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How do city leaders get things done? Learning from mayors in Japan

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: Español | 日本語 
Picture of the Competitive Cities Technical Deep Dive participants enjoying a walk through the Minato Mirai 21 area (with the Cosmo Clock in the background), which aims to concentrate high-value added activities and a high quality of life in an integrated urban core in downtown Yokohama. Photo Credit: TDLC
The task of mayors and city leaders is no longer limited to providing efficient urban services to their citizens. Job creation is at the forefront of the economic development challenge globally.

Cities need jobs and opportunities for their citizens and the means to generate tax revenues to fund projects that meet their populations’ growing demand for basic services. The WBG flagship report on Competitive Cities outlines how creating jobs in urban areas – urgently but also at scale– is essential.
 
In November, 2017, we spent a week with approximately 30 city and national government officials and policymakers from several countries, including Argentina, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda. These leaders represented diverse cities across the world, all with a common objective – how to make their cities and regions more competitive?

Many were dealing with a fragmented institutional landscape, often with overlapping jurisdictions – necessitating clarity of institutional circuits and processes. Some struggled to coordinate economic development strategies with private sector. Lack of adequate sub-national socio-economic data to drive evidence-based policy making compounded issues. City leaders are not looking for a lesson in theory – but evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and practical, implementable examples of how to get things done.
 
We spent the week as part of a Technical Deep Dive, studying and living the experience of two exceptional Japanese cities - Yokohama and Kobe. These cities have dealt with:
  • population influx,
  • industrialized at a rapid pace,
  • responded to environmental challenges,
  • reached the technological frontier,
  • undergone a housing bubble,
  • and even went through a major disaster (the Kobe earthquake) and recovered from it.

National and local leaders in Latin America: Sustainable cities are resilient cities

Sameh Wahba's picture
Cities are critical engines of global growth. But as cities grow, they’re increasingly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.
 
The year of 2017 was one of many recent reminders of that “new normal”—from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that pounded coastal United States and the Caribbean to the severe drought that struck Somali, which led to the displacement and even life losses of individuals and families.
 
Even when lives are not threatened, livelihoods are at stake: Without major action taken to invest in urban resilience, climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents back into poverty by 2030.
 
[Report: Investing in Urban Resilience]

This helps explain why many city leaders attending the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week resonate with the same message: Sustainable cities are resilient cities.
 
At the forum, we spoke with national, municipal, and civil society leaders on the issue of urban resilience—including ministers and mayors from three Latin American countries, a region full of emerging cities and aspiring populations that are no stranger to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. 
 
Watch the videos below and leave a comment to let us know what your city may be doing differently to enhance urban resilience.
 
 


Michael Berkowitz
President, 100 Resilient Cities

5 social media and digital trends in development to watch for in 2018

Zubedah Robinson's picture


As the world continues to face serious development challenges, approaches to address these challenges will also have to become more innovative. We looked at some of the top digital trends which organizations in the global development space are leveraging to reach and activate their audiences, and here are the top 5 we are likely to see more of, this year.

Schools are teaching 10 million girls to code; gender equality is a real possibility

Hadi Partovi's picture
Editor's note: This is a guest blog by Hadi Partovi, tech entrepreneur and investor, and CEO of the education non-profit Code.org.
In the last few years, schools globally have made real strides towards gender equality in computer science.
In the last few years, schools globally have made real strides towards gender equality in computer science.  (Photo: Code.org)


Today, for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we celebrate the progress made towards reducing the gender gap in computer science, and we urge schools worldwide to help balance the scales in this critical 21st century subject.
 

Antananarivo: A city for whom?

Salim Rouhana's picture
Photo: Michel Matera/World Bank


Planning is a theme in cities as ancient as Rome, Cairo, and Athens to as modern as New York and Singapore. It is used as an instrument to manage collective living. Planning remains key in shaping the urban contract of how and to what end people are willing to inhabit the same space.
 
Madagascar is witnessing rapid urbanization. From an overall population of 24.8 million (2016), the country has close to 7 million urbanites, compared to 2.8 million in 1993. Cities generate about 3/4 of the national GDP, with the capital city, Antananarivo, contributing more than 50%.

