While it was established as part of project management, M&E was discontinued after the PMO closed. Hence, project specific data cannot be provided for evaluating long-term outcomes, impact, and poverty reduction.
Agricultural support provided to dehkan farms was limited to the duration of the project. No mechanisms were put in place to ensure sustainability of benefits beyond the project’s life. The activities of demonstrations farms were very helpful to dehkan farms in increasing productivity, but these were stopped after project completion. Further, most of these demonstration farms were distributed to individual and family dehkan farms after completion of the project. Agricultural extension services are in the nature of merit goods, with positive externalities to the society. Hence mechanisms should have been established for the provision of these services on an ongoing basis to ensure sustainability of productivity gains.
Transferring management of tertiary irrigation and drainage systems to beneficiaries as a means for participatory water management was appropriate and in line with IWRM principles. However, the phasing of cost recovery and measures needed for WUAs to become sustainable should have been made clear at the outset. Measures for achieving full cost recovery should have been identified early in the implementation process.
This would determine their suitability when ascertaining the risks and sustainability of their involvement.
This project would have been considerably more successful if ADB had monitored and supported it more intensely.
At appraisal in 2005, Tajikistan was regarded to be at an early stage of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. To support the government’s efforts to ameliorate the situation, the project included a grant-funded HIV/AIDS and Migration Program that helped foster early diagnosis and proper treatment of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the area along and surrounding the project road. The program involved national and rayon (district) health staff, local governments, and non-government organizations in a massive information and education campaign. Construction workers, women, contractors, and youth clubs were clubs particularly targeted in behavior change communication. HIV testing kits and STI treatment packages were distributed for free, and facilities and equipment in the local health centers were upgraded. Executed by the Ministry of Health through its National HIV/AIDS Center, the experience has shown that it is feasible and highly beneficial, socioeconomically, for a cross-sector and multi-stakeholder approach to HIV/AIDS prevention to be integrated into road transport projects in Tajikistan. Doing so will transform road construction projects from being a potential vessel to a captive battleground for fighting the transmission of HIV/AIDS.
The benefits of road transport projects are made most palpable by how they stimulate the movement of people and goods and overall socioeconomic development. But they are also influenced by how much road safety is assured. Hence, governments and development partners need to work together to ensure that road safety is incorporated in road transport projects, especially because increased traffic accidents due to speedy and careless driving have proved to be an unintended consequence of improved road conditions.
The cost of the main road improvement under this project increased by about 22.6% mainly because of higher-valued works contracts, change in scope, and price adjustments. While the significantly higher costs of the works contracts as well resulted from the extra earthworks needed, they largely stemmed from price underestimations that point to the lack of due diligence during project preparation. Cost estimations and budgeting in future projects need to incorporate a thorough market assessment, including looking at the historical trends that could influence the prices of the required goods and services. Cost estimates derived from a thorough market assessment can be expected to provide a reliable basis for calculating the contingencies that need to be included in the project budgets.
This project was in a complex and fragile geological location, but no detailed study was carried out at appraisal. The deficiency caused several changes in the estimation of the earthwork requirements and necessitated the conduct of detailed geological studies while the works were already ongoing. To avoid a repeat of this experience that, as this project has shown, can lead to significant changes in design, completion delays, and cost increases, detailed studies to examine the geophysical characteristics of the project site and other factors that could affect implementation should be conducted during project preparation.
To foster the sustainability of road assets and benefits, this project intended to introduce outsourcing of road maintenance to private companies. Under the scheme, PBM contracts were to be developed and piloted along with PBM-related capacity building for key road agencies and private contractors in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Governments were to fund the civil works under the pilot contracts, while ADB was to finance the necessary consulting services. However, preparation, including the establishment of the enabling policy and legal framework took time, and so did stakeholder capacity development. Actual piloting of the PBM in both countries was consequently delayed and ended up with only the awarding of two pilot contracts in Tajikistan. The time required for creating the enabling environment and developing the capacities of key agencies should be considered in future similar interventions. Adequate budgets should be ensured, and ADB should explore other ways such as study tours to strengthen the institutional and human resource capacities of the public sector in PBM contracting and management.
As envisaged at appraisal, improvements in border-crossing infrastructure and services were undertaken under this project. With funding from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Irkeshtam border-crossing at the Kyrgyz Republic–PRC border facility was rehabilitated and upgraded with up-to-date inspection, quarantine, and data processing equipment. For Tajikistan, the border infrastructure at Karamyk was improved under another ADB-financed project. Two entry check points, administrative buildings, examination equipment, and lifeline facilities were installed. Along with much-better road conditions, the improved facilities and services at border crossings enabled the speedy cross-border movement of passenger and freight, resulting in increased trade among several countries, including the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, the PRC, and Afghanistan. The commonality of interest among beneficiary countries to improve border-crossing facilities for mutual socioeconomic gains has been demonstrated in this project. Moreover, the experience provides a good practice example of how funding complementation and cooperation could enable the optimization of benefits from transport corridor investments.
