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Raising Development Impact through Evaluation

Country Assistance Program Evaluation for the People’s Republic of China

Evaluation Document | 24 August 2015

For more than three decades beginning in the early 1980s, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has experienced uninterrupted growth. By 2010, the PRC had been transformed in to an upper middle-income country. It is now the world’s second largest economy, the largest exporter of merchandise and the fifth largest exporter of commercial services. Massive development challenges have accumulated along the way, most notably related to governance and fiscal imbalances, environmental degradation, and social inequalities. The government has chosen to slow down growth and address these challenges. Difficult reforms are required across many dimensions, and as the International Monetary Fund has noted, for the PRC, the main risk is failure to implement reforms to address financial risks, rebalance the economy, and tap new sources of growth.

This evaluation covers a period during which the PRC has transformed itself into an upper middle-income country that will need to act preemptively to address new challenges to sustain and improve the quality of growth. The evaluation spans a timeframe when government policies have shifted from a focus on economic growth toward more balanced, equitable, and sustainable development. Within this setting, the evaluation aims to provide inputs to the forthcoming ADB country partnership strategy (CPS) for 2016–2020 scheduled to be finalized by early 2016, the beginning of the 13th five-year plan period 2016–2020.

The evaluation rated the country program as successful. This overall assessment and its components look at relatively static aspects of past performance within standard criteria. There are considerable differences within this overall result across projects and room for improvement. Moreover, the discussion shows that the future is not best addressed by repeating the previous experience, even if it was rated successful.

ADB appreciates that knowledge and innovation will be key elements of its support to the PRC as it implements reforms across many dimensions, raises factor productivity, and pursues its South–South cooperation agenda. ADB recognizes that it needs to provide a certain level of financial support if it is to wield influence on the PRC’s development.

In order to sharpen its focus on brokering and creating knowledge and making innovative interventions, ADB will need to manage associated risks, broaden the scope of its high-level policy dialogue with the government, accelerate the implementation of the “One ADB” approach, and deploy adequate staff resources.

Note on IED's Country Evaluations and Validations

Using its 2015 Guidelines for the Preparation of Country Assistance Program Evaluations and Country Partnership Strategy Final Review Validations, the Independent Evaluation Department (IED) intends to provide an objective and informed judgement of the performance and results of country partnership strategies (CPSs), particularly in terms of their relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and development impacts.

In ascertaining relevance, IED considers not only the alignment of the program with country needs and government objectives, but also cross-sector CPS objectives, appropriateness of modalities and sector program designs, and sufficiency of donor coordination.

The effectiveness of a country program in delivering results is also an important aspect of an IED evaluation. Primary focus is on the achievement of the outcomes and outputs of ADB interventions (and the likelihood of achievement if the program is still ongoing), as worded in CPSs and their results frameworks. These include knowledge products and institutional development efforts.

Performance and results are likewise judged from an efficiency perspective, that is, whether the program was delivered in a cost-effective and timely manner, and generated value for money. It also considers the capacity of executing agencies that may contribute to start up and implementation delays, and cost overruns.

Another critical element of IED's evaluation is the likely sustainability of results over the medium term, technically, financially, environmentally, socially, politically, and institutionally. Further, IED looks at how results led to development impacts. Specifically, whether ADB contributed to achieving the CPS objectives, directly through its sector programs and implementing cross-cutting agenda(s) across various modalities in different sectors and by various development partners.

IED gives special importance to cross-cutting objectives by considering how the cross-sectoral and thematic objectives of the CPS are articulated in the results framework and provided with appropriate indicators and targets; and how the program achieved the cross-sector thematic results. Equal weights are given to the achievement of sector and cross-cutting objectives in the relevance and development impact assessments, in both country assistance program evaluations (CAPEs) and CPS final review validations (CPSFRVs). This aligns with ADB's increasing emphasis on achieving corporate strategic priorities.

In preparing its country evaluations and validations, IED conducts document reviews, consults with concerned departments, staff, governments and other stakeholders, and undertakes evaluation missions. IED has put in place a quality assurance system to ensure consistent application of its 2015 guidelines. In CPSFRVs, IED's primary focus is to validate the evidence presented in the CPS Final Review.