"ADB's Vision for Livable
and Vibrant Cities in Asia" Speech by
Haruhiko Kuroda President, Asian Development Bank At the Joint Plenary
Session for the World Cities Summit and the Water Leaders’ Summit 25
June 2008, Singapore
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to open today’s joint plenary session of the
World Cities Summit and the Water Leaders’ Summit. With the pace of
urbanization accelerating in the Asia and Pacific region, cities are
playing an increasingly critical role in economic and social
development. And the provision of water – one of our scarcest and most
precious resources – is a central issue that the world will be dealing
with for generations to come.
I would like to acknowledge the presence today of the government
ministers and senior officials who have joined us, highlighting the
importance of these issues to countries across the region and around the
world. Only when all of us work together at local, national and
international levels, can we hope to create livable and vibrant cities
that serve the needs of all their citizens, and especially the poor.
II. Asia’s Water Challenge
Singapore, as one of the 20th century’s most successful development
stories, is indeed an inspiring venue to hold these discussions. I am
proud to say that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is working very
successfully with Singapore in both the water and urban management
sectors, with the aim of spreading best practices throughout developing
Asia and the Pacific. Our joint initiatives include the Asia Training
and Research Initiative on Urban Management (ATRIUM) ; a regional
network of knowledge hubs on water, under the auspices of the Asia
Pacific Water Forum (APWF); and the Asian Water Development Outlook
2007, which was featured prominently at the 1st Asia-Pacific Water
Summit held in Beppu City, Japan last December. We have translated the
report in Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and Vietnamese to reach a wider
One of the most important messages of this report – perhaps the most
important – is that water is central to the larger development agenda.
As such, we need to change the way we think about water – change to a
broader perspective that considers all facets of economic and social
development. Energy, food, environment, and industrial policies all have
intimate linkages to water. Each will affect the others and, in turn, be
affected by the others. Policies in all these areas will similarly be
influenced by external forces like demographic transitions, advances in
technology and communication, globalization, free trade, and increasing
The report tells us that there is reason to be optimistic – if
cautiously so. Most of the region’s water problems are solvable through
more appropriate planning and management. But strong leadership is
needed to improve water governance, including management practices,
institutional arrangements, and sociopolitical conditions.
While specific solutions will vary according to each country’s
particular circumstances, some fundamentals apply across the board. Let
me briefly highlight three of these.
The first fundamental is strong partnerships. All sectors – governments,
the private sector, civil society, development institutions, media and
others – have an important role to play in tackling these huge
Second, water quality management is an area which has been sadly
neglected in much of the region. While the health, social and economic
impacts of this neglect are yet to be assessed, they are likely very
high already and will only get higher if water quality continues to
Finally, we need to pay systematic and continuous attention to capacity
development. The region’s future water-related problems are likely to be
quite different from those in the past. Solving those problems will
require new skills, new approaches, and new mindsets.
I am very pleased that this Inaugural Singapore International Water Week
will cover these issues through the roundtable sessions in the Water
Leaders Summit and the Water Convention.
III. Asia’s Urbanization Challenge
Water provision is, of course, a vital component of and a growing
challenge in Asia’s cities. Planning for and managing the development of
Asia’s cities also entails other significant challenges. It will be
critical to look at these challenges in a holistic way to ensure a
future of hope and opportunity for all.
Asia’s rapid urbanization is unprecedented. Some 1.1 billion people will
move to cities in the next 20 years and by 2020, half the population of
Asia will live in cities, including its 11 megacities. Providing jobs
and services while improving the livelihood and quality of life for so
many city dwellers is an urban management task of a magnitude never
before attempted by humanity.
Some Asian megacities have been enormously successful. The
Tokyo-Yokohama area, with a population of more than 60 million people,
has graduated from a city to a nation-sized entity, with discrete
economic organization and incomparable management systems. Shanghai and
the Yangtze Delta area, with its 160 million people, are set to achieve
a similar feat.
Unfortunately, these successes are not the norm, but the exception. For
most major cities in Asia, growth rates are too rapid for their own
infrastructure to keep up with and the benefits of new investments and
infrastructure have not been distributed equally. Currently, more than
half a billion Asians live in slums. Air pollution is affecting the
health of millions. And by 2015, 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions
will come from cities in Asia.
Extensive rehabilitation and extension of basic infrastructure is
therefore essential. Every year, there is a $30 billion shortfall in the
maintenance of urban infrastructure, leading to greater deterioration of
existing infrastructure and worsening urban environments.
Clearly, Asia’s cities need assistance in coping with the physical
impact of past and current urban growth. They need increased investments
in sustainable infrastructure, which will only come through more
appropriate and relevant financing options. And, they need technical
assistance to plan for future growth.
In this context, I am very pleased that we will be launching one of
ADB’s newest knowledge products – a study on Managing Asian Cities – at
a session here this afternoon.The study analyzes the urban sector across
Asia, and identifies three areas that need greater focus and resources:
for identifying strategic priorities and organizing the city’s
overall institutional framework,
to help cities tap more than $1.5 trillion in available savings in
the region and to encourage local capital markets and private sector
for city governments to understand the more complex and diverse
financing structures available to them, and to implement reform
within their current political environments.
IV. Towards Sustainable Solutions
Ladies and gentlemen, better management of Asia’s growth will remain a
substantial challenge. A challenge that requires a long-term,
diversified pool of financing, technical resources and capacities. This
includes development banks like ADB, the private sector, governments and
For our part, ADB recently introduced a new long-term strategic
Strategy 2020 – to guide our response to these challenges. In
keeping with our vision of an Asia and Pacific free of
poverty, we intend to focus our efforts on promoting and supporting
inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and
regional cooperation and integration.
Within that broad framework, we are specifically targeting both the
water sector and the urban sector through a number of ongoing
initiatives. For example, our
Water Financing Program for 2006-2010 will provide 200 million
people with sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved
sanitation, reduce flood risks for 100 million, and provide 40 million
people with more productive and efficient irrigation and drainage
services. It will also introduce 25 river basins to integrated water
resources management (IWRM) and improve water governance through
national water reforms and capacity development. Given the recent trend
of soaring food prices, the urgency of increasing investment in rural
water services to improve farm production and productivity has
Water Financing Partnership Facility allows our donor countries and
other partners to contribute funds specifically for this purpose.
Our urban lending, at around $1 billion per year on average, is becoming
more flexible and responsive through, among others, the use of multi-tranche
and local currency finance. Our approach to urban development is
integrated and widely collaborative. For example, as a member of the
Cities Alliance, we assist governments in preparing sustainable urban
development strategies. As a partner in the Cities Development
Initiative for Asia, we help city governments coordinate and integrate
the many activities involved in implementing urban investments,
including funding for environmental infrastructure. With Singapore, we
are implementing the Asian Training and Research Initiative for Urban
Management, and we have recently established the Asia Infrastructure
Project Development Company, together with the Singapore Cooperation
Enterprise and 3 Singaporean water companies.
It is our hope that the annual Singapore International Water Week and
the bi-annual World Cities Summit will advance the debate on urban
issues in Asia and address the financing needs for urban infrastructure.
I am sure all participants have important contributions to make to this
endeavor, and I look forward to a meaningful and productive discussion.
Let me close by thanking our distinguished hosts for organizing this
important event, and by giving credit to Asia’s policy makers and urban
managers who must brave a rapidly changing and often uncertain world.
ADB is committed to help boost water and urban investments in the
region, facilitate knowledge sharing and capacity development, and
support the development and implementation of policies and reforms that
produce sustainable results for “liveable and vibrant cities”.