The project enabled ADB to gain better understanding of Turkmenistan’s internal regulations and legislation, some of which need to be improved to enhance future project preparation and implementation. For example: (i) the registration of contracts and contract variations by the Turkmenistan State Commodity and Raw Materials Exchange should be shortened; and the review and approval by multiple agencies, which lengthened the registration process under this project to 2–3 months, needs to be assessed; (ii) the visa requirements for foreign experts, including IFI staff, consultants, and contractors should be amended to prevent the unnecessary work disruptions encountered, for instance, by the project management consultants for this project, whose applications for multiple entry visas with 6 months validity were consistently rejected, prompting them to instead use visas with 1 month validity, an arrangement that forced them to go on fieldwork only for 3 weeks and spend 1 week in their home countries waiting for the next visa; and (iii) importation of project goods and commodities needs to be given special consideration, with customs clearance reduced to the shortest time possible. ADB should as well consider these constraints as it takes on more projects in Turkmenistan.
ADB selected a sector of strength and a project with strong government backing and ownership for its first lending operation in Turkmenistan. It purposely kept the project scope to the design, procurement, and installation of signaling, power supply, and telecommunication systems to expose Turkmenistan to international competitive bidding which would be of clear value to the country, and where ADB’s technical advice would promote innovation. Given the government’s unfamiliarity with ADB safeguards policies, explicit consideration was also given to scoping the project in a manner that would not involve land acquisition and resettlement. Overall, the careful thought ADB gave to the scope and focus of this project facilitated the delivery of outputs that added value to the construction and operation of the pre-planned north−south railway line. Approved by ADB soon after Turkmenistan joined ADB’s Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program in 2010, the project’s high value addition also extends to the CAREC, which has designated the project railway line as part of CAREC Corridor 6, connecting Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia through Central Asia.