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Mali: Fifth Highway Project (Credit 1629-MLI)

The Implementation Completion Report (ICR) on the Mali Second Highway project (Credit 1629-MLI, approved in FY86), was prepared by the West Africa Regional Office, with Appendix B contributed by the Borrower.  The credit, for US$50.7 million, was approved on September 1985, and fully disbursed.  It was closed on June 1995, four and a half years later than planned.  The cofinanciers, the African Development Bank and the Swiss Development Corporation, did not comment on the ICR.

The project's objective was to protect Mali's priority road network and strengthen the institutions responsible for the road infrastructure through (i) promotion of the involvement of the local private construction industry; (ii) development of a reduced but more efficient force account unit; (iii) training and better personnel management; (iv) improved resource allocation and financing mechanisms; and (v) de-regulation of the road transport sector. The project consisted of: (a) a road maintenance and rehabilitation program; (b) technical assistance and training; and (c) the reconstruction of the Bamako-Bougouni road.

The project achieved most of its objectives after a long implementation period lasting nearly ten years during which the country also began its transition to a market economy.  The quantity of work completed was about 60 percent of what was expected due to the depreciation of the dollar and inefficiency of the force account unit.  The substantial delays in implementation were due to poorly-conceived civil works contracts and slow procurement, lack of motivation and experience in the implementing agency, and the lack of an internal accounting system and auditing capacity.  These led IDA to suspend disbursements in 1990.  They were resumed a year later when the Government issued and implemented a Letter of Transport Sector Policy which had a highly positive impact on all aspects of the project's execution.  Institutional achievements include: (i) the ongoing conversion of the force account Public Equipment Service (SMTP) into a private rental company; (ii) liberalization of the road transport sector; (iii) and improvements made in preparing a multi-year road program and its financing.  The last achievement is being consolidated under the ongoing Transport Sector Project.  No economic rates of return (ERR) were calculated due to unavailability of data.  These are likely to be lower than the appraisal range of 15 to 34 percent, in light of lower than forecast traffic figures.

The Operations Evaluation Department (OED) rates the project outcome as satisfactory (as in the ICR), its institutional development impact as moderate (as in the ICR), and sustainability as uncertain (vs. likely in the ICR).  The last rating reflects the fact that (i) an adequate funding mechanism for maintenance is not yet in place and, (ii) in spite of positive changes in sector policies, the sector institutions are still immature -as indicated by the lack of data to perform ex-post economic analyses.  Bank performance is rated satisfactory largely on account of its strong and successful supervision in the latter part of the project which compensated for a poor quality at entry caused by both deficient project identification and over-optimistic appraisal of the Borrower's implementation capacity.

The main lessons learned are that a clear sector wide policy backed by a strong Government commitment, is necessary for successful implementation of projects.  Technical assistance must be demand-driven, that is, borrower and stakeholder owned, well focused and coordinated with other donors in order to solve recurrent problems.  A future operation aims to address these issues.

The ICR is satisfactory.  The section on key lessons learned is particularly relevant because it suggests remedies which are specific to Mali and can be utilized in follow-on projects.

The project may be audited, together with other transport projects in Mali.

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