‘Development is about bridging distances’

Prognosis: Uwe Deichmann presenting the World Bank’s World Development Report in Bangalore on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: The increasing concentration of populations in urban agglomerations around the world is the theme of the World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR) for 2009.

Presenting the report titled “Reshaping Economic Geography” to a select audience here on Tuesday, Uwe Deichmann, one of the several authors of this year’s WDR, said development in the modern era was about bridging distances, creating fewer geographic divisions in the global economy and about creating higher population densities within urban spaces.

Three Ds

“The three Ds — Density, Distance and Division — are critical for development,” Dr. Deichmann said. The discussion was organised by Janaagraha, an NGO, in association with Bangalore International Centre. Referring to the disparities in living standards within countries, Dr. Deichmann said, “Economic growth will be unbalanced, but it can be made inclusive through economic integration.” Governments must invest in institutions and infrastructure and must promote integration, which will enable the mobility of people and capital across borders. “Governments must provide spatial connectivity so that it facilitates higher population densities in urban centres,” he said.


Dr. Deichmann set out three different categories of urbanisation in developing countries. First, in countries such as China, the “lagging” regions have high poverty rates, but the areas with dense population (such as Shanghai and the coastal areas) have the highest concentration of the poor.

Second, in countries such as Brazil, Thailand and Turkey poverty is concentrated in the areas that “are lagging behind”.

Third, in countries such as India and Nigeria, the “lagging areas” have the highest poverty ratios and also a higher share of the country’s population below the poverty line.

M.R. Narayana from the Institute for Social and Economic Change said the report “overemphasised” global mobility while overlooking the mobility of capital across the world. He welcomed the WDR’s promotion of the notion of “inclusive growth”.

He said that apart from the Census, which is conducted once in ten years, there was no other data source on the extent and nature of urbanisation in India. For instance, there was lack of data on the break-up of urban and rural components of India’s national income.


Swati Ramanathan, co-founder of Janaagraha, said the important question of “environmental sustainability” had not been incorporated in the WDR.

Aspects relating to the quality of life in urban areas and the need for spatial planning at the regional level were also not integrated in the report, she said.