The Kyrgyz Republic’s part of this project encountered a $32 million increase in cost due to the need to lengthen the asphalt surfacing of the two-lane road from Sary-Tash to the Kyrgyz Republic–Tajik border at Karamyk. The extension was necessitated by the unexpected volume of traffic growth along the project road and adjoining areas. The cost increase was met by a $23 million loan provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at government’s request in 2010. This was on top of the $25.6 million grant ADB originally provided. To avoid potential cost overruns, which nearly doubled the project cost in this case, future projects should ensure using the most reliable traffic forecasts in road engineering designs. Adequate geological and climate surveys should likewise be undertaken to minimize the need to amend the designs, and road safety issues should be identified in consultation with the road users and local communities during project preparation.
Although the economic and financial benefits of the project were substantial for Afghanistan, they would have been greater if investment in distribution had been undertaken in a timely manner to take advantage of the capacity to import electricity through the project transmission line. The transmission line is currently used at less than full capacity—about 200 megawatts (MW). It is possible to energize it to transmit up to 600 MW of electricity.
The replacement of a transformer in one hydropower plant in Tajikistan did not push through because of the failure of the EA to generate the necessary funds. This experience highlights the need for EA financial capacity and management assessments to be undertaken at appraisal to avoid the cancelation of activities that, although relatively insignificant in this case, may negatively affect the viability and sustainability of future projects.
The Afghanistan component of this project demonstrated that importing relatively inexpensive electricity from Tajikistan, and elsewhere if available, can result in enormous economic benefits to Afghanistan and financial benefits to Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (Afghanistan Power Utility). It would therefore be sound for the government of Afghanistan and the Asian Development Bank to pursue further investments in the power sector to take advantage of surplus electricity in neighboring countries.
While it recognized the importance of training all the relevant government agencies and other stakeholders on using the ICT applications it introduced under the UAIS, the project left the provision of this training to the executing and implementing agencies. As this is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of any large-scale ICT system and a highly technical field, future projects should include an ICT users’ training in the terms of reference of the ICT developers. An appropriate loan covenant requiring all relevant agencies to undergo the training should be explored.
The State Customs Service (SCS), the implementing agency, was recognized at project appraisal as relatively young with weak institutional capacity, low efficiency, and poor governance. It was also inexperienced in procurement and lacked a clear understanding of how to proceed with the implementation of a major design-and-build information and communications technology (ICT) development project. On hindsight, it would have been more beneficial if trainings were provided at the outset not only on Asian Development Bank (ADB) procurement procedures but also on overall project management and relevant technical fields. This would have helped reduce implementation delays that amounted to a total of 30 months due to a host of factors, including political instability in the country that pushed back loan effectiveness by 18 months, complications in the procurement process of the core software applications for the unified automated information system (UAIS), and the long time required for the completion of UAIS testing and rollout. Future similar interventions, especially those involving highly technical components such as ICT development, should include appropriate trainings for new executing and implementing agencies right at project startup.
The technical capacities of the project executing agency (EA) and implementing agencies (IAs) generally improved with the successful implementation of the project. However, opportunities for the EA and IAs to enhance their knowhow in critical project management areas such as procurement, economic and financial evaluation, social and environment safeguards, and financial management were limited by overreliance on the project management office (PMO). EAs and IAs should optimize the opportunities in future projects for improving their project management institutional capacities by getting more actively involved in the associated key functions or by assigning appropriate staff to handle these functions. While enabling EAs and IAs to break away from their dependence on externally sourced experts, the development of such capacities will also favor the smooth and successful implementation of projects, particularly those financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and similar funding agencies.
Under the project, 28 civil works contracts were awarded through either ICB or national competitive bidding, with an average contract amount of $0.7 million. The significant administrative burden accompanying this large number of contracts can be reduced in future projects by repackaging civil works around a value of $1.5 million per contract, which is well within the capacity of local contractors.
Foreign contractors were not attracted to the project’s international competitive bidding (ICB) packages because of the location and limited time available to complete the rehabilitation works. Nevertheless, as national contractors were able to undertake civil works with a contract value of $1.5 million, the project did not encounter much difficulty in procuring the necessary civil works. Future similar projects can consider and build on this strength of the local contracting industry to optimize civil works procurement and packaging.