This project was classified as category A for both involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples. Land acquisition was required for constructing and upgrading the canals. Seven social safeguard planning documents were prepared from September 2011 to September 2015, including a separate resettlement plan and ethnic group development plan for the first 10 kilometers of the main canals and combined resettlement and ethnic group development plans for the succeeding works. Combining the resettlement plans with EMDPs proved advantageous, as it resulted in shorter review and approval time.
The government contracted design consultants for this project before loan effectiveness. This resulted in the early availability of detailed surveys and engineering designs. Once mobilized, the project management consultant continued the work of the design consultants to expedite design review, procurement, and resolution of safeguard issues. The experience has demonstrated the importance of early mobilization of consultants in expediting project startup and implementation. The government used its own funds for the design consultants. (Implementation: water resources development projects, consultant recruitment)
Myanmar’s accounting and auditing profession has limited exposure to international practices, and the requirement for audit reports and management letters to be in English was a major challenge during the early stages of this project. The situation was remedied only after two financial experts were mobilized under a technical assistance for a subsequent project to assist in improving the implementing agencies’ (IAs) financial management and reporting capacity. In parallel manner, while the loan agreement contained all the necessary environmental loan covenants, a safeguard compliance status review conducted during the project midterm review found that little effort had been made to comply with said covenants. The problem was deemed rooted in the IAs’ failure to appoint an environment staff or hire an environment consultant for the project. Performance improved only after the appointment of an environment staff in each of the IAs’ project management units. The project experience highlight the critical importance of the early and/or timely engagement of key experts, staff, or consultants, to ensure compliance to loan covenants. Agreements in support of this need should be worked out during the processing stage.
This project’s original schedule set the completion date at December 2016, 24 months ahead of the envisaged loan closing date of December 2018. This deviated from the ADB norm of allowing projects to be completed 6 months before the loan closing date. Given that the procurement activities were set at appraisal to be completed by June 2016, the project implementation period allotted in the loan documents would boil down to only 6 months. Notwithstanding that the project closed on time, the oversight in its overall schedule needs to be avoided in future projects. Six months was clearly insufficient to complete all the rehabilitation works under the project. Allotting a minimum of 1 year for such rehabilitation works would be more realistic.
This program’s unique feature of extensively consulting development partners during formulation, appraisal, and implementation was helpful. Strong support from the development partners, including Danish International Development Agency, Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, Germany’s GIz (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Development Programme, and United States Agency for International Development, and the World Bank, enhanced the quality of policy dialogues, resulting in favorable actions for reforms.
This program put in place critical landmark reforms, including the separation of judiciary from the executive, the implementation of the National Integrity Strategy and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, empowerment of Anticorruption Commission, asset declaration by judges and public officials, and the establishment of the Information Commission. These reforms have provided the foundational elements for curbing corruption, improving governance, and enhancing public services delivery in Bangladesh. They would not have been possible without strong political commitment of all the government agencies that carried out the program. The executing agencies demonstrated strong ownership and capable leadership, and the implementing agencies, through their respective project management units, effectively monitored, coordinated, and steered program implementation.
With 47 policy actions, two executing agencies, and 15 implementing agencies, this program faced enormous implementation complexities and difficulties. It successfully implemented 44 of its policy conditions, but suffered a completion delay of 78 months requiring eight extensions. The program disbursed two of its three tranches within 13 months after approval, fully achieving 31 of the required policy actions; however, disbursement of the third and final tranche was delayed by about 111 months to allow time to implement the three unmet policy actions. The government and the development partners supporting the program were in favor of giving additional time to implement the three remaining reforms, of which two were fully implemented in 2008 but were not sustained, while another was partially achieved through implementation of alternative measures. Focusing on a few key reforms and having a smaller number of EAs/IAs would have eased implementation and improved the efficiency of the program.
One of this project’s first batch subprojects, the Hebei Qianjin Iron and Streel Group Co. Ltd., was shut down in 2017, only after three years of operation because of a government policy requiring the province to reduce iron and steel production capacity. The unexpected shutdown did not have any significant impact on the overall project achievements. As a lesson, it is recommended that ADB-financed projects include a policy risk assessment in the subproject selection process, and where such policy risks exist, implement appropriate mitigation measures. Better communication with governments to assess potential policy changes may be explored as a standard policy risk mitigation measure.
