Planning Diary: Third World Cities


The term Third World is used in reference to “the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America”. The term usually suggests poverty and low level of industrial development and thus it is the opposite of the term developed nations.

Almost half of the world’s countries are under the category of Developing or Least Developed countries including the Philippines. With the past influences being a colony of Spain, United States and a little of Japan, the country still continues to struggle in its economy with almost a decade since its independence. We can say that a few important factors are affecting this and being a Third World country has these common characteristics in its cities.

Under Mercantile Colonialism Policies. Aside from the economic structure, the influence of Spain in the traits of most of the Filipinos had a somewhat negative effect. The focus is on exportation and not on the maximization of natural resources that the country has. This then results to a rapid urbanization in most of the cities.

Rapid Urbanization. People tend to go into the cities for more work opportunity rather than stay in the farms in the countryside/provinces. They then suffer a low level and inadequate living standards just to gain a stable and maybe a reasonable income for them. With the small elites living in big towns and cities, a majority of them owning and handling major businesses and enterprise, gap between the rich and the poor within the individual LDCs continues to grow.

Informal Economy. With the lack of job opportunities suited for people with skills, some tend to just accept the work even with inadequate employment conditions such as below minimum wage, unsafe working environment and no employee benefits. This in effect cause low levels of labor productivity.

Youthful Age Structure. The young age population with almost 40% of the total population can cause deficit in the production and labor force of the city. Most of them tend to consume than to produce.

Informal Settlements. Overcapacity in the living/housing areas in the city results to informal settlements to cater the rest of the low living population. With an estimated 25% of the world’s urban population live in informal settlements, most of these were either unemployed or engaged in the informal economy. Urban conflicts and crimes usually occur within or nearby these areas.

Vulnerability to Disasters and Health Risks. The Third World countries not only have low per capita incomes but they also have to fight a battle against malnutrition, diseases and ill-health etc. and protect their population against natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes. The most vulnerable are again the population in the informal settlement areas.

Recipients of approaches, knowledge and technologies from more-developed nations. Probably the one major good thing that the developed countries give to us in the LDCs. These nations under certain agencies conduct major projects related to the economic, social and infrastructure benefit of the cities, especially helping in the development of low living areas.

This is now the major challenge to the urban and environmental planner on how to devise and formulate the plans to encourage the sustainable development in the cities. That is not only the application of theories based on the concepts and references but also on the development of policies in relation to the current situation and based on the data gathered. That might need a lot of manpower and resources but I think that this bottom-up approach is more effective in knowing the scenario and needs of let say a certain barangay. One of which that we did last time in the office was the Barangay Disaster Risk Assessment survey wherein we gathered data on the disaster preparedness of each of the 180 Barangays in Iloilo City. Acting upon the situation is the first step and then later on is the formulation of a long-term action plan so as the solutions can be monitored and maintained.

These along with the political will of the legislators in the conversion and implementation of the state policies can be a major drive to a more sustainable and developed city.

Categories : HQ and Office Affairs