‘Asian cities struggling against urbanisation’

SINGAPORE: Asian cities need help to cope with an unprecedented period of urbanisation, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday, stressing the future prosperity of Asian cities is at stake.

Providing adequate water supplies and infrastructure are among the key issues facing urban planners and policymakers, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said, adding that few Asian cities have successfully dealt with sudden expansion.

Unprecedented: “Asia’s rapid urbanisation is unprecedented,” Kuroda said in a speech to the World Cities Summit in Singapore, explaining that around 1.1 billion Asians are expected to migrate to cities in search of economic stability over the next 20 years.

“Improving the livelihood and quality of life for so many city dwellers is an urban management task of a magnitude never before attempted by humanity.

“Clearly, Asian cities need assistance in coping with the physical impact of past and current urban growth.”

The Tokyo-Yokohoma area and Shanghai are rare urban success stories in Asia, Kuroda said.

“Unfortunately such successes are not the norm but the exception,” he said.

In most parts of Asia, investment in infrastructure has failed to keep up with economic growth, and where there are new investments, the benefits have not been distributed equally”.

Aside from the need to invest in infrastructure, the region needs technical assistance, which is critical for sustaining growth, he said.

To this end, the ADB has launched a water financing initiative that aims to provide 200 million Asians with access to safe drinking water, said Kuroda. A book launched on the sidelines of the summit indicates the region suffers from an “infrastructure deficit” as governments run into difficulty raising the funds needed. “The revenue sources of local governments are usually insufficient to meet the large, long-term finance needs of infrastructure,” the ADB said in the book “Managing Asian Cities.”

“Their infrastructure investment has often come through grants or loans from central governments but these governments also face resource limitations.

“The result is an infrastructure deficit.”

The ADB estimates the region’s infrastructure funding requirements at 60 billion US dollars annually, part of which will need to be financed by Asia’s capital markets. afp

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