LBR LBO INFRASTRUCTURE SUMMIT – REALIZING THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WESTERN REGION URBAN AGGLOMERATION DEVELOPMENT
The Western Region Development Project will create a modern urban agglomeration. The challenges in designing and executing an urbanization project of unprecedented scope and scale are many.
Some of the areas that would require extensive planning and execution are:
1) Bridging the gap between “vision and action”
2) Rapid deployment of talent, ideas, and capital
3) Facilitating the deployment of cutting edge technology to build smart businesses and smart communities
4) Building institutional infrastructure (policy framework, friction-free inter-agency collaboration, political stability, quality of governance, and social infrastructure) that will induce investor appetite
5) Building and deploying innovative funding models and sources
6) Making the project climate positive
7) Positioning and marketing the country as a high potential investment destination
The Summit will aim at creating a discourse that will:
1) Promote Western Region Development and Port City as high potential investment destinations
2) Identify opportunities for businesses in technology, logistics, construction, environmental services, builders of transport systems, power & energy, public services, telecommunication, hospitality, facility management and construction, civil engineering, and other related fields
3) Help to attract leading global and regional business to Sri Lanka
4) Help project management to identify possible pitfalls and barriers that could compromise the quality of execution
5) Provide insights to policy makers
THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF WESTERN REGION DEVELOPMENT
Multi-generational & multi-dimensional transformative power
The government intends to undertake an ambitious development project to convert the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, and Kalutara into an integrated megacity. This will be the largest, most complex, and most capital-intensive development project Sri Lanka has ever embarked upon. This project is unlikely to have peers in the region. It will create a lasting multigenerational and multidimensional effect. The transformative impact will also be felt across the region and the globe.
The multi-dimensional transformative power of such a project will positively alter:
1) Physical landscape and built environment
2) Social fabric and livability
3) Business landscape
5) Global standing of Sri Lanka
Physical landscape and built environment
The most visible aspect of the project will be the transformation of physical landscape and built environment. In addition to creating a world class Central Business District (CBD), the megacity will also form a cluster of satellite cities: airport, science and technology, industrial, logistics, plantation, and forest.
Sustainability and citizen centricity will both be key considerations and outcomes in altering the physical landscape and built environment. As such, due consideration needs to be paid to prevent the environmental and social degradation associated with the unplanned and unchecked growth of some of the megacities in the developing world, such as Manila, Sao Paolo, Lagos, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Kolkata.
Social fabric and livability
Transforming the Western Region into a coherent urban landscape will induce positive changes in the composite demographics of the region, which consists of its wealth, education level, and employment rate. The region will also attract world-class talent, which will provide innovative ideas for economic and social development.
The improved physical and soft infrastructure, which will bring together the features of world-class modern cities including sustainable housing, will augment the livability of the region.
Taking the Western Region to the level of a world-class urban center will make the region one of the most competitive urban centers in Asia.
The ease of conducting business will be parallel to those of advanced economies and global financial and business centers. The region will be a magnet to regional and global businesses, which seek environments conducive to business growth defined by the geographic location and the availability of high-quality infrastructure, talent, and facilitating governance and institutional framework.
A project of such scale and scope will create an intense, rapid, and lasting economic impact, which will reverberate throughout the region. As mentioned earlier, urbanization is the key driver in propelling the nation into the level of a high-income economy.
Global standing of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been a regional trading hub for millennia. Historical chronicles, going back over 2000 years, reveal the value of the nation in regional trade in ancient times.
Creating a modern urban agglomeration will reposition Sri Lanka as a modern nation, which is seamlessly integrated into the global supply chain. It will be a regional and international gateway.
MULTI-DISCIPLINARY THOUGHT LEADERS WILL GENERATE INSIGHTFUL DISCOURSE
As in the case of “LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit 2015,” international, regional, and local thought leaders will share their expertise, experience, and perspectives. The quality of presentations and panel discussions will be similarly thought provoking and stimulating.
The working titles of the proposed sessions are:
Day 1: 6.00 PM on 20th September, Liberty Ballroom, Ramada Colombo
1) The transformative power of the Western Region Development Project: Physical landscape, built environment, economy, livability and country reputation
Day 2: 8.30 AM to 5.30 PM, OAK ROOM, Cinnamon Grand
2) “Bridging the Gap Between Vision and Action” – governance, political stability, institutional infrastructure, talent, innovative ideas and capital
3) Designing intelligent, viable, and sustainable mobility solutions
4) Housing for cohesive urban communities
5) Making USD 40 Billion Plus funding a reality (Sources of funding, innovating financial tools and promoting Sri Lanka as a prime investment estimation)
URBAN AGGLOMERATION DRIVES THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Most developing nations have been economically driven by rapid urbanization. Sri Lanka, perhaps, is the least urbanized nation among the lower middle-income economies, in the region of 40% – 45% at the highest.
