The enduring global shift of Asia Pacific has increased its dimensions towards urban transformation in recent years. With the rapid development of urbanization, the Asia-Pacific countries are moving towards more sustainable and liveable cities rather than the notion of “small developing countries”. As reported by UN-Habitat, “It is expected that by 2050 the urban population in Asia and the Pacific will reach 3.2 Billion” and The World Bank, “By 2030, 60% of people will live in Urban areas.”
Contrary to the trajectory of the growth of urban development and economic growth of America and Europe, Asia has remained in the category of slow developing countries for years. The transition of urbanization has had complex outcomes in the inclusiveness of regions, cities and countries in collaboration with global and national development projects. Yet, the rapid economic growth, increased productivity in global trade in businesses and financial infrastructures have liberated doors for opportunities and challenges for better education, health and living standards.
The Economic Intelligence Unit – Hot spots: Benchmarking global city competitiveness, adopts the “Competitiveness Index” to measure the economic growth rate, stability, flexible business and social environment of these growing urban cities. The factors used to measure this competitiveness index are:- economic strength, human capital, institutional effectiveness, financial maturity, global appeal, physical capital, environmental and natural hazards, social and cultural characteristics. Although these factors provide an impressive outcome, it does not give a strong indication of the effects of the extensive gaps of inequality, urban poverty, level of unemployment; especially among youths, and the value of health services provided in developing countries. The index does not show the effect of the increase in livelihood of poor people and improvements to the adequate health and education services provided to this group of society.
Conversely, the conquest of urbanization has negatively affected people living in urban cities. The increasing living costs and high demands of skilled labor forces people to shift towards methods such as criminal and illegal activities. This leads to an increase in crime rate which diminishes the socio-cultural aspect and the quality of life, as people are pulled down from their social class. This is then challenged by the long history of political instability, weak institutions and corruption in the Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Philippines (Transparency International – Corruption Perceptions Index 2015). For example; one of the mass distinction between Singapore and Indonesia is the political stability, strong institutions, transparency, anti-corruption regulations, local government’s autonomy, political commitment and the foreign policy influence of external powers. Indonesia being one of the largest economy in Asia but its global center of economic growth has been slow due to its weak institutions, lack of legitimacy, transparency and extensive gaps of inequality and poverty in between social classes driving more people into the outer zones of slums and rural settings.
Hence, the paradox of the swift urbanization need to be addressed with effective Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to minimize the gap of inequality in urban and rural settings, by compounding policies for social mobility, human-centered development, sustainable place-making, social safety nets, stronger institutions and political solutions for a sustainable growth of urbanization in Asia.