UN-Habitat’s ‘Wheel of Prosperity’ has identified five dimensions which are equality and monority rights, environmental sustainability, quality of life, infrastructure, and productivity for a well-balanced development, in a report on Thursday. The centre of the ‘wheel’, identified as ‘hub’, is the local urban power functions and is represented by the human agency. The ‘hub’ brings together the power functions such as laws, regulations and institutions, urban planning, civil society, trade associations, and special agencies.
UN-Habitat report suggested a new measuring tool, the City Prosperity Index, which measures the prosperity factors of an individual city. The tool also enables decision-makers to identify opportunities and potential areas and path of prosperity. The CPI includes different indices and indicators relevant to urban areas and public policy-making.
Major uprisings in the Middle East were motivated for democracy, which is essential for prosperity, the report findings underlined. “These protests highlighted the fact that prosperity is interlinked with economic growth. Many of the local experts believe that benefits of economic prosperity served the wealthy and politicians. Poor governance and corruption remained main impediments to urban prosperity. However, it has not hampered efficient urban planning and urban prosperity,” it said.
The urban population in the UAE continues to grow at a remarkable rate–from 1.47 million in 1990 to 3.9 million in 2010. By 2030, the urban population is likely to reach 5.82 million. In Saudi Arabia, it stood 12.45 million in 1990 and 21.54 million in 2010. It is expected to reach 31.51 million by the end of 2030. The level of urbanization is also steadily progressing in these two regions. However, the city population growth rate of urban agglomerations for both UAE and Saudi Arabia is showing a negative trend.
Arab states appear to be the most egalitarian and best placed in terms of income distribution and in terms of capacity-building and resource availability for environmental sustainability. One-third of local experts believe that the economic development has unintended detrimental effects on the environment. Similarly there is a constant effort to develop green spaces and parks for better quality of urban life. For instance, Dubai recognises quality of life as a key competitive advantage that contributes to city productivity, attracting and retaining highly qualified individuals and prestigious firms and investors.
Ownership of mobile telephones in Arab states, especially GCC countries, has increased from 177 million to 334 million in 2011. Dubai’s penetration rate is the highest in the world with over 200 mobile telephones per 100 residents. Similarly, GCC and UAE have invested in ITC-related parks to boost the socio-economic growth and become a knowledge-based economy. The contribution from ICT sector to GDP is 5.3% in 2010.
The quality and maintenance of roads in Arab countries are high compared to other developing countries. However, the expansion in road networks has not matched the phenomenal rises in motorisation. In Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, the ratios of motor vehicles per 1,000 stand at 509, 507, 724, 313 and 225, respectively. Factors behind this trend include the affluence, preference for private cars, subsidised fuel, greater availability of car loans, and lack of effective mass transit systems.
Despite being a hyper-arid region, Arab states do not suffer from any water shortages. However, three cities – Amman, Basra and Saida (Lebanon) reported shortfall in the water quality and supply. City authorities have ensured an improved water management through conservation and desalination in cities like Aqaba, Doha, Al-Muharraq (Bahrain), Dubai and Erbil.
State of the World’s Cities 2012/2013 Prosperity of Cities full report is available on UN Habitat website.