In economic terms we know that in any country a rapid rise in population growth creates pressure on allocation of resources, career opportunities, poverty and social protection projects etc. It is also said that the demographic transition gives a window of opportunity for growing economic growth and prosperity. Some global economists say that one hundred years ago only two out of ten of the global population was living in urban areas while now by the middle of the 21st century, seven out of ten people will be living in cities. Already international business is starting to plan policy from a city, rather than a country, perspective. Understandably so: well over half of the world’s population lives in cities, generating more than 80 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They have also mentioned that standard population projections show that virtually all worldwide growth over the next 30 years will be in urban regions. The number of people living in the world’s cities is rising by nearly 60 million yearly.
Our country continues to be the 6th most populated country globally with more than 195.4 million population. A worldwide phenomenon urbanization, is necessary to sustain growth in developing states and is a significant part of nurturing growth. In developing states urbanization occurs as a consequence of more employment opportunities and better standard of livings in cities as against to rural areas.
The Government of Pakistan officials mentioned in a statement that the population in rural regions declined from 61.4 percent in 2014 to 60.1 percent in 2016, whereas, the population in urban areas rose from 38.5 percent in 2014 to 40.0 percent last year. No doubt, cities are significant drivers of development and poverty reduction, and hub of main economic activities. In Pakistan, migration usually takes place for economic causes and movement from rural to urban regions is causing higher population growth rate in the latter. Pakistani cities states poorly configured on global yardsticks. Cities are competitive for investment and growth if they prioritize commerce, community, creativity and density. Such cities favor high-rise, mixed use, walkability and diversity.
Various global rakings mention that Pakistani cities act poorly in terms of the criteria of density, livability, business environment, walkability and competitiveness. The Hot Spots 2025 ranked 120 cities in terms of competitiveness prospects in 2025. Competitiveness was seen as the ability to attract capital, business, talent and visitors.
Karachi was ranked 111th while Singapore was 3rd, Hong Kong 4th, Seoul 15th, Dubai 23rd, Kuala Lumpur 31st, Shanghai 38th, Mumbai 51st, Delhi 56th and Bangkok 66th. Other Pakistani cities like Lahore did not even make it to the list of 120 cities. Cities that do not configure themselves for releasing this creative potential will see an increase in crime, disease, inequality and deprivation. Our leaders (social and politicians) has failed to understand the significance of competitive cities. There is hardly any conversation on the economic potential of cities. Nor is there any realization of how cities compete for global talent, capital and resources.
With election coming up, it is important for political parties to wake up to the new realities of Pakistan. Presently the 6th census has finally reached a conclusion with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PSB) declaring the results of the country-wide population count and details. The results reveal an increase of 57 percent in the total population (excluding Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan) of Pakistan in the last 19 years, and the total population at present stands at 207,774,520 as against to 132,362,279 back in 1998. Of all the states, the Federal Capital territory, Islamabad, recorded the highest population annual growth rate of 4.91 percent, while the other provinces stand at a maximum of 2 percent. While Punjab and Sindh have recorded a fall in their population growth rates, Punjab still stays host to the largest population of 110 million, with Sindh following on the second spot with a population of 48 million. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan, although lag behind in numbers, have recorded a rise in their respective population growth rates.
Development is fundamentally an urban phenomenon. In short, prosperity, knowledge and even fulfilment come with increased urbanization. However, poor city management and regulation has largely wasted the potential of urbanization.