Regional Cooperation Assistance Program Evaluation for the Greater Mekong Subregion: Maturing and Moving Forward (2008)

Date: December 2008
Type: Evaluation Reports
Evaluation; Regional cooperation and integration
Series: Country Assistance Program Evaluations


This evaluation assesses ADB-cofinanced Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) operations during 1992-2007, and will provide directional inputs toward the next regional cooperation strategy and program for the GMS. It is the first regional cooperation assistance program evaluation carried out by the Independent Evaluation Department (IED), using the evaluation framework developed for country assistance program evaluations involving assessments of "strategic and institutional performance" and "project and operational performance."

The GMS program is an activity-based subregional economic cooperation program, which began in 1992 under the sponsorship of ADB. It comprises Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China. ADB assumed the role of the GMS Secretariat as well as roles of a facilitator, financier, honest broker, and technical adviser. An evaluation study of the GMS program by IED in 1999 found overall progress in the first 7 years of operation was satisfactory. Only a third of the lessons have been adopted to date.

Better awareness of the regional cooperation benefits and greater country involvement at the highest political level in the GMS has been seen recently. Member countries have benefited from subregional cooperation in the GMS although tangible progress in terms of significant regional economic impact has been slow. ADB has effectively played a catalytic role in the GMS, encouraging and supporting member countries with technical expertise while providing its own funding and leveraging that of other agencies.

Key findings

The overall assessment rating for the GMS program is successful. It has fared well in its early phase of development, and its strategic focus on connectivity is aligned with ADB corporate strategies on infrastructure sector.

For the ADB-sponsored GMS program, ADB provided 40% of the funds (about $3.5 billion including GMS loan and grant projects and technical assistance), while another 35% came from member countries, and 25% more from other development partners.

Lessons learned from subregional experience include the importance of an

integrated approach in ADB involvement,

  • a balanced program,
  • developing tools to assess effectiveness, and
  • improving the investment climate for the private sector.

For ADB to continue to add value, it should

  • promote focusing on the "regional" nature of the program,
  • give ample support for connectivity in the past by providing additional support at the policy level, and
  • facilitate the formulation of a strategy to gradually make the GMS institutional structure more dependent on the member countries.


The evaluation provides recommendations for ADB's consideration in the following strategic and institutional areas:

  • taking stock and charting a revised GMS strategy,
  • developing and strengthening developing member country regional institutions,
  • expanding cofinancing,
  • making coordination more effective, and
  • clarifying the interphase between Strategy 2020 and regional cooperation and integration.

To improve the program- and project-level performance, suggestions were to (i) emphasize regional benefits in the projects, (ii) engage in greater policy dialogue with members, (iii) support the implementation of policy and procedural reforms, and (iv) give more attention to monitoring and evaluating results.


  • Executive Summary
  • Map
  • Introduction
  • Top–down Assessment (Strategic and Institutional Performance)
  • GMS Evaluation Bottom–up
  • Conclusions, Issues, Lessons, and Recommendations
  • Appendixes