The Integrated Ecosystem Management Strategy and Action Plan for the Qinling Mountains developed under the project has provided the impetus and most important scientific basis for government to adopt a national park system to improve the ecosystem management of the mountains. Implementation of the strategy and action plan was supported by project staff who participated in staff exchange with world-recognized botanical gardens and conservation entities and underwent extensive relevant training and study tours. Public education programs to support plan implementation were also developed by professional consultants and integrated with the operations of the Qinling National Botanical Garden (QNBG) and the Shaanxi Animal Rescue Center (SARC). In addition, the project engaged highly experienced experts to review and improve the design of SARC facilities for wildlife enclosure and exhibition. These designs adequately considered international standards and good practices. The QNBG also involved high-profile experts from Shanghai and Germany to ensure its plans for the landscape and garden were of high quality. All these interventions added great value to the whole project and will help ensure its long-term impact. The lesson of great value addition through high-quality capacity development can be replicated in future projects.
Because of stringent government restrictions on its staff going abroad, the original planned overseas study tour and training were not implemented and dropped from the project scope. Instead of government staff going abroad, international experts in relevant fields could be invited to the country to introduce advanced concepts and technology to government staff, as well as provide technical support.
This was the first ADB loan implemented by the Yunnan Highway Administration Bureau (YHAB). The implementing agency, project management office (PMO) staff, and contractors were therefore unfamiliar with ADB requirements and procedures, and this led to slow procurement and disbursement in the early implementation stages. In such future cases, relevant staff should be adequately trained as early as possible. Project management consultants, with significant experience in ADB projects, should be recruited even prior on to support project procurement and financial management, including training relevant staff and contractors.
This project experienced cost overruns that drove the actual cost for road rehabilitation 34.4% higher than estimated. This was mainly caused by escalations in the prices of construction materials and labor in the long period between appraisal estimation and actual procurement. Procurement for Phase IV took place in 2016 and 2017, 3–4 years after appraisal. In addition, the total estimated contingency was only 8.3% of the base cost (3.8% for physical and 4.5% for price contingencies), which was inadequate to meet the sector loan modality and cover actual price escalation. Contingencies should be estimated more carefully for projects with a long implementation period.
As a result of meaningful consultations, the layout of the main irrigation canal at Zong Neng Monastery (a Tibetan Buddhist monastery) was adjusted to respect the local community’s religion and beliefs. Mutual respect and good communication between the county project management offices, monastery, and mosques also tightened the project bond with the villagers and smoothed out problems among villager groups during project implementation. Meaningful consultation and respectful relationships are a good way to smooth project implementation in ethnic minority areas.
Ethnic minority peoples of the Hui, Salar, and Tibetan ethnic groups comprise the majority of the population in the project sites. Overall literacy among these peoples is low and significant portion a cannot speak Mandarin. Special efforts were required to ensure effective public consultation, especially for vulnerable groups. The CPMO staff composition maintained good diversity throughout the project implementation period, and this proved critically important in ensuring culturally appropriate communication and effective community engagement.
This project included 20 civil works contracts, awarding of which were ahead of projection because of the county project management offices’ (CPMO) prompt procurement actions. The CPMOs were satisfied with the performance of the contractors; however, over-sliced civil works contracts of a similar nature required more resources for procurement and contract management. The civil works packages for the main canals could have been combined into bigger packages to attract more experienced large contractors with good reputation and greater financial resources. This would have increased project implementation efficiency and eased procurement and contract management.
Despite adjustments, some of the gender targets remained ambitious. For example, targets set for female participation in school support committees, which would require sufficient votes from community members, were unrealistic and may only be achieved with thoroughgoing gender education at the grassroots. Targets to increase the proportion of female officials in education agencies will also have to be informed by existing civil service rules on tenure and qualifications among others. In future, a more thorough feasibility assessment needs to be incorporated in gender action planning and target-setting. Adequate monitoring and evaluation, including the establishment of baselines, should also be ensured during project implementation.
National trainers from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports' Teacher Training Department provided mentoring and coaching through classroom-based teaching observation and teacher mentoring in 30 lower secondary schools (LSS). About 80% of the teachers covered showed sufficient evidence of improved training techniques and core competencies. Follow-on coaching on the refresher school development professional development provided to 150 LSS directors and deputy directors also showed encouraging results. So did the coaching provided to LSS directors and deputy directors who trained in school improvement planning and budget management under the program. Overall, the program has demonstrated the effectiveness of coaching and mentoring in providing a least cost method for expanding the coverage and enhancing the impact of trainings to improve teaching quality and school management. Coaching and mentoring, along with use of the web to update and disseminate INSET, have been rolled out in other MoEYS programs.
Strengthened in-service training (INSET) delivered to mathematics and science teachers benefited from the collaboration forged by the program with development partners and relevant agencies at the national and local levels. Collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the nongovernment organization, Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance, saved time and resources, as it enabled the program to build on and adapt the modular and interactive methods and materials developed by these agencies in science and math teaching. Pooling together core trainers from the technical departments of the MoEYS, the Regional Teacher Training Center, and the provincial offices of education to train technical group leaders or senior science and math subject teachers from 151 schools nationwide also had the same resource-saving effect. On hindsight, INSET and capacity development on other innovative interventions such as the school-based enrichment programs and school improvement grants could have been more extensive. Most teachers who participated in INSET confirmed the usefulness of the training and the student-centered teaching aids that were distributed.
