Opening remarks at the "Urban Asia: Financing Livable Cities" seminar

Opening Remarks by ADB President Takehiko Nakao on 2 May 2013 at the Urban Asia: Financing Livable Cities Seminar, Greater Noida, India

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this seminar on financing livable cities.

Urban areas are currently home to almost half of Asia’s population and half of the world’s megacities are in Asia. The urban population is growing by about 44 million people every year, or about 120,000 per day.

Urban areas generate three-fourths of Asia’s GDP, and national economies often depend on them to drive economic growth. In India, for example, the urban economy is expected to provide 70 percent of all new jobs by 2030.

The scale, speed, and density of Asia’s urbanization present many challenges. For example, the rapid increase in motorized vehicles is creating more congestion, air pollution, traffic accidents and greenhouse gas emissions.

Asia’s share of the global vehicle fleet has grown from 9% in 1980 to 17% in 2005, and is expected to increase further to 46% by 2030.

In order to cope with massive urbanization, investment in infrastructure is a high priority and needs to be deployed in a coherent and accelerated way.

At the city level, it is important to identify the types of investments and policy instruments that have worked to alleviate congestion and environmental pollution while improving living and working conditions and safety. For instance, the Guangzhou bus rapid transit integrated itself with the city’s metro system with easy access to services. It is important to give cities the capacity and incentive to plan, finance, and implement infrastructure.

At the national level, we need to examine how governments can set the right financial and legislative frameworks, and develop urban infrastructure that is more inclusive and sustainable. While Asia’s local governments have been given considerable responsibility for providing urban infrastructure, they typically have not been given the corresponding decentralized stable revenue sources. Local governments often heavily depend on transfers from the central government or unstable revenue sources. It is also important to enable the private sector to participate effectively in investment and leverage government resources.

ADB has been working with our partners as well as developing new partnerships to foster competitive, inclusive, and green cities to improve their economic, equity, and environmental performance. ADB also helps city governments bridge the gap between city development planning and infrastructure project preparation. We are aware that what is needed is not only finance but also knowledge solutions. In this regard, ADB has been working together with CAF (Corporacion Andina de Fomento) to analyze the competitiveness factors underpinning the economic development of cities in Asia and Latin America.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The international community and national governments must find the means to channel resources to cities in ways that encourage innovation and effective partnerships with the private sector and community groups. With the right financial and intellectual support, they may be able to solve their own challenges, as well as contribute to solving global problems, such as climate change.

ADB stands ready to extend financial and intellectual support for competitive, inclusive and green cities. I hope your discussions today stimulate further development and financing of livable cities for Asia and the Pacific.

Thank you.