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IDB survey finds Latin Americans want more transparency in city governments

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Poll on megacities and infrastructure covered Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City and São Paulo

Latin Americans living in major cities want more transparency and participation in local governments’ decisions on new policies and investments involving urban infrastructure, according to results of a groundbreaking survey released by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) today.

The survey involved 5,000 people in Buenos Aires, Mexico City and São Paulo, three megacities with more than 10 million people, as well as in Bogotá and Lima, two capitals likely to reach that category over the next decade.

The survey “Megacities and Infrastructure in Latin America: What its people think” also showed that security has become a top priority for urban dwellers, independent of their socioeconomic standing. For the middle class, public transportation is a major factor affecting quality of life. For poorer households, lack of access to water, sanitation and electricity services continues to be a major obstacle to improving their living conditions.

“Latin American megacities are experiencing strong economic growth, presenting huge challenges to policymakers responsible for providing high-quality public infrastructure and services,” said Alexandre Meira da Rosa, manager of the IDB’s Infrastructure and Environment Sector. “This survey shed light on the priorities of urban citizens. We have to know what Latin Americans expect from urban infrastructure so we can better work with governments to meet their needs.”

Today, Latin America is the world’s most urbanized region, with 82 percent of its population living in cities. By 2050, it is expected to reach 90 percent. Cities concentrate most economic activity, a reason why good urban infrastructure and public services are essential pillars for any country seeking to raise living standards and boost its competitiveness.

The study identified the most pressing challenges to promote sustainable development in cities as well as the biggest problems affecting access to basic infrastructure and public services and the quality of life in urban centers.

Preliminary findings included:

  • Security and transparency are the top priorities for citizens in five cities.
  • 28.1 million people in these cities commute at least 90 minutes a day. That is equivalent to 10 weeks of work a year per person.
  • The middle class is the largest group of public transport users in large cities.
  • 76 percent of respondents said they are satisfied with the water service. Levels varied widely: in Bogotá, only 2 percent said service is bad or very bad. In Mexico City, 28 percent were dissatisfied.
  • 64 percent said electricity services are expensive. On average, low-income households are subject to more blackouts and voltage fluctuations than higher income households.
  • 78 percent believe that extreme weather events such as floods, heavy rains, and extreme temperature waves are happening more frequently than in the past. 82 percent said global climate change impacts their cities. 67 percent believe that climate change directly affects their lives.
  • One in six people surveyed said public spaces are among the top four urban infrastructure priorities.
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