Sector Assistance Program Evaluation of Asian Development Bank Assistance for Roads and Railways in the People's Republic of China

Date: April 2007
Type: Evaluation Reports
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ADB administration and governance; Evaluation; Social development and protection; Transport and ICT
Series: Sector Assistance Program Evaluation

Description

ADB played a valuable role as a trusted development partner during a period of remarkable transformation in the roads and railways subsectors in the People's Republic of China (PRC) - in terms of network expansion and upgrading, and modernization and reform of policies and institutions.

This evaluation assesses ADB's assistance for roads and railways development from 1997 to 2005. Value addition of ADB's support is a featured theme of this evaluation, whose timing was intended to influence the preparation of the Country Assistance Program Evaluation for the PRC and, subsequently, the new country partnership strategy and its implementation.

It examines broad questions on

  • the alignment of ADB's program and sector strategy,
  • program performance,
  • the influence of ADB assistance,
  • the performance of ADB, and
  • lessons for future ADB support for roads and railways in the PRC.

Key issues

  • ADB assistance to road and railway projects did add significant value albeit some special project features added less value than was expected at appraisal. The extent of value added generally diminished when the same feature was included in repeated or similar projects as the Government quickly assimilated good features within domestic policies and procedures.
  • The performance of a sample of technical assistance (TA) was mixed, with advisory TA performing fairly well and project preparatory TA less satisfactorily. The main problem with project preparatory TA was that it duplicated preparatory work done by the Government without adding much value in technical areas. Value adding was mainly in the areas of strengthening economic analysis and poverty analysis, safeguards compliance preparation, etc.
  • ADB needs to reorient its support strategy to identify areas where its involvement can be important for success by adding value. The question of value addition needs more attention in strategic analysis and its implications for lending modalities, use of TA, staffing structure and skills, and decentralization of responsibilities.
  • It is also essential to move toward a better alignment of ADB's systems to be more responsive in view of PRC's enhanced capacity.

Key findings

  • The evaluation has rated the overall performance of ADB assistance to the PRC road and railway subsectors as "successful". A distinguishing feature of roads and railways projects in the PRC-which contrasts with many other developing member countries-is that they were generally implemented to a high standard, within or close to estimated costs, and within or ahead of schedule. At the same time, government programs proved well conceived with strong commitment and capacity established to carry them out.
  • ADB was generally consistent in pursuing priorities, features, and an overall approach that fit both sector needs and ADB priorities. In addition, ADB regional cooperation initiatives created investment opportunities and facilitated new avenues for economic dialogue with neighboring countries.
  • The sample of completed roads and railway projects approved during the conduct of the evaluation performed well, and compare favorably with similar ADB-financed projects in other developing member countries. Other projects approved during the study period, which are still ongoing, are likely to achieve success similar to the completed projects.
  • A large part of ADB lending supported government plans to rapidly build the national trunk highway system (NTHS) and extended a sequence of support for the national railway. While difficult to prove empirically due to methodological complexity, investments in the NTHS and railway network development have played an important role in poverty reduction through "trickle down." The evaluation noted that with NTHS almost completed and the national railway having grown in capability and sophistication to become worthy of comparison against international standards-this chapter in ADB support to the PRC was near completion. During the evaluation period, the relative emphasis of ADB assistance was on roads rather than railways. Toward the end of the study period, ADB appropriately began exploring possible new areas for support through advisory TA.

Recommendations

For ADB:

  • formulate new focus and priorities for value adding through lending assistance to the roads and railways sector taking into account the Government's priorities and ADB's experience and resources,
  • enhance performance of TAs to the roads and railways sector, and
  • increase responsiveness to client concerns.

For the government:

  • assist in identifying new focus and priorities for ADB roads and railway support to enable ADB to offer PRC value addition, and
  • reduce transaction costs by considering adoption of new products and modalities.