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LESSONS:

Emergency Rehabilitation of Calamity Damage Project

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development, Transport | country: Viet Nam, Socialist Republic of

Project start-up. A look at previous and ongoing projects implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in Viet Nam shows a common pattern: slow initial start-up accompanied by delays, slow progress, and confusion followed by an intense pace of implementation from about the midterm of the project period, followed in turn by successful completion of the project scope, often at a higher level of coverage or output than originally conceived (see for example the project completion reports or PCRs for the Rural Infrastructure Sector Project or RISP and the Second Red River Basin Sector Project). This project has followed the same pattern. The obvious lesson from this experience is that the MARD and the provincial departments of agriculture and rural development are capable of implementing medium- to large-scale rural infrastructure projects, but there are some structural or institutional factors that constrain project start-up and initial implementation. As it is likely that the MARD will continue to be an executing agency supported by ADB in the future, it would seem worthwhile to expend some effort in determining what these factors are and identifying means to overcome or mitigate them. It is noted that since the PCR was completed, an effort has been launched by the resident mission and the MARD to try to reduce start-up delays by removing constraints to the government use of ADB’s advance action procedures.

ADB’s disaster and emergency policy. A further lesson learned or at least hinted at by the experience of implementing this project is that, given the realities of the type of investment ADB is best adapted to support in view of its funding modalities, consultant recruitment procedures, and procurement regulations (i.e., generally capital-intensive infrastructure rehabilitation) and the level of supervision possible at field level (i.e., generally less intense than bilateral agencies or United Nations organizations), ADB’s current policy on disasters and emergency assistance may be too restrictive. A preparation period of only 3 months may be inadequate to allow a full damage assessment and the design of rehabilitation and remedial measures. Moreover, if the disaster is weather related, rebuilding service infrastructure without improved design standards and protection from future severe weather is likely to be a waste of effort because the rebuilt infrastructure will still be vulnerable to future floods, typhoons, or storm surges. This will entail a longer period than the 2-year implementation period currently prescribed in the policy and in the operations manual.

Provincially delegated projects. For projects that entail the delegation of design and implementation to provincial authorities, it is important to ensure that provincial implementation staff are fully briefed and trained on ADB safeguard requirements such as land acquisition and resettlement.

Lessons from Validation

Viet Nam: Emergency Rehabilitation of Calamity Damage Project

The project completion report (PCR) provided valuable lessons to ADB operations. The clarity of the project’s purpose, objectives, processes, and procedures helped ensure the government’s commitment and focus in implementing the project, and fostered effective coordination at the national and provincial levels. This validation concurs with the PCR explanation that certain institutional factors, like the use of cost norms in capital expenditure budgeting, led to start-up delays and should therefore be addressed by the government. Receptivity and capacity to adjust to changes in loan administration policy and procedures, and the prompt action on the recommended reforms in rural infrastructure rehabilitation works are important lessons for both the government and ADB in designing and implementing this project. Future interventions to address similar emergency situations through any modality akin to the emergency assistance loan (EAL) have to be doubly scrutinized. Projects for EAL consideration should be selected more carefully. The delivery of the desired outputs, especially those that are capital expenditures in nature, could easily be constrained or at worst derailed by restrictions that are inherent in such assistance, but not often seen in ordinary program and/or project loan operations. Rehabilitating damaged infrastructure and facilities often take a long time, and sometimes require redesign to be sustainable. ADB- supported rehabilitation efforts also have to be synchronized with those of other donors and humanitarian relief organizations with vast experiences in disaster relief and mitigation to ensure timely delivery, quality, and immediate impact of the assistance. However, given the short time frames for EALs, longer-term rehabilitation activities should be mainstreamed in future country operational plans with corresponding alternative funding mechanisms explored.

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