Asian city planners urged to include the poor

A general view of Penang skyline, Malaysia. (Reuters)
Updated 16 October 2019

Asian city planners urged to include the poor

  • This year, a majority of Asia-Pacific’s population for the first time became urban, with more than half living in cities

PENANG: Urban planners in rapidly expanding Asian cities must involve the poorest residents in decision-making and include informal spaces if they are serious about tackling inequality, development experts said on Wednesday.

More than 2.3 billion people in Asia-Pacific live in cities, and that number is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2050, according to the UN.

But one-third of urban dwellers live in slums or slum-like conditions and are under constant threat of eviction as planners and authorities look to modernize cities, said Elisa Sutanudjaja at the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, a Jakarta think tank.

“Cities in Asia are largely a mix of formality and informality, but urban planning is never neutral: It’s all formal vs informal, legal vs illegal,” she said.

“But the right to city is far more than freedom to access urban resources and livelihoods; it is also about informality and community.”

FASTFACT

2.3bn

More than 2.3 billion people in Asia-Pacific live in cities.

This year, a majority of Asia-Pacific’s population for the first time became urban, with more than half living in cities, according to a new UN report.

With growing pressure on resources, the region is struggling to make “effective planning systems a cornerstone of national policy,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat, the settlements agency.

Cities in the region that are ranked high for liveability, including Singapore, and those in Australia, Japan and South Korea have co-produced solutions with citizens, she said.

“Bridging the digital divide, engaging the urban poor, and building climate resilience must be a priority. We have to ensure equitable distribution of resources,” said Sharif, a former town planner and mayor of Penang island, off Malaysia’s west coast.

But increasingly, planners are ignoring the poorest residents, including slum dwellers and street vendors, said Renu Khosla, director of the Center for Urban & Regional Excellence in New Delhi. “Our cities are not being planned for the poor. But when cities are planned without people in mind, you get more informal settlements and inequality.”


Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

  • Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations, the so-called OPEC+ group, would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

He also said Saudi Arabia and Russia would continue to engage regarding oil policy.

“Everything serious requires being attended to,” the minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, told reporters at an industry conference in Riyadh.

An OPEC+ committee this month recommended the group deepen its output cuts by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter.

The minister said he was still talking with Moscow and that he was confident of Riyadh’s partnership with the rest of the OPEC+ group.

“We did not run out of ideas, we have not closed our phones. There is always a good way of communicating through conference calls,” he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, which has impacted OPEC member Iran, he said OPEC+ members should not be complacent about the virus but added he was confident every OPEC+ member was a responsible and responsive producer.

The flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus, which first broke out in China, has now spread to more than 20 countries.

“Of course there is an impact and we are assessing, but we’ll do whatever we can in our next meeting and we’ll address that issue,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said at the same industry conference.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Monday said he expected a short-lived impact on oil demand.

“We think this is short term and I am confident that in the second half of the year there is going to be an improvement on the demand side, especially from China,” he said.

Oil climbed on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4 percent in the previous session, although concerns about the global spread of the virus capped gains.