“According to a recent diagnostic a large share of Sri Lanka’s national population that is vulnerable to poverty live in close proximity to the belt of urbanization that links Kandy, Colombo, and Galle. Large numbers of vulnerable are also found in and around the major urban centers in the north and east of the country,” said Francoise Clottes, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“Sri Lanka has been experiencing a dynamic spatial transformation process driven by the Kandy-Colombo-Galle urbanization belt as well as localized single-city agglomerations in the eastern and northern parts of the country, mainly around Trincomalee, Batticaloa-Akkaraipattu, and Jaffna,” Clottes added, capturing findings of the recent diagnostic exercise.
The Kandy-Colombo-Galle urbanization belt generates more than 80 percent of national output and is the area that possesses the highest economic potential in the country. Although poverty rates are higher in eastern and northern parts of the country, the majority of both the population that lives below the national poverty line and the vulnerable “bottom 40 percent” of the population live adjacent to the Kandy-Colombo-Galle urbanization belt — nearly 50 percent and 75 percent of these populations live within 30 km and 60 km of this urbanization belt respectively. This spatial transformation process has profound implications for both economic growth and alleviating poverty and vulnerability. Key challenges are how to manage the growth of the Kandy-Colombo-Galle region, in particular, the Metropolitan Colombo Region, and how to enhance connectivity of other single-city agglomerations with the Kandy-Colombo-Galle region so as realize their potential for economic growth and poverty alleviation.
To better tap into the economic potential that urbanization offers, the report recommends actions at two levels – the institutional level and the policy level. At the institutional level, the region would benefit from improvements in the ways in which towns and cities are governed and financed. Specifically, the report identified three areas where reform could address fundamental deficits – in empowerment, resources, and accountability:
· Improving intergovernmental fiscal relations to address empowerment.
· Identifying practical ways to increase the resources available to local governments to allow them to perform their mandated functions.
· Strengthening mechanisms to hold local governments accountable for their actions.
While a necessary pre-condition for meaningful progress, these reforms by themselves will not, according to the report, suffice. To bring about lasting improvements in both prosperity and livability, policy changes could also improve the ways in which cities are connected and planned, the working of land and housing markets, and cities’ resilience to natural disasters and the effects of climate change.
For more information on the report go to: www.worldbank.org/southasiacities