Annette Dixon, Vice President for the South Asia Region of the World Bank, said policymakers in the region face a choice: Continue with the same policies or undertake reforms to tap into the unrealized potential of South Asia’s cities, where the urban population increased by 130 million from 2000 to 2011 and is poised to grow by almost 250 million in the next 15 years.
“It is essential to move forward,” Dixon said. “It won’t be easy, but with the right policies and investments, South Asia’s cities can be much more livable and prosperous.”
Since 2000, the report found, South Asia has made good strides in achieving greater prosperity with the increase in productivity linked with the growing number of people living in the region’s towns and cities.
Still, South Asia’s share of the global economy remains strikingly low relative to its share of the world’s urban population, and, in general, urbanization in the region remains underleveraged. The share of the region’s population officially classified as living in urban settlements increased only marginally from 27.4 per cent in 2000 to 30.9 per cent in 2011, an annual growth rate of 1.1 per cent.
“A big reason South Asia is not fully realizing the potential of its cities for prosperity and livability is that its urbanization has been messy and hidden,” said Peter Ellis, a lead urban economist with the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice who helped lead the team that prepared the report.
Messy urbanization is reflected in the estimated 130 million people living in slums and the increasing sprawl associated with faster population growth on the peripheries of major cities, often in areas beyond municipal boundaries. Hidden urbanization, the report said, stems from official national statistics understating the share of the region’s population living in areas with urban traits.
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