Social sector ‘vital’ to improving Saudi, Gulf cities status, say experts

One of the roles of city authorities is to design key performance indicators, provide services and ensure sustainability and progress

  
RIYADH: Experts have said that government and social sector support are key to transforming Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) cities after many were left out of the new Global Cities Index (GCI).

The index, published by Kearney, a leading global management and consulting firm, featured intense competition between major hubs around the world for top spots on the list. However, it did not include any Gulf city, except for Dubai, which ranked 27.

The 10th GCI report presented a future outlook for global cities together with a comprehensive analysis of the competitive capabilities of each city. The report also stressed the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the criteria used to classify cities and the challenges city leaders should address. It also shed light on how urban areas can deal with the unprecedented pressures of the future.

It walks cities through a way out of crisis and helps them get ready for the future.

Mazen Bakhurji, deputy mayor assistant at Eastern Province municipality, said one of the challenges facing Saudi cities is the horizontal increase in imbalance of population density.

He said cities should apply a transit-oriented development planning and design strategy, a type of urban development that maximizes the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of homes. Other challenges include insufficient services and rising infrastructure costs, he added, noting that obstacles and challenges often differ from one city to the next.

The urban planning general manager said that the Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs took part in a UN Human Settlement Program to study the future of the Kingdom’s cities. The study proposed that measurement indexes for decision-makers should be designed to help them assess city achievement and management, but also contribute to the decision-making process.

BACKGROUND

The assessment is composed of five dimensions: Productivity, development of infrastructure, social integration, environmental sustainability and urban governance.

The assessment is composed of five dimensions: Productivity, development of infrastructure, social integration, environmental sustainability and urban governance.

These are the fundamental dimensions for sustainable city development, Bakhurji said, stressing the need to measure performance through a capital improvement plan that accounts for the expectations of each city.

One of the roles of city authorities is to design key performance indicators, provide services and ensure sustainability and progress. “This can be done by coordinating with service providers to identify the priorities of development projects and ensure they are efficient and as planned,” Bakhurji said.

He said social engagement is instrumental for any city that seeks “pioneer status,” adding that the “social role” of cities — through the private sector and social and volunteer groups — is vital in order to meet needs and demands and work to achieve humanization.

Bakhurji said that the Quality of Life Program, which is part of Vision 2030, contributes to improving the quality of Saudi cities, focusing on three main urban centers.

Faisal Al-Fadl, secretary-general of the Saudi Green Building Forum, said the fact that cities are not included in the indicators “does not reflect on whether they are competitive or not.”

“The cities that were underscored should comply with the importance of the indicators as a reflection of existing and future developments toward achieving sustainable development goals, as well as green systems,” he said.

Al-Fadl, a specialist in urban and regional planning, stressed the important role of city agencies in collaborative governance and the long-term planning needed to transform the region’s cities.

“They should undertake national and cross-regional urbanization planning to balance economic growth and preserve high-value agricultural land and ecosystem services.

“They should also develop zero-slum cities through land-use planning that prevents formation and rehabilitation, and include resource-efficient, disaster-resistant and multi-story buildings.

“Agencies should promote resource efficiency and reporting at the systems level through innovative and profitable exchanges such as the SAAF rating systems by the Saudi Green Building Forum, an NGO in consultative status with the UN on renewable energy, clean water, waste and infrastructure,” he said.

The role of the public is also important for urban policies and expanding infrastructure, while also balancing social, economic and environmental projects in cities, Al-Fadl said. He added that there are “remarkable” projects like Green Riyadh, and vertical expansion in major areas that help push forward urban progress.

Al-Fadl said that city planning “defaults” must be made community-centric by moving from linear to circular models monitored by city planners. He added: “Countries should strive to regulate businesses and industries to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, as part of efforts to lower temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius in cities.”

Copyright: Arab News © 2020 All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

Disclaimer: The content of this article is syndicated or provided to this website from an external third party provider. We are not responsible for, and do not control, such external websites, entities, applications or media publishers. The body of the text is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis and has not been edited in any way. Neither we nor our affiliates guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views or opinions expressed in this article. Read our full disclaimer policy here.

More From GCC