In Africa, sustainable urbanization starts with effective financial management

Sameh Wahba's picture
In most developing countries, cities are struggling with the demands of growing urbanization. A major challenge is the lack of sufficient, effectively managed financial resources. For instance, the global investment needed for urban infrastructure is $4.5-5.4 trillion per year, a figure that dwarfs official development assistance.
 
To bridge the municipal financing gap, cities must take coordinated action with partners, such as private investors and multilateral development agencies to build financial management institutions that are sustainable, accountable, and stable.
 
[Report: Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World]
In East Africa, the World Bank has an operational portfolio of almost $1 billion in urban projects focused on improving financial and institutional performance across multiple local governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as operations that focus in-depth on big city governments. 
 
For example, in Uganda, World Bank projects in Kampala increased its inflation-adjusted revenues by approximately 10% in one year, and the secondary city clean audit report performance has improved from 36% to 100% over a period of two years.

Watch a conversation between World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) and Jennifer Musisi (@KCCAED), Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority to learn more about Kampala’s transformation in recent years in municipal financing, and what other countries and cities can learn from this experience.
 

Wrong criticisms of Doing Business

Shanta Devarajan's picture

While I welcome criticism and comments on the Doing Business (DB) report—or any other data and research product of the World Bank, for that matter—I find Justin Sandefur’s and Divyanshi Wadhwa’s (SW) recent blog posts on DB in Chile and India neither enlightening nor useful. 

Energy challenges in the Kyrgyz Republic: It’s time to act!

Zamir Chargynov's picture
Last week, a technical failure occurred at Bishkek’s Heat and Power Plant, leaving parts of the capital city temporarily without power and heat supply. People residing in buildings connected to the district heating system experienced very cold and uncomfortable conditions, made worse by the exceptionally harsh winter this year. While the specific causes of the incident are still being investigated, it seems clear that old equipment at the Plant which is being operated well beyond its shelf-life was behind the failure.

Bishkek Heat and Power Plant

Weekly links Feb 9: tracking Ghanaian youth as they age, envying Danish data, coding better, communicating less badly, and more....

David McKenzie's picture
  • DEC has a fantastic lecture series going on at the moment. This week we had Pascaline Dupas. Videos of the talks are online. Of particular interest to our readers, will be her discussion of the techniques used for how they managed to re-interview 95% of Ghanaian youth after 10 years; and of how they messed up asking about labor market outcomes the first time they tried due to the sporadic nature of work for many youth (and something I hadn’t thought about – people working for the government whose payments have been delayed, so are owed back wages, but didn’t actually get paid in the last month).
  • In VoxEU, revealed vs reported preference – when asked if they saved or spent their stimulus payments, people’s answers were qualitatively informative of actual behavior seen from observed spending data; and when asked how much they spent, gives a reasonable measure of average spending propensity – but these questions aren’t so good at capturing which households respond more.

Strong thirsts in fragile countries: walking the water scarce path of refugees

Amal Talbi's picture
A Syrian child in Zaatari Camp uses a water kiosk designed for hand washing and water collection. 
Photo: Oxfam International

Imagine that you must flee home at once. You may be fleeing violence, social tensions, poor environmental conditions, or even persecution. You and your loved ones may walk for several days to find safety, and may even go for periods without food.
 
What would you need to survive?
 
The answer is clean water. Finding drinkable water is one of the first steps in your journey to a new home. If you instead consume contaminated water, you risk exposure to several diseases. Drinking water unfit for consumption may not only harm your health in the short run -- drinking unclean water may cause life-long health problems. And of course, these problems multiply if entire communities, or even cities, face these health problems.
 
At the end of this leg of the journey, you may end up in a densely populated refugee camp. Many refugee camps quickly become quasi cities that suffer from poor planning, poor water supplies, and poor sanitation. Keeping these makeshift cities clean and safe is a herculean task. For many refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these water scarce cities, it is difficult to access water supply and sanitation facilities.
 
The situation is even more dire for refugees or IDPs in the water-scarce Mashreq subregion*. The demographic shock of mass migration compounds already complex challenges in the region -- from climate shocks to crumbling infrastructure. According to the World Bank report Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile Contexts, water security is more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts because of a range of factors, including weak institutions and information systems, strained human and financial resources, and degraded infrastructure.


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