The Political Economy of Urban Governance in Asian Cities: Delivering Water, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Services

  • Jamie Boex
  • Ammar A. MalikEmail author
  • Devanne Brookins
  • Ben Edwards
  • Hashim Zaidi
Part of the Advances in 21st Century Human Settlements book series (ACHS)


Cities across Asia are emerging as increasingly productive spaces driving economic growth and enabling social transformation. As their sizes and numbers grow, urban local governments’ ability to consistently deliver widely accessible and efficiently functioning public services is key to sustaining this momentum of positive change. Better understanding the institutional constraints facing cities in doing so is therefore critical. We design and apply an assessment framework to 18 cities across 6 countries in South and Southeast Asia to better understand the functional, administrative, and political dimensions determining the quality and coverage of water, sanitation, and solid waste management services. We find that urban local governments across Asia are constrained in their authority and discretion to deliver basic public services. Reforming intergovernmental institutional structures to better match responsibilities is essential for realizing cities’ full economic potential and meet targets set in the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.


Political economy Public finance Municipalities Urbanization Local public service 



This research underlying this chapter was funded by the International Growth Centre and the Urban Institute. We are also grateful to Urban Institute colleagues who have commented on earlier versions of this draft, including Charles Cadwell and Harvey Galper.

Several current and former colleagues at the Urban Institute supported the development of the assessment methodology including Jennifer Joel, Brittany Lane and Naledi Modisaatsone. Jasmine Pless, Madeline Roth and Sarra Souid provided excellent research assistance and Caroline Smith and Dana Schmidt provided critical administrative support.

Finally, we could not have completed this project without the diligent support of our in-country experts who completed country profiles in a highly professional manner. Their names are listed in Appendix B.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jamie Boex
    • 3
  • Ammar A. Malik
    • 2
    Email author
  • Devanne Brookins
    • 4
  • Ben Edwards
    • 5
  • Hashim Zaidi
    • 1
  1. 1.Oxfam Great BritainOxfordUK
  2. 2.Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD), Harvard Kennedy School of GovernmentCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Duke Center for International DevelopmentDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Graduate School of DesignHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Center on International Development and Governance, Urban InstituteWashingtonUSA

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