May 09,Kandy: In the recent past Sri Lanka has been successful in overcoming many development challenges including moving people out of poverty and taking measures to boost shared prosperity, the World Bank said.
Addressing the South Asian Urban Transformation Workshop held in Kandy, in central Sri Lanka, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Francoise Clottes said the country is now focusing on addressing new challenges involving bold decisions and transformational approaches.
The World Bank official said given the magnitude of the urbanization process, Sri Lankan cities will have tremendous opportunities for economic and social development while facing unprecedented policy challenges at the same time.
She said the urbanization also means greater pressure on land and housing as well as the entire networked infrastructure underlying the supply of basic urban services, leading to a rapid deterioration in a quality of life for their citizens.
"The challenge is to respond fast and efficiently," the official said.
Urban development is a relatively new area of engagement for the World Bank, supported by the first IBRD loan to Sri Lanka in 2012 to regenerate Sri Lanka's urban areas.
The Metro Colombo Urban Development project is currently helping the Colombo Metropolitan Region to address obstacles to realizing its full economic potential, including inadequate infrastructure and services and significant vulnerability to flooding
The World Bank is also extending its support to Sri Lankan government in the urban sector through a second large project which was approved by the World Bank Board 3 days ago- the Strategic Cities Development Project, which focuses on urban services improvement in two cities: Kandy and Galle.
Sri Lanka is taking important steps to implement its urban vision, including connectivity improvements, urban renewal and sustainable initiatives in its strategic cities, according to the World Bank official.
"The Bank will stand ready to provide support to understand the economic drivers of rapidly growing cities," she said.
"Fostering economic growth in major urban centers outside of Colombo should produce a more spatially balanced contribution to the economic opportunities and bolster shared prosperity and overall national economic growth."
Ms. Clottes said the Sri Lankan government is not only aware of issues connected with urbanization but also provides the space to deliberate and find means of addressing these issues.