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September 25, 2015

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Pakistan needs to realise urbanisation’s potential: World Bank

KARACHI: Around every one in eight urban dwellers in Pakistan is living below the national poverty line, says a World Bank’s report on Friday, that indicates the country is not realising urbanisation’s full potential to improve prosperity and livability.
“If managed well, urbanisation can lead to sustainable growth by increasing productivity, allowing innovation and new ideas to emerge,” said World Bank Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati.
“Better cities can help reduce poverty, improve living conditions and create the environment for more and better paying jobs,” she added in releasing the report titled, ‘Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability’.
Urbanisation has been relatively slow in the country, said the report aiming at to stimulate the debate about the role of cities and urbanisation in promoting the South Asia’s development.
But, “Pakistan’s urban population growth rate has been marginally faster than that of India,” it said.
Pakistan, the report said is one of the countries in the region where there is a large hidden urbanisation, “in other words, sizable portions of their populations are living in settlements that, although they may exhibit urban characteristics, are governed as rural areas.”
The prevalence of urban slums reflects a failure to adequately manage the congestion forces, including land and housing markets, associated with urban population growth.
“The lack of decent, affordable housing…has potentially adverse implications for health outcomes and for female labor force participation,” the report said.
“For the very poorest in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, under-five mortality is higher in urban than in rural areas.”
The World Bank finds roots of unmanaged urbanisation in weak local government structure in South Asia.
“Most urban local governments in South

Asia suffer from unclear institutional roles and limited functional and revenue assignments,” it said.
Despite local governments in Pakistan and India have control over hiring and firing of lower cadre staff, “even their powers are subject to concurrence and clearance by the states or provinces,” it added. “[They] are generally subject to strong state and provincial revenue regulations and oversight.”
The report said heavy inland flooding poses serious risk to Pakistan and northern India.
South Asia is currently home to more than 23 percent of the world’s population and at least 14 percent of its urban population, it said.
South Asia’s urban population grew by 130 million people between 2001 and 2011, and it is forecast to rise by almost 250 million more in the next 15 years.
The World Bank urges the government to place cities at the centre of national policy for sustained and inclusive economic growth.

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