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ISLAMABAD: The project success rate in Pakistan improved from 58 percent in 2018–2020 to 64 percent in 2019–2021, says the Independent Evaluation Department (IED) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The IED in its validation report, “Annual Evaluation Review 2022, Fragile and conflict-affected Situations and small island Developing states”, stated that the project success rate in Central and West Asia remained at 66 percent in 2019–2021.

Performance improved in the major countries in the region: Pakistan (from 58 percent in 2018–2020 to 64 percent in 2019–2021), Kazakhstan (from 67 percent in 2018–2020 to 75 percent in 2019–2021), Uzbekistan (from 70 percent in 2018–2020 to 78 percent in 2019–2021) and Azerbaijan (from 60 percent in 2018–2021 to 63 percent in 2019–2021).

The combined portfolio of these countries accounted for nearly two-thirds of sovereign operations in the region.

The report noted that the success of country programs declined from 86 percent in 2016–2018 to 68 percent in 2019–2021. This was mainly caused by the decline in effectiveness and the persisting low sustainability of country programs.

These two elements were particularly evident in Cambodia, the Pacific, Pakistan, PNG, and Timor-Leste. Declining effectiveness was mostly driven by shortfalls in achieving targets, particularly the non-achievement of institutional reforms in the sectors dominating the country's programmes.

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The persistently low sustainability rate was due to inadequate routine operation and maintenance (O&M) funding. While efficiency improved, many projects were significantly delayed, often because of the need to resolve resettlement issues. The large percentage difference between 2016–2018 and 2019–2021 was also partly due to small sample sizes and the mix of country programmes validated.

Performance in countries with access to both concessional assistance and ordinary capital resources (OCR) continued to perform poorly. This low success rate was mainly driven by the performance of Mongolia (2012–2016), Pakistan (2002–2019), PNG (2001–2020), and Timor-Leste (2011–2020). Most of these countries are either categorized as fragile states (PNG and Timor-Leste) or face a challenging political environment (Pakistan, PNG, and Timor-Leste).

Weak project effectiveness and sustainability continued to be the main concerns in these countries, exacerbated by implementation delays, which in turn lowered implementation efficiency.

Most of these technical assistance (TA) projects used virtual means to conduct their activities and some delivered Covid-19-related knowledge products in response to the pandemic, e.g., Preparing Health Sector Assessment in Pakistan, which prepared a Covid-19 response strategy, and Strengthening Government and Civil Society Cooperation in Open Government Partnership to Improve Public Services in Indonesia, which produced two blog posts on digital innovations amid Covid-19 and on how local governments were obtaining vital Covid-19 data.

Although the ADB’s energy projects in Pakistan were sensitive in terms of environmental safeguards, both national and ADB safeguard policies were complied with.

Pakistan, which has been a host of a large body of Afghan refugees, has yet to receive the ADB support for refugees as the country is not classified as fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCAS) and is ineligible for Asian Development Fund (ADF) grants.

In such cases, grants may be considered to support refugees and their host communities even when these are in developing member country (DMCs) that do not have access to ADF grants.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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