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.”


Oil prices rise as faith in supply cuts grows

Updated 26 May 2020

Oil prices rise as faith in supply cuts grows

  • Producers are following through on commitments to cut supplies as fuel demand picks up with coronavirus restrictions easing
  • OPEC+ countries are due to meet again in early June to discuss maintaining their supply cuts to shore up prices

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose on Tuesday, supported by growing confidence that producers are following through on commitments to cut supplies and as fuel demand picks up with coronavirus restrictions easing.
Brent crude futures were up 45 cents, or 1.3%, at $35.98 a barrel by 1:09 p.m. EDT (1709 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures gained 89 cents, or 2.7%, to $34.14.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other leading oil producers including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed last month to cut their combined output by almost 10 million barrels per day in May-June to shore up prices and demand, which has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is due to meet oil major producers on Tuesday to discuss the possible extension of the current level of cuts beyond June, sources familiar with the plans told Reuters.
The RIA news agency said Russian oil production volumes were near the country’s target of 8.5 million bpd for May and June.
On Monday, Russia’s energy ministry quoted Novak as saying that a rise in fuel demand should help to cut a global surplus of about 7 million to 12 million bpd by June or July.
OPEC+ countries are due to meet again in early June to discuss maintaining their supply cuts to shore up prices, which are still down about 45% since the start of the year.
“The 16 million bpd oversupply in crude during April could be reversed altogether by June, helped by a 4 million-bpd recovery in crude demand and a 12 million-bpd cut in crude supply,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen, head of oil markets for Rystad Energy.
“OPEC+ is pulling the most weight by far, effectively reducing supply by nearly 9 million bpd while non-OPEC+ crude supply is down by more than 3.5 million bpd from March levels.”
In an indication of lower supply in the future, data from energy services business Baker Hughes showed that the US rig count hit a record low of 318 last week.