In light of the U.N.’s Millenium Development Goals ending in two years and its own goal to end global poverty by 2030, the World Bank has published its annual report on the issue: the Global Monitoring Report 2013. In it, urbanization is strongly linked to alleviation of poverty. Jos Verbeek, the leading economist on the report, cites the following reasons.
- “[Cities],” he says, “are centers of economic activity, growth and job creation; consequently, poverty is significantly lower in urban centers than in rural areas.”
- Due to their superior infrastructure, he says urban areas are also better at service delivery. For example, access to sanitation [such as toilets] is about 80 percent in urban areas and about 50 percent in rural ones. In Africa, about 40 percent of the population in urban areas have access to a toilet, while only half that amount have access in rural areas. Verbeek also states that due to their size, it is easier for urban areas to extend services such as health care, education, and clean water.
Verbeek does warn, however, that unchecked development can lead to slums. He implies that the institutions within a developing region are just as important as the cities themselves. For instance, urban planning is vital to increase the efficiency of buying and selling land. He says, “If there is uncertainty [over land ownership], then public providers will not come in and extend water pipes into the slums – because no one knows for sure if the slums will still be there a year from now. Government might [decide to] empty them out, which in certain countries has happened in the past.”
– Samantha Mauney