Interview: Judy Baker

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We’ve learned a lot from experiences around the world.
We know that growth is very important to lifting people out of poverty.
Urbanization brings such growth; it brings lots of opportunities, jobs and the concentration of people allow for easier access to services. So that’s very important.
Other policies that are very important are insuring that there’s some kind of safety net to lift people out of poverty. Of course, investing in human capital and education and health are very, very important.
We’ve done research around the world looking at urbanization, urban policies, urban poverty.
And there are a lot of important lessons and specific experiences that we’re hoping to share with China.
There are a range of programs out there that have worked well, some not so well. Generally we know in many countries that the urban poor live in slums.
So improving living in slums … the conditions I think worldwide are pretty horrific.
People don’t have get access to services, they live in squalor, they’re often in precarious areas so people are very prone to flooding and the negative effects of pollution.
So a very important approach we’ve done is slum upgrading, where we come in with a basic package of services, working with local governments to improve living conditions.
So that would include roads, improving drinking water, improving access to day-care centers and health care and education and basic improvements to homes so that the living conditions are improved over time.
There are a range of other types of programs as well.
There are conditional cash transfer programs that give people the small amount of money they might need for daily needs, but that are conditional on certain behavioral changes, such as ensuring that the child goes to school or the child will have regular health check ups and it tries to reinforce that kind of behavior.
There are also important investments in education and health for older people as well that are important.
We know people come to cities. They’re going to come.
So policies that don’t promote urbanization, that try to keep people in rural areas don’t work.
Urbanization is a very important part of the story of economic growth. There are a lot of opportunities in the cities.
So the important thing that is a shift for many countries, maybe not so much China but for many other countries, is to think proactively about urbanization as China is doing.
And that’s about building affordable housing, about ensuring the infrastructure, the roads, the water networks, the electricity networks are there, so that people, when they come, there are places to go and they don’t end up in slums that then cost much more to go back and fix later.
So this is an important lesson that we’re learning about how to do this effectively, about how to plan for it and think proactively.
Unfortunately, many, many countries have not done that and we see the effects all over the world.