Brunei on sustainable urban dev’t

National 2 minutes, 12 seconds

MANILA

BRUNEI has an upper hand in progressing towards sustainable urban development because it is not pressured by mass migration or rapid population growth, according to the chairman of Asia Inc.

Dato Paduka Timothy Ong, who moderated a forum on Tuesday at the Asia Economic Pacific Cooperation’s (APEC) CEO Summit on the future of cities, told The Brunei Times yesterday that the sultanate’s capital and towns’ slower population growth afforded policymakers and developers more time to design and implement structures and services which maximise space, function and comfort.

He noted that cities in the region face a testing future, with mass migration to cities expected to continue in the upcoming decades, leaving countries with a challenging set of tasks in easing congestion, and improving inclusiveness and sustainability.

“The ability of view, plan and then invest in the long term for infrastructure development is critical – ideally you do not begin to plan for traffic only after you suffer from bad congestion,” said Dato Paduka Ong yesterday.

Most cities face a time lag when it comes to dealing with the problems of rapid urbanisation, which can compound its detrimental effects.

“Once you have a traffic problem, then roads are built to ease congestion, but it can temporarily make traffic worse, even crippling, because of blocks and closures. This all points to a better need for greater or smart planning when it comes to infrastructure being proposed or developed, so the damaging effects can be minimised,” he said.

According to the first study examining 28 cities from APEC’s 21 member economies, Bandar Seri Begawan ranked 22nd in connectivity with airport connectivity, broadband quality and public transport needing improvement.

Dato Paduka Ong added that these areas, especially digital infrastructure, will be key to attracting foreign direct investment necessary for an economy to progressively expand.

“The digital Internet is leading the way in global business facilitation and development. Again, Brunei being smaller can be an advantage – setting up broadband across a smaller area is easier,” he said.

“Even with the physical and digital infrastructure necessary, services and goods need to be competitively priced to really entice businesses to come over and invest.

“Just having the network is not enough. Wifi can be set up in different public places for free for example. We must look at the bigger picture to see what are the steps that can improve our city and towns’ attractiveness and livability,” he said.

According to the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, over 50 per cent of people across the world live in cities, a figure which is expected to rise to 66 per cent by 2050.

The Brunei Times