer, more vulnerable groups, including women, the elderly, and indigenous populations.
The support provided by the World Bank under the project to the cities of La Paz, El Alto, and Santa Cruz built on decades of experience and lessons learned from other projects to upgrade low-income settlements, urban transport, and sanitation in Indonesia, Kenya, Argentina, and elsewhere. Using this knowledge, the Bolivia Urban Infrastructure Project focused on four key aspects: (i) adequate targeting of the poor; (ii) demand for services by the target communities; (iii) institutional capacity to cover newly constructed infrastructure operation and maintenance costs to ensure sustainability; and (iv) scalability.
The project promoted women’s participation in different community activities, and their involvement in organized groups such as the Social Management Committee, the Emergency Committee, and the Enterprises Group helped them assume leadership positions. Approximately 40,000 women in the targeted neighborhoods directly benefited from the project. In addition, to foster creation of microenterprises by women, technical assistance was offered in specific areas, including sewing, baking, and gastronomy. In El Alto, an estimated 102,478 women benefited directly from project interventions to improve mobility.