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Cities Research Seminar Series: Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability

The number of people in South Asia’s cities rose by 130 million between 2000 and 2011—more than the entire population of Japan. This was linked with an improvement in productivity and a reduction in the incidence of extreme poverty. But the region’s cities have struggled to cope with the pressure of population growth on land, housing, infrastructure, basic services, and the environment. As a result, urbanization in South Asia remains underleveraged in its ability to deliver widespread improvements in both prosperity and livability. The World Bank’s recently launched flagship report, "Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia," is about the state of South Asia’s urbanization and the market and policy failures that have taken the region’s urban areas to where they are today—and the hard policy actions needed if the region’s cities are to leverage urbanization better. It provides original empirical and diagnostic analysis of urbanization and related economic trends in the region. It also discusses in detail the key policy areas—the most fundamental being urban governance and finance—where actions must be taken to make cities more prosperous and livable.


Speakers: Mark Roberts, Jon Kher Kaw.

Mark Roberts is a Senior Economist with the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice of the World Bank, where his work is primarily focused on the South Asia and Latin American and Caribbean regions. Prior to joining the Bank, Mark was a Lecturer in Spatial Economics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Mark has published widely in leading peer reviewed journals on the subject of spatial economic development and is a former co-editor of the journal Spatial Economic Analysis. He is co-author of the Bank’s South Asia Region Flagship Report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia, and was a main contributor to the 2009 World Development Report, Reshaping Economic Geography. He holds a Ph.D. in Land Economy and an M.A. in Economics from the University of Cambridge, UK, as well as a M.Sc. in Economics from Warwick University, UK.

Jon Kher Kaw is a Senior Urban Development Specialist with the Social, Urban, Resilience and Rural Global Practice at the World Bank Group, based in Washington, DC. He brings with him expertise in integrated urban planning, sustainable development and real estate economics. Prior to joining the World Bank, Jon Kher served at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the national planning agency of Singapore where he led both the planning, design and implementation of key growth regions; as well as real estate market research and land allocation policies. He also undertook academic research and private sector work in Singapore and London, and was a founding member of an urban planning think tank in New York. Jon Kher holds a Master in Design Studies (Housing and Urbanization) from Harvard University and a Master of Architecture from Columbia University.

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