Of course we've been doing piecemeal sites and services upgrading since the 70s but it's only lately that the World Bank has realized that the urban poor merit as much attention as the rural poor.
Mega Cities expert Janice Perlman makes a profound statement:
"The international funding agencies of investment institutions need to give more to urban development and less to rural development," said Perlman. "I’ve argued that the people who come to the city [and live in squatter developments] are the cream of the crop with the highest ambitions and aspirations. If given the chance, they would build middle-class communities. You can’t blame people for polluting the watershed if you don’t provide them with water infrastructure."Perlman advocates integrating squatter developments into the surrounding neighborhoods. Rather than demolishing these self-made communities, she recommends connecting them to the city’s infrastructure by incorporating paved streets, steps, plazas and new facades as well as offering services such as clean water, sewage connections and electricity. If visually they’re more like the surrounding neighborhoods, these needy areas will be more likely to interact with the middle class nearby, she said.
Let me repeat Perlman's thesis:
"the people who come to the city [and live in squatter developments] are the cream of the crop with the highest ambitions and aspirations."
Think about it. Think about the entrepreneurial mindset required to leave a farm and try your luck in the city. You can argue that a hand-to-mouth existence in subsistence farms gives a lot of reasons for decamping to the city. Still, it requires a lot of courage and more importantly, an ability to imagine a different future to take that leap.
I bet that leap takes as much courage as risking a future working in another country to provide a better future for your family.
Maybe we need to rethink our biases about squatters.