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Tunisia: Highways Maintenance and Rehabilitation Project (Loan 2896-TUN)

The Implementation Completion Report (ICR) on the Tunisia Highways Maintenance and Rehabilitation project (Loan 2896- TUN, approved in FY88) was prepared by the Middle East and North Africa Region, with an Appendix contributed by the Borrower, and was reviewed by the Operations Evaluation Department (OED). The loan in the amount of US$$63 million was approved on December 17, 1987, and closed, as originally scheduled, on June 30, 1995. An undisbursed balance of US$1.2 million was canceled.

The project, the sixth Bank-financed operation in Tunisia in highways, had as its main objective to improve the management of the road network. Specifically, the project aimed at: (a) striking the right balance between new construction, rehabilitation and road maintenance by increasing the funding for maintenance; (b) reducing the backlog of road rehabilitation; (c) improving the efficiency of road maintenance; and (d) improving personnel management and training. Project components comprised (i) a five-year maintenance program; (ii) 800 kilometers of road rehabilitation; (iii) aimed at improving road maintenance; and (iv) training.

Most of the project objectives were achieved. Funding for Maintenance. The funding for recurrent maintenance, a pervasive weakness in Tunisia's past highway budgets, met the appraisal targets for the period 1988-1992, and the additional targets established for the period 1992-1996. The target for concrete resurfacing of roads carried out with Bank funds was exceeded (by seven percent). Road Rehabilitation. About 75 percent of the appraisal target for this component was achieved. The shortfall was due to higher than expected unit costs, due in part to low appraisal cost estimates that were based on outdated engineering studies. Maintenance efficiency. This objective was only partially achieved. An organization and methods unit was created, but the introduction countrywide of a modern road network management system comprising a new traffic counting approach and other improvements was scaled down to a pilot program in six regions, and included less management tools than anticipated. A program to set up regional maintenance workshops was canceled because equipment maintenance is increasingly being done by the private sector. Technical assistance helped improve the quality of laboratory services. Personnel. A human resource system for personnel management was established, and a comprehensive training program was prepared and implemented with the assistance of project-financed experts. This was an important achievement, since earlier attempts to improve personnel management and training had failed due to the lack of an institutional framework.

The reestimated economic rate of return for the rehabilitation component ranged between 26 and 100 percent depending on the road, compared to a 30 - 100 percent range at appraisal. While the economic return for the maintenance activities was not reestimated, it is likely that it remained in the high range (28 - 40 percent) assessed at appraisal.

OED rates the project's outcome as satisfactory, its institutional development impact as moderate, its sustainability as likely, and Bank performance as satisfactory, in line with the ICR ratings.

This project demonstrates that a series of projects in highway maintenance may be needed to build support for this activity. In the case of Tunisia, continued focus on road maintenance activities led to a redressing of the balance between funding for maintenance and funding for new construction rehabilitation.

The ICR is of satisfactory quality. It contains a detailed account of the project's targets compared to actual performance. However, it does not provide a plan for the project's future operation. No audit is planned.

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