Simultaneously implementing the necessary policy actions and infrastructure and service delivery improvements to enhance the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of public education services can be very demanding. It could not have been possible under this program without the executing agency’s (EA), the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS), firm leadership and commitment. Such firm leadership and commitment were founded on government’s strong ownership of the program, both in terms of the priority policy actions and project investments.
Financial management compliance challenges faced during implementation highlight issues endemic to projects with decentralized implementation arrangements. These challenges were mainly related to the presentation and curation of financial data that made it difficult to reconcile disbursement records. While the resulting partial compliance did not impact performance, such challenges need to be minimized in future projects with similar implementation arrangements. Probable solutions in the case of India could include quarterly reconciliation of disbursement records at the state and central levels, submission of quarterly reconciliation reports, and inclusion of claim disclosures in state-audited project financial statements. Overall, careful consideration of the project implementation arrangements in loan financial covenants, inclusion of financial management experts in review missions, and inclusion of all financial management details, including the terms of reference of consultants in the project administration manuals would strengthen compliance to financial management and reporting covenants in ADB projects.
Several environment-friendly and cost-effective construction good practices were piloted under this project. Such practices include the use of cold mix bitumen, roller-compacted concrete laying, and plastic waste in road pavement. To help minimize moisture damage, the use of nanotechnology to waterproof the bitumen layers was also encouraged. The second phase of this program aims 15% of the targeted total road length to include similar innovative measures, in line with which, the scope of the technical assistance attached to the program will include an assessment and documentation of this project’s innovations. Results of this assessment and documentation may also be valuable for other road projects in India and other countries.
The state implementing agencies (IAs), with assistance from the project implementation consultants, established this project’s performance monitoring systems with baseline data within 3 months from project effectiveness. Performance targets and indicators were systematically monitored, and the executing agency (EA) submitted consolidated quarterly progress reports to ADB. However, given the large numbers of road sections, the quarterly monitoring frequency was limiting. A monthly reporting frequency would have been more effective in monitoring physical and financial achievements and in supporting the timely resolution of issues. Quality reporting would also have been better promoted by the operationalization of a robust oversight mechanism at the key rural infrastructure national agency, as an interface between ADB and the state IAs. In addition, a centralized monitoring system and capacity building would have improved the performance of the village grievance redress committees and maximized their role as grassroots-level social accountability mechanisms for monitoring and oversight not only during construction but also to ensure proper maintenance of the project assets.
Civil works under this project consisted of rural road packages, which were uninteresting to nonlocal contractors because of their small value and geographic dispersion. With only a few local contractors available for the works, multiple contracts were awarded. Although the contractors generally performed satisfactorily, multiple contracts should be avoided in future projects as this can overstretch capacity and create implementation risks, including delays and poor-quality works.
This project met all the required detailed project reports (DPRs) for the planned roadworks in 2013. However, by the time the project became effective and the works ready for bidding, several road sections had already been completed or were under construction, with funding from state government schemes. Some sections also did not qualify as rural roads due to the changes in the design of the rural road network necessitated by the increased traffic volumes and heavy vehicle loads. Almost 15 original civil works packages were therefore dropped. While the addition of 28 new packages resulted in the project falling short by only 44 kilometers (km) of its original target road length of 3,693 km, the changes required additional time and resources for the design of the new roadworks, in some of which, insufficient onsite investigations led to unrealistic cost estimates. Rebidding, because of inadequate cost estimates, poor responses to bids, and poor quality of bids, delayed the implementation of a total of 56 packages for the whole project, pushing back along with other factors project completion by about 9 months.
The project developed the SDF as a quick-response mechanism to develop the skills demanded by local employers and by students through short-term courses. Instituting the SDF took more time and resources than envisaged. Nevertheless, after a 3-year delay due to extensive preparatory work and adjustments to improve the initial design, the SDF delivered relevant, good-quality short courses with the close involvement of employers. In total, 81 vocational schools (76 primary and 5 secondary) participated in the SDF. During 2016–2018, the SDF trained 17,503 people, of which 8,576 (49%) were women and 477 had disabilities. The employment rate of SDF graduates was 75% in 2017 and 77% in 2018, which is considered high and indicates the high quality and relevance of the courses. Institutionalization of the SDF was included as a policy action under the ADB-financed Skills for Inclusive Growth Sector Development Program and the Promoting Economic Diversification Program. The government has registered the SDF as a legal body under the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.