The Chinese government must do more to tackle traffic jams,
choking air pollution and other urban transport problems, the World
Bank says in a report released in Beijing on Wednesday.
The report calls on the government to strengthen its role in
urban transport, to provide policy directions and reward good
The incentive structure of the municipal governments should be
improved to ensure due attention to environmental quality, quality
of urban life and capacity building, says the report.
The local People's Congress, or legislative bodies, should
strengthen their monitoring of the performances of municipal
governments, and their representation of the long-term interests of
urban residents in the decision-making and policy-implementation
The bank says the urban planning process should be reformed to
include long-term urban land use and transport strategic planning
and to interact with urban master planning.
A clear link between urban transport planning and financing
should be established, through the adoption of capital improvement
plans and long-term financial plans, it says.
Sustainable and transparent financing mechanisms should be
developed, to correct mistakes and improve risk management, the
A healthy and efficient public transport industry should be
developed through industry reform, which is central to enhancing
urban travel mobility.
With more cars on the roads, large cities in China are
increasingly suffering from traffic jams and choking air, says the
Related problems have also emerged, including urban sprawl and
excessive farmland conversion, says the report titled "Building
Institutions for Sustainable Urban Transport".
Municipal governments rely heavily on off-budget financing to
build roads and consequently bear heavy financial liabilities, the
The impacts of rapid motorization on energy security, fuel
prices, and the greenhouse gas effect are "not only a national but
also an international concern".
To deal with these problems effectively, the Chinese central
government needs to re-define and strengthen its role in urban
The report examines the changing nature of urban transport
problems and the associated institutional issues in the broad
context of urbanization and fiscal decentralization.
It concludes that various institutional weaknesses are at the
core of urban transport problems in China.
Liu Zhi, senior infrastructure specialist with the bank and one
of the two main authors, said the Chinese experience was unique as
few countries had experienced such extraordinarily rapid pace of
No other country had ever seen the shift of 300 million to 400
million people from rural to urban life within one generation, Liu
More importantly, the rapid motorization coincided with the
crucial period of decentralization that devolved a range of
functional and fiscal responsibilities from the national to local
governments, said Liu.
The municipal governments assumed primary responsibilities both
functional and fiscal for urban transport, he said.
However the bank's report says, most are able to mobilize
resources to expand the capacity of transport infrastructure, and
the level of road investment over a short time are unmatched by
most developing cities around the world.
However, heavy investment generally fails to yield sustainable
outcomes, says the report
Various institutional weaknesses are obstructing knowledge and
effective policy implementation.
Until recently, many cities accorded priority to their gross
domestic product growth over more balanced, sustainable
development, the report adds.
At the practical level, the urban master plan is inherently
rigid and too inflexible to meet the rapidly growing demand for
urban transport services.
On the other hand, the report says it is unconnected to the
financing plan, and thus difficult to implement. The situation is
further complicated by a lack of sustainable municipal financing
Cities have to rely on whatever means are available to deal with
their pressing needs, often at the cost of the public's long-term
interest, it says.
"Unfortunately, the checks and balances mechanisms have not been
fully in place to ensure appropriate procedures for municipal
decisions to take into consideration the interest of the majority
of the urban residents."
Graham Smith, World Bank coordinator for the transport sector in
China and the other main author of the report, said the challenge
was enormous for both central and local governments.
The primary driving force of motorization -- the growth of
household incomes -- was expected to remain strong in urban China,
"The good news is that technological solutions exist for urban
transport outcomes that are more sustainable," says the report.
As recent studies demonstrate, a mix of policies and
technologies could help cities control overall fuel consumption and
greenhouse gas emissions, it says.
Those include energy-efficient vehicle technologies, clean
fuels, compact city development, better public transport services,
and higher taxation on fuel.
(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2006)