The present government anchors its strategies to drive the nation to the next level of economic development on rapid urbanization. This includes developing Colombo, Kalutara, and Gampaha districts into a modern urban agglomeration and developing a number of provincial cities.
Over the last two hundred years, the world population living in cities grew from an insignificant proportion to nearly 60%.
This rapid growth of urban landscape has been dramatic and has altered the structure of societies; demographically, economically, socially, and politically. Urbanization has brought economic opportunities and public goods conveniently and economically to vast swaths of the population.
Edward Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, observes that urban agglomeration facilitates the intensification of the division of labor and knowledge, the specialization and the trade that fuel progress. Glaeser argues that globalization and technology have increased the “returns to being smart”. In other words social progress, education and enterprise, manifest most in large, international metropoles.
The “Beyond GDP” article series of the World Economic Forum observes that the rise of emerging market megacities acts as magnets for regional wealth and talent. This has been the most significant contributor to shifting the world’s focal point of economic activity.
McKinsey Global Institute research suggests that from now until 2025, one-third of the world’s growth will come from the key Western capitals and emerging market megacities.
Being a mega-city by scale itself does not necessarily bring social harmony and prosperity. The growth of cities has had adverse effects too. Overpopulated mega-cities are burdened with crumbling physical and social infrastructure, failed education systems, increasing environmental damage, crimes, and urban poverty. Many cities fail to get the infrastructure right, creating immense transport congestion and pollution by vehicular emission. Most of the mega-cities in the emerging world suffer badly from such intractable issues.
On the other hand, well-planned and managed mega-cities drive growth, progress, jobs, and prosperity in the wider national economy.
THE “MOONSHOT” OF MAKING SRI LANKA THE MOST COMPETITIVE NATION IN THE INDIAN OCEAN REGION
Surpassing its peers in the South Asian region, Sri Lanka has now reached the status of a lower middle-income economy.
The “demographic dividend” was a primary driver of Sri Lanka’s economic growth and structural changes during the recent past, which made youth labor abundant for mass manufacturing; competitive labor costs and a relatively educated workforce that could be easily trained for skilled work.
Sri Lanka’s economy transitioned from a previously predominantly rural-based agriculture economy towards a more urbanized economy driven by services. In 2015, the service sector accounted for 62.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), followed by manufacturing (28.9 percent), and agriculture (8.7 percent). The country ranked 73rd in the Human Development Index in 2014, and has comfortably surpassed most of the MDG targets set for 2015.
Sri Lanka also benefitted immensely from the acceleration of the process of globalization, which facilitated increased cross-border flow of capital, goods and services, and labor.
However, the strategies that made recent economic progress a reality will no longer be useful in the context of the evolving regional and global economic landscape and the aspirations of society. Moving up to a high-middle-income economy necessitates a new set of strategies – deploying cutting edge technology, creating business-friendly policy and institutional framework, facilitating the creation of high value industries and services, significantly improving worker productivity, and of course physical and soft infrastructure.
Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister, has set a “moonshot” target for the nation – making Sri Lanka the most competitive nation in the Indian Ocean Region. This includes building an ultra modern urban center covering an area of 3,600 sq. km in the Western Region.
The Colombo Port City constructed and promoted by China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC) will be an integral part of the megacity and will be developed as an international financial center. (Please see the next section)
A vital element of a competitive economy, in today’s context, is a topnotch infrastructure, both physical and soft. World-class infrastructure attracts the investment and talent needed to create next-generation innovative enterprises, encompassing all modern industries and services and public services. Such infrastructure improves quality of life and minimizes damage to the biophysical environment.
Turning the Western Region into a megacity is a massive, complex, highly capital-intensive and unprecedentedly ambitious project that has the potential to transform the whole Western Region into a world-class metropolis. If executed well, this will be a model metropolis on par with those found in advanced and developed nations.
PORT CITY – A MARQUE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
The Port City of Colombo will be the most visible element of the new ultra modern urban center that will emerge in the Western Region. It will be Sri Lanka’s first world-class urban built environment, rivaling key modern global business and financial centers around the globe.