Over 12 pc donor-aided development projects fail

Gopal Tiwari

Kathmandu, January 21:

Wheeling-dealings that are insisted upon by powerful donors for giving ‘aid’ to the government reflects a flourishing trade. Certain ‘terms and conditions’ are ‘predetermined’ for approving any aid.

It ranges from project designing, consultancy charges, feasibility studies and recruiting donor-favoured men at the helm of affairs. At last, projects fail and the country is burdened with a huge financial liabilities. A fact reflected by the over 12 per cent Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded projects that have failed.

According to ADB audit reports from 1996 to 2003, some 16 projects and seven Technical Assistances (TAs) were evaluated. It rated half the projects successful, 37.5 per cent partly successful and 12.5 per cent as ‘unsuccessful’. The worst performer, as per the survey is the ‘agriculture and natural resources’ sector, as only two of the six projects were rated successful in this sector. Prithvi Raj Ligal, former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission (NPC) commented that development projects failed, due to frequent changes of ‘project managers’ and lack of adequate funds. “Donors do not respond timely to the needs of implementing agencies and often delaying reimbursements. More terrible is faulty designing of projects by consultants chosen by donors which has cost Nepal millions of dollars,” Ligal recalled.

A recent example is the $60 million World Bank-funded Kathmandu Drinking Water Project (KDWP) that was scrapped later due to faulty design prepared by consultants hired by donors. Dr Chiranjibi Nepal who teaches economics at Tribhuvan University said, “The reasons for failed development projects is due to increased Maoist insurgency, weak implementation and donor-driven objectives.”

Donors make plans and programmes at the central level that often do not match with local needs, Dr Nepal said. “Donors often behave embarrassingly with implementation agencies and experts,” he said, recalling his experiences while working in a donor-funded project.

Dr Nepal said that failiure to incorporate locals’ needs have resulted in failed development projects and wasted money. ADB assistance to Nepal focuses on three sectors. It allocates 38.7 per cent on social infrastructure, 25.4 per cent on energy and the rest 17.9 per cent on agriculture and natural resources. ADB itself says that aid disbursements has been a major concern which is on the downward trend, including reducing start-up delays in new projects and maintaining project staff in place during implementation.

Commenting on the financial arrangements between donors and the government, Ligal said that the government has to spend money on development projects which reimbursed by donors later. Donors often delay reimbursing these amounts, allowing the government to fall in ‘financial trap.’ When projects fail, it is the government money that gets wasted, he informed. No ADB-Nepal Resident Mission representatives responded to these allegations.