BIGD Seminar on Urban Governance
Balancing economic with social and environmental equity, environmental sustainability
and economic growth, key challenges for urban development, says Prof. M. Adil Khan


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The challenges of urban development include balancing economic with social and environmental equity, environmental sustainability and economic growth. The growth of the urban informal sector is not simply the result of a lack of job opportunities in the formal sector. Working in the informal sector is often a deliberate and rational choice, particularly for low-income entrepreneurs, because the regulatory framework sets too many requirements for a small-scale, start-up enterprise. The potential advantages of operating in the formal sector (access to services, legal protection) too often do not match the costs, said Professor M. Adil Khan, University of Queensland, in a seminar on Urban Governance, organised by BIGD, BRAC University on 3rd January 2016 in the BIGD conference room.

Prof. Khan was discussing on a presentation titled Making Governance Work for People: Planning for development of urban poor in the Seminar. In his presentation, Dr. Khan explained the context of urbanization, poverty, economic growth and governance, emerging challenges, planning and governance imperatives. He also discussed the key characteristics of developing country urbanization. Moreover, formal enterprises may not meet the demands of poor customers adequately. The goods and services they supply tend to be too expensive or sold in quantities unsuitable for the poor, who want to make small purchases on a daily or almost daily basis and need flexible payment arrangements. Many of the customers live in informal settlements, under the threat of eviction and with poor law enforcement. Informal enterprises can operate in this environment because of their low entry costs, proximity to the customers and reliance on informal enforcement mechanisms. The entrepreneurs often live in the same area and operate on a small scale with minimum investments in fixed capital to minimize their risks. Their knowledge of their customers allows them to tailor services to their needs, including working hours and payment schedules. Community or peer pressure enforces informal contracts and someone with a sound reputation in the community can serve as collateral for loans.Dr. Khan added that, besides the low wages, informal workers have no legal security and are more prone to abuse by their employers. Informal entrepreneurs face difficulties in increasing their operations and their productivity, because without legal status they often have to rely on personal contacts with their customers or suppliers.


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Dr. Khan also added that, global trends in urbanisation are causing urban populations to spread out beyond their city limits and altering settlement patterns that increasingly bind urban, peri-urban and rural areas. According to him, emerging challenges of urban growth also include increased uncertainties, limited authority of local governments, rising expectations ,conflicting demands – equity versus growth; growth versus sustainability, managing/balancing national policies and local issues, political economic constraints of broader participation in local government councils, limited financial and human resources to enable credible improvements, rising demand for land and difficulties of efficient land use and nexus of vested interest promoting corruption and abuse. The presentation was followed by a question answer session.

Earlier,  Mr. Arafat Gubair, BIGD Research Associate, introduced the presenter with participants. Among others, Dr. Shanawez Hossain and Dr. Mirza Hassan, Research Fellow and Lead Researcher, both at BIGD were present at the Seminar along with BIGD Researchers and staff.