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LESSONS:

Small Towns Development Sector Project

sector: Finance, Transport, Water and Other Urban Infrastructure and Services | country: Lao, People’s Democratic Republic

The community’s involvement in various project activities and its interactions with the government and project staff greatly enhanced the sense of ownership. Community participation and contribution was the key to successfully completing the village upgrading subcomponent. This was evidenced by the fact that the actual community contribution of $206,000, mainly in cash, exceeded the estimated amount of $200,000 expected at appraisal to be mainly as labor. The success of the village upgrading subcomponent indicates the importance of stakeholder consultation throughout the planning, design, and implementation stages.

Given the limited time and resources under the project, capacity building for urban development administration authorities (UDAAs) focused on construction management and supervision, operation and maintenance (O&M) of infrastructure and of sanitary landfills, and exchange of lessons among UDAAs. Various workshops were organized on these topics for managerial staff, accountants, and engineers of UDAAs. By strengthening core capacities, the project created momentum for continued support of long-term capacity building to enable UDAAs to provide quality public services.

The project’s geographical coverage posed a major challenge to monitor subproject implementation in 12 project towns located all over the country from the northern tip (Phongsali) to the south (Samakkhixai). Particularly during rainy season, it was time-consuming for project coordination unit (PCU) staff and consultants to travel to the project towns, as well as for personnel from UDAAs and project implementation units (PIUs) to attend meetings and workshops. Due to its underestimation at appraisal, insufficient travel budget hindered effective monitoring of subproject implementation in the project towns.

The decentralized approach introduced during implementation contributed to strengthening the capacity of PIUs and speeded up project progress. PIUs demonstrated their abilities in implementing, supervising, and monitoring physical activities, as well as in managing civil works contracts. As a result, the project implementation was expedited at around midterm and caught up to schedule despite the delays in early stages of project implementation.

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