WASHINGTON – Many emerging countries have made progress in their own economic development. Growth is up, poverty is down. And this is good. However, when it comes to the growth of large cities in the developing world, it is generally a disaster.
Rapid urbanization resulted in chaos. Increased income means that more people can afford cars. But the streets cannot accommodate them. Hence the phenomenon of monumental daily traffic jams. From Cairo to Nairobi or Maputo, to Dhaka or Jakarta, it is all the same: hellish traffic conditions make it almost impossible to move around.
Add to this inadequate basic services (electricity, clean water, sewer systems) and you see how life in rapidly growing cities in the developing world can be pretty grim.
No good cities
In the words of Hank Paulson, formerly head of Goldman Sachs and US Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush: “Nowhere in the developing world do you see a successful urbanization model”. Got that? Nowhere.
And if you think that mighty China is doing a lot better, think again. Traffic is awful and air pollution levels truly dangerous. As reported in a Financial Times piece, some Swedish diplomats apparently refused to be posted in Beijing because they find living conditions there to be unbearable, according to former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt.
How do you fix this?
Having said that, how do you fix this mess? How do you transform an underserved megalopolis of 10 or 15 million people? How do you create modern mass transit systems, decent schools, public parks, and good services like drinking water in countries that do not have any cash to spare?
Have bad development models created urban monsters?