Asian city planners urged to include the poor

A general view of Penang skyline, Malaysia. (Reuters)
Updated 16 October 2019

Asian city planners urged to include the poor

  • This year, a majority of Asia-Pacific’s population for the first time became urban, with more than half living in cities

PENANG: Urban planners in rapidly expanding Asian cities must involve the poorest residents in decision-making and include informal spaces if they are serious about tackling inequality, development experts said on Wednesday.

More than 2.3 billion people in Asia-Pacific live in cities, and that number is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2050, according to the UN.

But one-third of urban dwellers live in slums or slum-like conditions and are under constant threat of eviction as planners and authorities look to modernize cities, said Elisa Sutanudjaja at the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, a Jakarta think tank.

“Cities in Asia are largely a mix of formality and informality, but urban planning is never neutral: It’s all formal vs informal, legal vs illegal,” she said.

“But the right to city is far more than freedom to access urban resources and livelihoods; it is also about informality and community.”

FASTFACT

2.3bn

More than 2.3 billion people in Asia-Pacific live in cities.

This year, a majority of Asia-Pacific’s population for the first time became urban, with more than half living in cities, according to a new UN report.

With growing pressure on resources, the region is struggling to make “effective planning systems a cornerstone of national policy,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat, the settlements agency.

Cities in the region that are ranked high for liveability, including Singapore, and those in Australia, Japan and South Korea have co-produced solutions with citizens, she said.

“Bridging the digital divide, engaging the urban poor, and building climate resilience must be a priority. We have to ensure equitable distribution of resources,” said Sharif, a former town planner and mayor of Penang island, off Malaysia’s west coast.

But increasingly, planners are ignoring the poorest residents, including slum dwellers and street vendors, said Renu Khosla, director of the Center for Urban & Regional Excellence in New Delhi. “Our cities are not being planned for the poor. But when cities are planned without people in mind, you get more informal settlements and inequality.”


Investment and energy experts welcome ‘sensible’ Saudi Aramco IPO valuation

Updated 13 min ago

Investment and energy experts welcome ‘sensible’ Saudi Aramco IPO valuation

  • Price regarded as a sensible compromise and that it will sell the IPO
  • Experts said the Aramco valuation was justified by the financial metrics

DUBAI: Investment professionals and energy experts delivered a mainly enthusiastic response to the pricing of shares in Saudi Aramco and the overall valuation of the biggest oil company in the world at between $1.6 trillion and $1.7 trillion.

Al Mal Capital, a Dubai-based investment bank, said that it was positive on the Aramco initial public offering (IPO) on that kind of valuation, which it said was justified by the financial metrics.

“We believe Aramco’s IPO is a central pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. In our view, the broader privatization of state assets will likely accelerate the flow of foreign capital into the Kingdom, improve liquidity and transparency as well as continue to help diversify its economy away from its dependency on oil. While many investors were skeptical about the ability of Saudi Arabia to roll out its ambitious agenda, they seem to be right on track.”

Tarek Fadhallah, chief executive officer of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, said via Twitter: “My first impression is that the price is a sensible compromise and that it will sell the IPO. Aramco should easily raise the $8.5bn from retail investors but the 29 global coordinators, managers and financial advisers will need to find the other $17 billion. A few billion from China would help.”

Robin Mills, chief executive of the Qamar Energy consultancy, said; “I think it’s a reasonable compromise. The price is well above most independent valuations but well below the aspirational price. It implies dividend yields a bit lower than the super-majors (the independent oil companies), but a similar price earnings ratio (the measure of the share price rated according to profits). Retail and local investors should be sufficient. We’ll have to see about the foreign investors.”

Ellen Wald, energy markets consultant and author of the book Saudi, Inc., said American investor would still be undecided on the IPO. 

“Remember, investors don’t put money in because they think the value is accurate. Smart investors put money in because they think the value will rise. It all depends on whether they see signs the price will rise during their time frame.”

American oil finance expert David Hodson, managing director of BluePearl Management, said: “This valuation seems to be more reasonable based on the fundamentals. Potential investors in Western markets will base their decision on cold hard facts like dividends and growth prospects. From what we now know, Aramco is offering them a compelling investment proposition to consider.”