The Punjab Road Development Sector Project in Pakistan, was approved on October 31, 2002, was evaluated. The project aimed to (i) enhance the rural access road network, increase access to markets and social services for rural populations, and decrease rural poverty; (ii) enhance crucial provincial highways to facilitate trade and provide better income and employment opportunities; (iii) support organizational reforms and institutional strengthening of the Punjab Communication and Works Department (CWD); (iv) preserve road infrastructure and improve asset management by increasing asset visibility; and (v) increase asset management efficiency by increasing asset visibility and asset tracking.

Pakistan was experiencing macroeconomic turmoil at the time the project was being developed. Large domestic and foreign debts had accumulated as a result of multiple years of fiscal and external deficits. Relief was provided by extensive measures that prioritized macroeconomic stabilization, debt rescheduling, and an economic reconstruction drive. The project’s focal point was these kinds of reforms. They were to be helped by the program, which included enhancing the nation’s trade competitiveness. Physical infrastructure upgrades were anticipated to lower Pakistan’s high trade transaction costs. The government also launched sector programs to address difficulties with federal and provincial policies.

Because of its poor connection and dilapidated state of much of the provincial road network, Punjab Province was the project’s primary emphasis. The provincial government of Punjab made action to lessen institutional limitations and focus on some important road sector policy concerns, particularly road maintenance and private sector involvement. The project’s design and results were in line with the government’s policy framework for the transportation sector and its strategic goals, which were outlined in the transportation sector strategy and the initiative for the development of the transportation sector, both of which were created in collaboration with the World Bank. The initiative was the first such intervention, as specified in the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) country assistance plan, which called for a primary focus on roads.

The Project is not considered to be very effective. The principal anticipated result would have been a more effective and environmentally friendly provincial transportation system. The project’s physical components have helped to achieve the goal. Overall, nevertheless, the rate of performance has fallen far short of expectations, especially when it comes to institutional changes, capacity-building efforts, and support for institutional growth, all of which have been unproductive and yielded no benefits.

The project’s sustainability is given a lower likelihood rating. Although funding for road development and construction has continuously increased, maintenance funding is insufficient. Furthermore, the CWD has not yet created an asset management system, making it impossible to allocate limited resources depending on need. Simple toll booths have begun to appear on important provincial routes thanks to the CWD. It was unable to quantify their impact to the company’s overall revenue situation, but it is unlikely to be significant. But in certain places, the tolling has had unfavorable side effects. Trucks and agricultural vehicles use RARs as a detour whenever possible to avoid toll booths. Even though the roads’ enhanced geometric form can support larger vehicles, the pavements are insufficiently sturdy, and on certain projects, the roadways showed warning signals of imminent failure

Entry-level project quality has been poor. The estimates for the civil works were excessively low when compared to contract pricing at the time, and more accurate estimates might have been obtained by utilizing contract prices from a recently finished project as a benchmark. It should have been made clear what designs the expense estimates were based on as well. The evaluation of the institution ought to have been more thorough. This would have created baseline circumstances for the organization and aided in the creation of objectives. The very shoddy pre-work is demonstrated by the fact that terms of reference for one significant component were not drafted prior to loan acceptance.

HANYA NAEEM,

Lahore.