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Sector-wide Evaluation: ADB Support for Transport

Evaluation Document | 16 March 2020

Transport systems provide arteries for efficient movement of people and goods in a well-functioning economy. The Asia and Pacific region has witnessed brisk economic growth and social development leading to increased mobility and urbanization. Rapid growth and urbanization creates pressure on transport system and services, which need to keep up not only to sustain the economic growth, but also to ensure much needed equitable access and quality services for all sections of the society. To meet the increasing demand, ADB estimates the costs of transport infrastructure requirements in the Asia Pacific region to be more than $500 billion a year. Financing such large amounts cannot be done with public funds alone and will require active participation from the private sector. That said for the Asia Pacific region, to maximize value from existing transport networks, the funds to maintain transport infrastructure will be as important as new investments.

The rapid increase in transport demand and the provision of services, however, has also resulted in externalities associated to negative impacts on the environment and the well-being of the people it is designed to support. Adverse impacts include vehicle emissions that affect the climate and degrade local air quality, deaths and injuries caused by road crashes, and traffic congestion that affects the quality of life by imposing additional costs on economic and social activities. In this context, in 2010 the Asian Development Bank (ADB) committed to increasing its support for sustainable transport, as expressed by the Sustainable Transport Initiative Operational Plan (STI-OP). The main focus areas of the STI-OP were urban transport, climate change, road safety and social sustainability, broadly in line with the G20 principles for quality infrastructure that recognizes the need to take a holistic approach to optimize their economic, environmental, social and development impacts. Covering about a third of ADB operations, transport has become one of the largest sectors of ADB support over the past three decades.

This evaluation covers the period (2010–2018) since the approval of STI-OP and provides guidance to enable more effective ADB support for transport. Key findings of the evaluation include, over the last decade, ADB’s support for sustainable transport has focused primarily on financing transport infrastructure with less emphasis on transport services. The performance of completed transport projects during 2010–2018 (68% successful) is broadly in line with ADB’s average performance (70%). While ADB’s support for transport has helped to meet the increased demand for domestic connectivity, it has been less successful in meeting sustainable objectives such as improving road maintenance, road safety and climate change. The STI-OP was not well integrated in country partnership strategies, which affected the delivery of intended outcomes. Although the STI-OP was relevant to the needs of the developing member countries, ADB’s organization for delivery and the operationalization of the STI-OP were weak.

In the context of ADB’s corporate Strategy 2030, this evaluation calls for strengthening the development results of ADB transport interventions, by articulation of a clear underlying theory of change and a results framework for guiding its operations, while emphasizing the provision of sustainable transport services throughout the region. It calls for increased focus on the delivery of transport services alongside the provision of infrastructure, and greater flexibility in the organization and staff skills for delivering complex cross-sectoral transport projects. To achieve results in key areas such as road maintenance, road safety, climate change and urban transport it calls for greater use of sector, program and results-based lending modalities to complement investment lending. The recommendations presented in this report aim to stimulate action to improve the ways in which the interventions in a large sector such as transport can better support ADB’s overall direction towards Strategy 2030.