In many Asian countries, the number of urban poor has risen from 1990 through 2008. While the United Nations has halved the number of people living in extreme poverty, the problem urban poverty is more complex. The poor are vulnerable due to inadequate access to land and housing, physical infrastructure and services, economic and livelihood sources, health and education facilities, social security networks, and voice and empowerment.
In many parts of Asia, urbanization has been met with slums and shelter deprivation, informality, worsening of the living conditions, and increasing risks due to climate change. According to UN-HABITAT, Asia has 60% of the world’s total slum population, and many more live in slum-like conditions in areas that are officially designated as nonslums. Working poverty and informality are high in Asian cities and towns.
One of the most central problems faced by municipalities in the fight against poverty is the lack of financial resources to enact programme that will have a real impact on the living standards of the poor. The city of Ahmedabad has developed innovative methods of obtaining additional financial resources by issuing municipal bonds and by borrowing from the international credit market.
Cities offer citizens and enterprises an entire range of services that have a direct impact on the ability of individuals and families to face the obstacles of poverty, to remedy certain deficiencies and to ameliorate their economic circumstances. Similarly, municipal services may influence the capacity of enterprises of all sizes to prosper and improve the revenues of individuals. In order for this to occur, services must be delivered in an equitable manner.