A City For All Classes

Penang has been receiving wreaths of accolades in recent years. But instead of basking in international glory, we should consider what it is that we ourselves wish for – and need.
Penang has been recognised in city competitiveness indexes as one of the most liveable cities in Asia.

Penang has been recognised in city competitiveness indexes as one of the most liveable cities in Asia.

There is no doubt about it. Cities are growing with astonishing intensity, and as we move towards an increasingly urban world, a plethora of tools, indexes and frameworks is being developed for cities to compare and benchmark themselves with each other in terms of quality of life and liveability. This can be hugely useful for cities wishing to identify their weaknesses and learn best practices from their peers.

Ultimately though, these tools should encourage citizens to reflect on urbanity itself and its impact on the wellbeing of people and society.

There is a range of approaches to the creation of city-level indexes for wellbeing. The United Nations Human Development Index aims to objectively measure the basic dimensions of human development: education, health and income. The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) created a City Development Index for the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in 1996. The Asian Development Bank also then created a congestion index and a connectivity index. However, given the great diversity of cities, it is extremely challenging to construct a uniform index that is sensitive to local conditions and priorities.

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