This house, as the United Nations, believes that developing countries should adopt economic development policies that heavily disincentivize urbanization.
Urbanization is essentially designed to create high population density. That is, many people in a small amount of land. This in turn is responsible for overcrowding, traffic congestion, pollution, housing shortages, which in turn results in slums and squatting, high rents, poor urban living conditions, low infrastructure services, poverty, unemployment, poor sanitation, and higher crime rates. My partner and I will now address in turn how urbanization causes each of these issues in the following order: infrastructure, affordable housing, the environment, disease and health, and crime. Finally, we will address why it is imperative that we adopt policies that disincentivize urbanization.
First, I will address inadequate infrastructure.
McKinsey Global Institute found that international spending on infrastructure totaled approximately $9.5 million in 2015, which is about 14% of global GDP. However high this number may seem, it is not enough. In order to sufficiently support global economies through infrastructure, i.e. building roads, railways, ports, airports, power, water, and telecoms, about $3.7 trillion needs to be invested internationally each year. In fact, the UN’s sustainable development goals calls for an additional $1 trillion each year in addition to McKinsey’s estimated $3.7 trillion. All these numbers are to say that there is simply not enough being done already to support urban and international infrastructure, and it is not an easy feat to meet these goals. The more urbanization the global economy supports, the more will be required in terms of spending on infrastructure.
Infrastructure gaps and failures account for many of the most fundamental issues of urbanization, such as lack of sanitation or power supply, which will be further outlined below. A focus should be placed on funding existing urban centres where infrastructure gaps exist, as opposed to rushing to build up less developed regions. This is especially problematic in developing regions which cannot afford to spend as much as more developed countries on infrastructure and may place themselves in substantial debt to do so.
I will now address my second constructive point, that urbanization causes housing shortages.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the affordable housing gap currently stands at $650 billion a year and will likely only increase. McKinsey states that approximately $11 trillion would be needed just to construct enough units to resolve the current state of inadequate spending by 2025. When factoring in land costs, the total cost could be about $16 trillion, with an estimated $3 trillion coming from public funding.
A number of related issues stem out of a lack of affordable housing, such as regulating and preventing squatting, overcrowding, and continuing deterioration of rundown neighbourhoods. Currently, 1.2 billion people live in substandard housing. These problems are particularly prominent in heavily populated regions such as India and China. India’s current housing backlog is approximately 18 million housing units while Pakistan is between 3 and 4 million units. According to the World Bank, more than one billion people, i.e. one out of every seven, are slum-dwellers, with Dharavi as one of the most prominent examples.
There are some measures that have been proposed and historically used to offset rising costs in public housing. These include less exclusionary zoning regulations, reduced tax burdens, cooperation with the private builders, encouragement of cooperative housing organization, promotion of industrialized building techniques, use of low-cost building materials, cheaper mortgage credit, and overall lowering the market costs of constructing, operating, and maintaining housing. However, these measures have not been successful overall thus far, and require incredible control over the market and industries, which is simply not feasible to expect from a government.
Third, I will turn to how urbanization harms the environment and creates conditions which ultimately harm urban centres.
Urbanization has a profound impact on the environment. Humans have permanently changed ecosystems and the usage of land. The exploitation of natural resources and agricultural practices have resulted in changes in habitats and species which have increased contact rates between humans and animals which boost the spread of zoonotic diseases, an issue which my partner will address more shortly.
Urbanization has also contributed to climate change through pollution and the destruction of natural environmental spaces. This has in turn had intense implications on urban dwellings, such as natural disasters and flooding. Many of the world’s largest urban centers are at massive risk of natural disaster, such as Shanghai, Manila, Jakarta, and Kolkata. While some of these cities are wealthier, those in the developing world are unequipped to defend against such natural disasters.
Ultimately, we can see that urbanization has profound conditions on living standards for citizens, and they do not necessarily conditions which are conducive to the thriving of those citizens.
It is for these reasons that we are proud to propose.