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LESSONS:

Country Assistance Program Evaluation for Bangladesh (2009)

| country: Bangladesh

1. A gradual approach to reforms and continuity in programming can facilitate sector efficiency and effectiveness. ADB’s experience in the energy sector shows that, in an environment with weak institutions, a gradual approach to support reforms can limit risks to ADB-financed projects and maintain prospects for improvement. The evaluation of ADB’s energy program showed that Bangladesh’s energy sector has long needed major reforms; the sector has indeed been reforming, but only slowly. Despite the problems in the sector, ADB stayed involved in suitable ways without compromising its position or policies and contributed to the sector’s progress. As a result, ADB has built a strong track record and relationship with the Government, and is in position to help the Government meet one of the country’s top development challenges. [Main text, paras. 119-121,153,154,217]

2. Continued Government ownership and commitment is an important factor in the success of reform programs. When future commitment is uncertain, a realistic, practical approach to reforms would be to, first, focus on reforms that can be solidly established within the Government’s term; and second, beyond the Government’s term, sow the seeds for future reforms, recognizing and accepting the reality and the risk that the efforts might falter. ADB’s experience with the governance program loan is an example of how political risks affect the pace of reforms. The caretaker Government came to ADB for support in governance reforms. The caretaker Government was committed to those reforms, but the reform program extended beyond that government’s term. The elected Government, while showing interest in reforms in some areas, is so far less committed to the program of the caretaker Government, and some key reforms supported by the governance program loan have started to falter. [Main text, paras. 218, Appendix 12]

3. Streamlined and efficient procedures, focused on outputs and results rather than process, can make joint work with other organizations more effective in creating synergies in country and sector programs. While joint work is likely to vary with every partnership, ADB should be able to identify essential internal procedures that it should maintain and work on identifying simpler, efficient steps, focusing on the output and results for the other procedures. ADB’s experience on the sector-wide approach for primary education achieved one of its objective of cutting coordination costs on the part of the government, but resulted in higher costs for the development partners (since their procedures have not been harmonized). Similarly, in developing the 2005 Country Strategy and Program, ADB adopted an innovative approach of working with other development partners. While this strengthened program coordination, it also led to higher transaction costs for the development partners since ADB maintained its standard, internal, bureaucratic requirements for producing the country strategy (regardless of the relevance of the requirements). [Main text, paras. 54,122,219]

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